With 2015 coming to a close, it is again that time when we look back over the past year. “Best of” lists will soon litter the Internet, usually about music, film and other forms of art. Among the myriad compilations is the Rusty Radiator Award. It is the dubious honor bestowed upon the international charity advertisements that embody the worst the industry has to offer.
“The Rusty Radiator Award goes to the fundraising video with the worst use of stereotypes. This kind of portrayal is not only unfair to the persons portrayed in the campaign, but also hinders long-term development and the fight against poverty,” according to the website for the awards.
It is a product of the The Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund and funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development. People can now vote for the worst of three choices. This is the third year the group has run the contest. The “winner” for 2014 was Concern Worldwide, and Plan Norway took the honors in 2013.
But it is not all about hating on charity fundraising and campaigns. The Golden Radiator goes to videos that shun stereotypes and share stories that are creative and empowering. Previous winners were Save the Children and Wateraid.
Nominees for this year’s awards display the aid industry at its best and worst. Below are my choices for each category with the description provided by the jury. Watch all the videos here.
Golden Radiator Nominee: Zalissa’s Choice – Kinderpostzegels
Child marriage is usually presented in such a simplified, unuanced and dramatic way. With this video, they have done a commendable job of taking a complicated issue and presenting it in a different, informative and engaging way. It shows the girl herself, her father and her teacher in a way that enables you to see the complexity of the issue. David Girling says: “This film made me feel hope for the future and proud of the father who was prepared to listen to others and look forward and challenge tradition.” Rafia Zakaria says: “It shows the community as active and that they are all connected in ending child marriages.”
Rusty Radiator Nominee – Feed a Child – One World Campaign
Patronising. It felt like Band Aid South Africa 2015 as they reproduce stereotypical images of children awaiting rescue. Bruno Ruganzo says: “I don’t like it. It really takes away the humanity of the child and of how I think about raising children. Like parents on the African continent cannot take care of their own kids – only the white saviours can help them do that.”
I nearly picked the 30th anniversary edition (aka the Ebola-focused one) of Do They Know it’s Christmas for the Rusty Radiator. The problematic tropes that characterized humanitarian appeals have barely changed for the organizers in the span of my life – that is appalling.
Plenty of great and terrible videos did not make the cut. Let me know in the comments or via Twitter some that were missing and I will share them below.