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Gestos Chris Casestudy


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Chris spent a month in the North East of Brazil, working to develop a new communications campaign for an HIV/Aids NGO called Gestos, with their host agency Mart Pet. The brief from Gestos was to: ‘Create a communications plan for the launch of their 15th anniversary in 2008’, as well as to come up with ideas on how Gestos will get the funds to create and run it.

Chris found the placement challenging, daunting at times, but overall extremely rewarding. He discovered more about the world of development, learned how to approach communications for HIV/Aids, stretched himself from a professional and personal point of view and created some fantastic work for the organisation.

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Gestos Chris Casestudy

  1. 1. Case Study: Gestos Chris Jackson in Brazil
  2. 2. Background Where: Recife in NE Brazil Dates: October 1st – October 31st 2007 NGO: Gestos ( Local Agency: Mart Pet ( Objectives 1. Create a communications plan for the 15th anniversary of Gestos in 2008 2. Come up with ideas for how they were going to get the funds to create and run it Gestos Gestos was founded in 1993, with the objective of defending the human rights of HIV-positive individuals and populations vulnerable to STDs and HIV/AIDS. They produce and utilize knowledge in various fields, acting in the areas of Education, Communications and Public Policy from the perspective of sexual citizenship, gender equity and social justice. Their interdisciplinary team is comprised of sociologists, journalists, social workers, psychologists, lawyers, teachers, anthropologists, educators, and professionals in international relations. In addition to programs developed in conjunction with low-income populations, they monitor and influence public policy, at local, regional, and international levels. Mission: To construct a culture of democracy, equity, and peace in order to overcome AIDS. 2
  3. 3. Initial thoughts... Open, challenging, exciting, daunting. On one level when you get a brief to do anything it’s great to have the opportunity to shape it, but on another level it poses all sorts of problems, not least because I got a sense that they had some pretty strong views about what they liked and conversely didn’t like but weren’t able to fully articulate it at this stage. For me the problem of the broad scope was compounded by the scale of the subject area and the complexities of the issues. But that said it was unique opportunity to get involved in a project at the earliest stage of the process to define the brief and get to play in other roles I don’t normally get a chance to be involved in. Use condoms, stop sharing needles. Problem solved? Political and Religious leadership are the most important factors in tackling HIV & AIDS. Brazil as a county has a great reputation for managing the pandemic, they give everyone diagnosed free antiretroviral drugs and they have a programme to give away free condoms to anyone who asks. In the 1980s The World Bank predicted that Brazil would have 1.2million people living with AIDS by 2000, the figure in 2007 was around 600,000 and reasonably stable. This is good news; Brazil is a country with great social activism where they have embraced democracy following years living in a dictatorship. The people demanded the healthcare and they got it. So I felt that any effort we made in prevention would at least be embraced. So my rather pragmatic and simplistic view was that even before we found a cure or vaccine for AIDS, solving the current crisis wasn’t rocket science: Get people, especially those not in long term monogamous relationships that are having sex to use condoms, and get intravenous drug users to stop sharing needles. Fixed. BUT… But when I started to talk to people in Recife, I quickly came to realise the magnitude of problems and the subtle complexities when dealing with HIV & AIDS in Brazil, and in particular the region I was in which was very poor, that you don’t get to read about in the books. 3
  4. 4. Understanding the full story On my first day after the in country training Alessandra, who runs Gestos, set up some time for Marcelo (my creative partner from the local agency Mart Pet) and I to talk to their activist group. This was made up of 18 people from various groups that Gestos work with (All HIV+): Women, Men, Gay, Transgender etc. It was an ideal opportunity to hear what they thought, but it was also important for us to learn more, all of which is key to Gestos’s Rights Based Approach. A Rights Based Approach is really a philosophy of sorts where all stakeholders get an opportunity to be involved and contribute to the discussions or the work and their opinion is valued. It was an interesting session. This was a big group talking about something personally emotive in another language. Due to these complexities we wanted to focus on 2 key questions to get a sense of how they felt and thought about living with HIV and AIDS: What did Gestos being around for 15 years mean to them (I was curious to find out if a campaign around 15 years was significant or if it was better to focus on another message) and what they thought about current AIDS and HIV advertising from around the world. Although we only had a few hours before we met them I’d brought with me a ton of advertising out with me on the topic I’d collated from around the world, so we printed it all out and put them around the room and talked it through