How three years of Greenpeace projects schooled me.
When I pitched to Greenpeace for the first time, I could not have imagined the ride I was about to jump on. The last three years have been like going back to school.
I became a student. Activists who have dedicated their lives to a clear purpose became my teachers. Campaign strategists from London to Sao Paolo, Australia to South Africa were open books about their process, their goals, wins and losses. Every NRO* opened a new rabbit hole of knowledge to lose myself into.
It’s been like taking crash courses in climate change, renewable energy, plastic waste, indigenous cultures, anthropology, linguistics, organizational structures in the non-profit sector, world economics, globalization, resource management…
Yes, the thrill of learning comes with a cost.
Beyond my anticipation, I candidly uncovered soul crushing truths about the human kind’s greatest failures, at unimaginable scale. The kind of stuff you can’t unlearn.
This image among thousands in Greenpeace’s media archives, is one of the most haunting ones to me.
I grew depressed. I felt guilty for having a roof over my head. Defiant for having very little power to make a difference. Reefs kept dying while we were pushing pixels.
Nevertheless, I showed up, because my crew showed up and we kept pushing the pixels.
I did not ride on a boat in the Arctic waters to investigate seismic booming, nor did I travel to West Africa to discuss sustainable fishing practices. I did not build dams in the peatlands of Indonesia to prevent forest fires.
I didn’t climb on any oil rigs. Still, each one of the Greenpeace campaigns I worked on has been filled with adrenaline.
I became a player, accepted the inconvenient truths and claimed the power to make amends. Not with fire and fury, yes with constructive resources I have at my disposal.
For a decentralized organization like Greenpeace, global campaigning is a huge topic. The autonomy of activists on the ground is vital. Unique voices in the regions under protection must be heard. Cultural sensitivities must be respected. Words must be chosen carefully.
This, combined with the new landscape of digital interconnectedness is the chief hurdle of impact marketing.
It’s no longer realistic to find a single perfect slogan and a gesture to mobilize people over issues. Things have become a lot more complex than that.
The weapons at our disposal targeted exactly this complexity. Fake Crow’s work has been all about performance driven, data inspired, human centric user experience design. We tapped into the design thinking that Silicon Valley players use, to boost non-profit campaign strategy.
First, Save The Arctic’s Interactive Style Guide launched an open-source movement to give activists and supporters design tools to participate in the cause.
Next, we created a visual language that can work with overwhelming diversity of global forest initiatives. One of the campaigns that used this language, Great Northern Forest united twenty five countries for the first time under this initiative.
Most recently, we created an adaptive campaign identity and dove into linguistics with Oceans. Hope in West Africa energized the local communities on the coast of West Africa to promote sustainable fishing practices.
We made design resources accessible to NROs big and small. Interactive style guides acted as “internal products.” Local campaigns were launched a little bit faster. Coordinating multiple offices became a little bit more effective.
Common visual cues started connecting the dots of the story and helped build a coherent narrative.
A tiny part, in defense of the Planet. And we got to play it.
“No passengers. All crew.”
We are a witness to one of the biggest environmental organizations in the world, as it moves through its digital transformation. It’s a beautiful sight.
This year at Fake Crow, we did a big retrospective on these projects, analyzing our process, the outcome and predictions of what’s ahead. It’s a deep dive (yet not enough) into all that I mention above and more.
This work affected me profoundly. It traumatized me which led to making changes in my lifestyle. It angered me which led to being energized. It left me hopeless which led to having clarity of mind: I’m not the only one who’s ever felt this way.
The work is not over. Yes, it does come with victories.
Once we connect enough dots, we might just paint a better picture.
*NROs (National and Regional Offices) are firmly rooted within the local environmental communities around the globe in the countries where Greenpeace operates.
Those who became my teachers, and the crew who showed up, Thanks & Credits.
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Originally published at www.linkedin.com on October 5, 2017.