From the archive: Content in a crisis

At our 2012 event in Brighton, Simon Davis, Editor for online news and social media at the Department for International Development (DfID), spoke at Cool Content Coming Soon about how his team used digital content to support the aid response to the Haiti earthquake in 2010.


It’s just horrible coincidence that we’re publishing Simon’s slides and an audio track of what he had to say in the same week that hurricane Sandy has devastated large parts of the Caribbean, including Haiti, and is now wreaking havoc in the United States. His talk was called Haiti: Content in a crisis. He used his 20 minutes to describe how DfID’s digital team used digital content in the immediate aftermath of the terrible earthquake which struck in Haiti in early 2010 to help explain to people in the UK what was happening and how aid could help.

Haiti has a long-forgotten, somewhat glorious history. It was the first independent nation in the Caribbean and the first black-led democracy anywhere in the world – achieving independence from France in 1804 after a bloody but successful slave rebellion lasting almost 10 years. More recently, however, its “fame” has rested more on stereotypical tales of “voodoo” and the fact that it is today the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

When the earthquake in 2010 struck, 230,000 people were killed and more than 1.5 million Haitians were left homeless. A disaster so huge can leave us as individuals feeling helpless about how we can possibly make a difference or give practical help. (And in this case our media seemed keen to paint Haitians struggling to avoid starvation and disease as “criminals” who were intent on “looting” the aid that was being delivered to them.)

Simon described how the team at DfID worked with partner organisations to document the impact of aid relief efforts. By-passing standard media channels they were able to use video, photographs and social media updates from the relief team in Haiti to make sure we all understood the reality of the experience “on the ground”. The team have continued to document Haiti’s recovery long after the camera crews and journalists from mainstream media moved on to the next story, so that public awareness and support for the aid effort in Haiti has outlasted the hype.

We were honoured that Simon chose Cool Content Coming Soon to share his story. If you want to ask him a question about his presentation, why not do so at our LinkedIn group?

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