with them to get a feel for what worked and what people liked and didn’t like. It was an incredibly emotionally charged evening for us and we were starting to get an understanding of not just what a problem the spreading of HIV and AIDS was but also, when you have so many people who are infected and affected by it, the problems they have in trying to piece their lives back together. Upon finding out they were HIV positive and trying to deal with this news, the horror was further compounded by the fact that they were being shunned by friends, family, and employers. Dehumanised by everyone, including the medical profession where discrimination is also rife. In all of this it became clear that Gestos was a second home for them, a place where they could go and get support, regain their dignity, rebuild their self esteem, and understand their human rights and legal entitlements. It is easy to assume everyone knows what they are entitled to, but many of the group were from poor communities, lacking food, shelter, education and healthcare, so before they came to Gestos they had no idea what benefits, medication or support they are entitled to, especially if their family had just thrown them out of their home. What came though most strongly was the sense that in many ads people with AIDS were portrayed as the bad guys you need to stay away from that were evil, spreading the virus and disease and who were condemned to death. This was obviously not helpful for those living with AIDS who were trying to rebuild their lives and live with prejudice all around them. Talking to the people at Gestos about the work they do getting their perspective and listening to some of their stories was deeply humbling. It changed the way I was thinking of the problem from a more straight forward prevention message to one of how to tackle stigma and discrimination. 4
  5. 5. The Real Brazil On the face of it Brazilian culture is open, tolerant, without prejudice and accepting of all, but dig a little deeper and this is not the case. Those who are particularly vulnerable are those in the poor communities, whose lack of education, healthcare, food, clothing and accommodation make them vulnerable to making decisions that will put them at risk of coming into contact with the virus. There is discrimination throughout society towards women, sex workers, racial and those with a sexual orientation and lifestyle other than heterosexual: Men who have sex with men, transsexual & transgender. Women often suffer and live with domestic violence on them or a culture of violence around them, which makes them vulnerable and unable to assert control on situations that might put them at risk of HIV & AIDS. Married men being promiscuous is considered ‘normal’, and often homosexual men marry, living in denial and will be violent towards their spouse, enter into other relationships with women, men or sex workers which put them and their spouse at risk. Although no one openly admits, considers or wants to consider themselves as having prejudices, the reality is that Brazilian culture, especially in poor communities, is no exception to the majority of the world in being littered with prejudice and discrimination. The dangerous thing about prejudice and discrimination within a culture is that they are interconnected and therefore strengthen and legitimize each other. Stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS are among the greatest barriers to preventing further infections, providing adequate care, and alleviating suffering. It has stopped people from talking openly about it which has prevented millions from receiving information about HIV, how it is transmitted, and how to protect themselves. This has led to climate of silence in which people are unaware that they may be at risk. Discrimination has also prevented people with HIV from being open about their status and getting access to treatment as well as suffering on a personal level at a time with they have to copy with being infected. People living with AIDS have been denied employment, abandoned by friends, divorced from their spouses, thrown out of their homes and even murdered. Fear of HIV & AIDS is accompanied by ignorance, resentment and ultimately anger. If the key to tackling the pandemic is ‘Early detection. Early response.’ it becomes vital to remove all these barriers to getting tested, knowing your status and then living a responsible life. I therefore wanted to channel the brief into making people think about the way they discriminate against those infected or affected by HIV and AIDS by making them confront their stigmas and prejudices. 5
  6. 6. The Campaign Get: The People of Pernambuco To: Rethink the way they discriminate against people living with AIDS By: Confronting their prejudices Proposition: Give your respect to people living with AIDS An interesting local cultural insight: People think they have to give money to help There are lots of people asking for money….and not just from outsiders like me. Children selling sweets to passing cars when they stop at traffic lights, busking, begging, performing, cleaning car windows. This leads to a culture when people think that either they just need to give money if they want to help, or conversely that those who are poor or in need just want money. Neither is satisfactory. Although they are frequently asked, the general populace in Brazil don’t donate money to charities, even collection boxes. To a large extent this is due to it being a poor country where charity needs to begin at home. This assumption, that