UNEP FI / Consider Us
When Ogilvyearth South Africa received an email from an acronymic mouthful called UNEP FI (which we later learnt was the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative), we sensed an opportunity to do something special.
The brief vaguely asked for “assistance in breathing life into the Cape Town Green Week” – a week of sustainability-themed events culminating in UNEP FI’s Global Roundtable on sustainable finance. Oh and there was very little time, and even less money. Naturally, we agreed. So, with no budget, a blank slate and five weeks to campaign launch, we set about the task.
We felt that a campaign about sustainability must itself be sustainable – it couldn’t run for Green Week and then die. And this led us to the key insight that the voices that were not being heard in this debate were those that ultimately mattered the most – those of the children. We also understood that adults bring baggage to “green” issues and therefore tend to be either apathetic towards them or paralysed by their complexity.
The initial idea was to give Cape Town kids a platform to raise their concerns, but that wasn’t big enough for us. Why just Cape Town kids? Why not every South African child, or the whole world? And those voices mustn’t just be heard in Cape Town, they also must be heard in Copenhagen at the main summit. In short, we didn’t want to create a campaign; we wanted to create a global youth movement. In five weeks, ‘Consider Us’ was born.
The idea was simple: Give children the chance to tell the world’s leaders, in 20 words or less, why the planet is precious to them, why it’s worth saving and why they should consider children in any decisions they make. Their messages appeared, in real time, on a dedicated website, serving as a voice of the generation with the most to lose.
South African rock star, Arno Carstens offered his song ‘Emergency’ as the soundtrack to the campaign. He also performed this live, together with a children’s choir, at the opening of the UNEP FI meeting. And when Arno and the children sang, “How long? Too long. Right now. This is an emergency,” it was hard to imagine delegates in the auditorium, with children of their own, ignoring such a plea.
We didn’t leave it there. Three Western Cape children were taken to Copenhagen as ambassadors for the Consider Us campaign. They attended sessions, spoke to delegates and the media, and energetically championed their cause. A 670 page book was produced containing an edited sample of the messages.
This book was taken along to Copenhagen where it was signed by, amongst others, Yvo de Boer (effectively the leader of the summit) and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, before returning to South Africa for placement in a time capsule.
We estimate that we received 6500 written submissions and around 20,000 online entries. But the more important stuff lies in the bigger picture.
• gave teachers and parents a way to engage their children in environmental issues
• gave those children a voice in the most important debate of their time
• turned a Cape Town campaign into a global one
• gave the client a lot more than they expected, and a heck of lot more than they paid for!
In 2011 we took the campaign to Durban for COP 17. Here we ran an activation with 2000 children in collaboration with the Wildlands Conservation Trust. The children came from all around Durban and were also some of the top recycling schools from the Wildlands programme. The children wrote messages on what they love about the planet and why conservation is important. They also participated in an art project where we made ten large paper mace earth balls. These balls served as decoration for the Freshlyground concert, in the Durban Botanic Gardens. They rewrote and recorded their hit single Doo Be Doo especially for Consider Us.
All the messages were bound into a book and encapsulated with an air and water sample in the Durban Botanic Gardens. This will remain in the garden for 20 years to enable future generations to go back, test the air and water sample, and see if the world leaders truly did “Consider Us” in their decisions.
The book was signed by delegates such as Christiana Figueres, Kumi Naidoo and Trevor Manuel to acknowledge that they will consider the youth in their negotiations and decision making. The book was accompanied by a beautiful installation by Cape Town based artist Nicci Fourie. The installation was design around the concept of a cochlea to visually depict the call of Consider Us to listen to the voices of the children.
In 2012 and beyond Consider Us will continue to provide a platform for youth to not only make their voices heard, but to take their own words and turn it into action.