Friends of Ibba Girls School
We helped a small UK charity raise the profile and funds for a girls’ school in South Sudan – a school whose existence is currently wholly dependent on voluntary donations. As well as creating an identity for the school and the charity, we created a cause-related communications campaign to raise awareness and support, all done in the absence of a marketing budget.
Ibba Girls School in South Sudan should not exist. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, and ravaged by decades of civil war and continued inter-tribal rivalries. Staggeringly over 90% of all women cannot read or write. Generations have been denied the opportunity to become literate and thus are destined to remain in poverty.
The country became independent in 2011. In the lead up, John Benington, a UK Emeritus professor was running a public governance workshop with members of the then interim government. One of the participants was Bridget Nagamoro, the first female from her village ever to finish secondary education. She asked for his help to bring her dream to life – to build a girls’ school in her village and give the girls there the chance of a better life.
This chance encounter led to setting up a UK charity dedicated to making this happen – Friends of Ibba Girls School (FIGS). Against almost insurmountable odds, the school opened in 2014, has managed never to lose a day’s schooling, and continues to offer education to a growing number of girls each year.
We became involved with FIGS in 2013 and offered its commitment to help on a pro bono basis; it’s a commitment that we continue to make.
Creating an identity
Our first work helped establish an identity for the school. An iterative series of conversations and submissions shared face to face in the UK and across intermittent internet connections with those in South Sudan led to both an emblem and motto that the school could use.
The development of these elements required careful sensitivity to local understanding and interpretation as well as ensuring that the visual and verbal language conveyed the right message – sufficiently inspiring yet easily understandable to those in the school as well as potential supporters elsewhere.
The school’s ethos is based on Christian values but is open to girls of all faiths and none. The school hopes to enable its pupils to achieve their dreams, and also spread the effects of education amongst their families and community, and be a beacon for other schools in the country. The education of a whole generation and the future of the country genuinely is at stake.
The school’s emblem and motto seek to express these intentions. The emblem echoes the star that features in the national flag, but is used to represent the brighter future that the hands seek to reach up to as well as hold carefully. The motto “Share the light of wisdom” echoes the Christian imagery of light being associated with the divine and life itself, yet links this with the wisdom that comes from education; it also suggests how the school shares this with its pupils, but how this ripples out to the wider community.
The identity unveiled at the school’s official opening in 2014, is now used throughout the school, with the emblem incorporated into the badge on the school uniform.
Having worked on the identity for the school itself, we then developed the elements into a visual style for the FIGS charity now used across all collateral and communications, notably the website.
Raising awareness and support
In order to bring attention to a single school in amongst all the other good causes seeking peoples’ support, we conceived and developed a campaign designed both to create a personal connection with the pupils at the school, and to position the school as championing the need and promise of education to transform the country’s future. In short to turn a single school into a bigger cause.
The campaign was based upon the power of education to overcome ignorance, heal division and promote peace. Much research has been done to show the most effective way to improve a country’s situation is through education rather than aid per se, and in particular the education of females who invest more of their learning into benefiting the wider community. In the face of ongoing violence and internal strife, it would be easy to give up hope that South Sudan could ever have peace; but education can be powerful. Combine this thought with the pencil – the tool and symbol of literacy – and you have the makings of the campaign that ensued: “Pencil Power”.
The campaign featured in London newspapers after free space had been negotiated, and led to a social media campaign encouraging people to share their “pencil portraits” to build awareness. our production team flew to Ibba to make a film to bring the school literally to life and create a personal connection with potential supporters.
We also produced a giant pencil created for promotional photo-opportunities. Encouraging people to “Give the girls of South Sudan the power to learn”, the pencil featured in photos from the initial launch event, a meeting with Gordon Brown to a public display in Trafalgar Square when carried by a group of South Sudanese girls.
Three years on from the initial campaign launch, It was felt that the campaign needed to adapt. The focus was now less on generating awareness of the overall cause that the school epitomised, and more about creating stronger individual links with the school and the benefit of supporting it. This campaign expressed the reward of being a friend – a direct expression of the actual name of the charity. Ideally, a new film would be made to show the school as it now was, but funds were not available. Instead we re-edited the original footage and re-voiced with a new script, encouraging people to become a “friend for life”.
The fund-raising work is ongoing, and we continue to provide both strategic advice as well as creative resource.
Identity – Charity
Identity – School
Pencil Power – launch film
Pencil Power – launch event
Pencil Power – advertising
Friend for life campaign film