all charities and NGOs want from you is your money, leads to the expectation that those the charity or NGO are trying to help just need money. This is problematic, especially when tackling issues like discrimination, stigma and prejudice. When people think those living with AIDS just need money, it further suggests that they are no longer independent and that they rely on state or handouts and that they can no longer contribute back to society. Gestos fights to help them regain their independence and human rights. People living with AIDS are not charity cases. They are strong people who have had to confront the HIV virus and rebuild their lives overcoming prejudice and discrimination often from those closest to them. Together with Gestos they are getting their self esteem back and rebuilding their lives. We needed to show that this was about more than money. NB: The funding for Gestos mainly comes from International NGOs and Foundations rather than the general population who would be receiving this communication. The Creative Idea: Your respect is the most valuable thing you can give to people living with AIDS. Some considerations for the work: A ‘Rights Based Approach’ Tonality: People with aids aren’t victims. We need to reinforce the fact that they are strong and don’t want your pity. Points of tension: Gestos the organisation still needs the money, but we want to show that money is not the main answer to helping those living with AIDS. Whilst we want to show that you can lead a normal, vital and meaningful life with AIDS, we don’t want to undermine the prevention message Production costs: These need to be low! Scalable: If there’s not enough money to do it all, will it still work? If we could just negotiate one prime time spot the message needs to be disruptive enough. But it could also grow and be huge and spread to other parts of Brazil. 6
  7. 7. TV Open on a close up of a bank note. The shots are close and dramatic, as are the sound effects that come with the actions that follow. The note then gets folded and then we see the note being cut into. VO: I’m living with AIDS The note is cut into some more. VO: But I don’t want your money. The cutting stops and the hands open up the bank note to reveal a line of hearts. VO: I just want you to show you care. Super: (Gestos logo) Embrace the fight and the people who live with AIDS 7
  8. 8. Print Headline: People who live with AIDS don’t want your donation. They only want you to show you care. 8
  9. 9. Print Headline: People who live with AIDS don’t want your donation. They only want you to show your support. 9
  10. 10. Getting the message onto the street At traffic lights children run along in between the cars putting bags of sweets over the wing mirrors. The message normally reads: ‘Jobs are hard to find, so I’m selling sweets for 1R$. Thank you for your time and help.’ In this case it reads: Take these sweets and don’t leave money. People who live with AIDS only want your respect. 10
  11. 11. Getting the message onto the street Street performers like jugglers often carry a sign to provoke pity: I’m homeless; I have children to feed etc. Please give me money. The text on the t-shirt reads: I’m living with AIDS. Give your money to others. I only want your respect. We could have musicians, acrobats, artists, actors etc. We can arrange concerts and plays all with the same idea. The important thing is to use activists who are vital and full of life, so show that those living with AIDS look no different to everyone else and they aren’t condemned to see out their days in a hospital bed. 11
  12. 12. Getting the message onto the street ATM Text reads: A sealed collection box, next to other collection boxes by check out tills. Keep your money. People who live with AIDS only want your respect. Don’t discriminate. Text reads: Donate your money to other causes. People who live with AIDS only want your respect. Don’t discriminate 12
  13. 13. Raising money for the campaign There is an inherent tension that whilst we are communicating people living with AIDS as wanting your respect rather than your money Gestos the organisation still need money to exist. However, since Gestos get a negligible amount of money from the people receiving the communication message we could split the messages neatly with a separate and targeted message to sources of funding. We determined that there were 10-15 organisations and foundations that we wanted to target internationally and 10 -15 in Brazil. Since these were not large numbers we decided to keep out communications as personal and exclusive as possible. Since Gestos has a small presence and is relatively unknown internationally we felt it was important to convey not only what Gestos do, but also give a flavour of the environment and the spirit in which they operate in. There are some truly remarkable stories that we heard of how Gestos had helped people rebuild their lives and we wanted to bring this to life. We wanted to capture these by organising workshops with the agency, Mart Pet, and those at Gestos to tell their stories through montages in scrapbooks, that we would then bind and send to those who would be sources of funding. We didn’t want to look like we’d spent money on these, only time, effort and creativity. To present the work we also wanted to capture the same spirit, so rather than send high quality mac’d up images, I wanted to send over a sketch book with the creative drawn in, with a message stressing that the ideas are there, the support is there, but all we need is the money to make it happen. The idea of making all the materials as exclusive as possible would not only cut through the normal brochures and funding requests, but would also be very difficult to through away. These are materials you would want to keep. 13
  14. 14. Personal Outcomes To live and work in a new city, in a new agency, with a new client, on a new category in a new language is tough…tough but not impossible. Having been through it I’m glad I didn’t know how difficult it was going to be before I got out there because it might have put me off going. Having done it, it has reset what I think of as personal limitations, a bit like an communications boot camp, and it’s great to have overcome some hurdles and come out on the other side. Undoubtably it is one of those experiences which makes you think differently about your limitations and makes other challenges seems easy in comparison. There were 2 key areas of professional development that I wanted to progress during the project. One was my strategic ability and the other was leadership. But interestingly there were other, perhaps softer, areas of development and understanding which led to some more personal realisations about myself and my capabilities. I work in an environment where we want to do new things everyday. Although much of the processes remain the same, I spend a large amount of my time out of my comfort zone doing things I haven’t done before. I’ve come to realise that far from worrying about this it reminds me that I’m progressing in my career and I’m doing something new – good things from my point of view. So a big personal objective of mine was to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I learnt a lot. Not just about HIV and AIDS, but also the effect of being more patient, taking more time and making the effort to understand different ways in which people work before making a judgement on how effective it is. A desire to stay curious and receptive to new experiences. Somehow even little things in the context of a new environment became moments of great revelation. Like the bin in the kitchen. It was tiny. It sat on the draining board. I realised it didn’t need to be big because there wasn’t much or any packaging on goods. And shopping bags perfectly fitted in it to become bin bags – these are smaller than our supermarket bags – so everything got reused (which came first, the small shopping bag or the small bin?). I learnt how to deal with an ambiguous brief, in a limited time frame and making something happen at the end. Not to judge new experiences on a good or bad scale, it’s just different and that can sometimes be uncomfortable. Being independent is tough because there’s nothing to fall back on, but it also led to moment of great satisfaction when I went to bed knowing I’d done something useful that day. Sometimes in a big agency, it can be difficult to see where you made a difference, when you’re working on your own, there is absolute transparency. Perhaps most importantly I learnt not to be afraid of being wrong. Although I’ve become conditioned to believe that being wrong is bad, I’ve came to realise that a fear of being wrong is a big limiter, it stops you from pushing yourself further and trying new things and perhaps having a moment of brilliance. I loved working with an organisation who were totally passionate about making a difference, where the consequence of the work could make a significant impact on the lives of those living with AIDS. Although it was a tough challenge to define the brief the agency would work on I got to a place Gestos were really happy with and they felt it was a significant step on from what they had previously done. It was great working in a creative department, encouraging them to think bigger, bolder & braver. I showed them a different way of presenting creative work which the Creative Director wanted to share with the whole office. I had to fast track close working relationships, inspiring trust and confidence in those at Gestos and Mart Pet, in the case of the later pushing them to do an unreasonable amount of work, in an unreasonable amount to time. From a personal point of view I look back on some of my favorite bits and most of them were occasions which I was most unsure about when I first arrived. I struggled with the language, but by the end I really enjoyed Ivanildo’s company (the owner of the house I was living in) who would take the time to sit and chat with me while I ate if I was back late from work and the rest of the house had gone to bed. Waking up at 6am to bright sunshine coming into my room and the sound of a blender stopped being an affront to my senses as it meant it was going to be a beautiful day started by fresh fruit juice and a run… or normally a walk… on the beach. Being invited by the guys to play 5 a side in their agency league on Monday nights, stopped being an intimidating sporting event and was great fun… this was not jumpers for goal posts, whatever they said about it being low key and ‘tranquilla’. 14
  15. 15. Above all I think I’ve had a growth in confidence that I can tackle difficult and challenging situations and not just get through it, but actually thrive. I think it was Anais Nin who remarked ‘Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage’. This project has made my life expand. Chris Jackson Account Director Leo Burnet - London 15
  16. 16. Document Title Document Subline The International Exchange Brazil office Rua 27 de Janeiro, 197 Olinda Pernambuco CEP: 53120-000 +55 99676325 UK office 54 Grove Park London SE5 8LG +4407950 726 043