Backing a Cause

Backing a Cause

27 September 2019

The fruits of generosity often manifest in myriad ways, empowering the beneficiaries to change their lives. Gifted by the late philanthropist and prominent business leader Mr Kwek Leng Joo, the CoLab4Good Fund is one example which supports NTU student-initiated projects, making a positive and meaningful impact on the community. Started in 2016, the fund aims to instil in students a heart for giving back and build their capacity for learning and leadership. It also supports student groups to bring their social campaigns to fruition. Here, two student groups share their Final Year Projects and their invaluable takeaways in 2018.

Food Unfiltered

Food Unfiltered was a campaign to reduce food wastage as a result of cosmetic filtering and discarding of perfectly edible food that appears 'ugly' or less than perfect. Why did the group decide to focus on this issue?

We felt there was a need for an environmental campaign on food waste. Almost 40 per cent of food around the world never makes it from farm to table due to imperfect appearances. 68.1 per cent of Singaporeans whom we surveyed were unwilling to purchase 'ugly food', with many erroneously believing that ugly food is less fresh, poses health risks, has lower nutritional content or is less tasty.

Bring us through your campaign strategy.

Our target audience was quite varied, so we used different communication tools to spread the campaign message. For the younger audience, we took to Facebook and Instagram to create bite-sized educational content on the importance of not dumping ugly food. For the older audience, we partnered with various events like ECo Day Out 2018, organised by the South West Community Development Council, to spread the word. To reach out to the general public, we created in-store signages to remind them of the correct ways to treat fresh produce and educate them that 'ugly' food is not unsafe. These were displayed at Sheng Shiong supermarkets.

What were some challenges involved in running the campaign?

Tackling a huge environmental issue was challenging, especially when the people whom we talked to were not very environmentally-conscious. The preconceived notions about ugly food made things tougher — many could not help but look at the food as unsafe for consumption, or they would rather choose something more perfect-looking to get their money's worth.

Could you share an anecdote about the campaign that made it so memorable for the team?

We had boards printed out to use for outreach events. But on the day before our final event, two A1-size foam boards went missing! We looked all over but could not find them. Eventually, we rushed to get them reprinted. This taught us to always be prepared. To this day, we still do not know what happened to our missing boards.

What did the team learn from the campaign?

Communication is a powerful tool for changing ideas and mindsets. And being able to make a difference to the world, no matter how small, felt amazing. We were also inspired by many individuals whom we met, who had pioneered their own environmental initiatives. This showed us that, with passion and hard work, every individual has the power to make positive changes to society.

Red AF – Revealing the Colours of Asian Flush

TEAM MEMBERS: Dorothy Wong, 23, Lisbeth Lee, 24, Michael Chan, 25, and Rachel Lim, 23, from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information

RED AF – Revealing the Colours of Asian Flush was a health communications campaign, aimed at fostering a healthier and safer drinking culture in Singapore by raising awareness of high-risk drinking among people with 'Asian Flush'. Why did the group decide to focus on this issue?

A few of us in the group are actually Asian Flushers ourselves. In Singapore, we usually only get a couple of comments here and there about the redness on our faces, but when we went on an exchange programme to France and Sweden, the Asian Flush was especially pronounced among our non-flushing Caucasian friends. This resulted in quite a bit of embarrassment for us.

While brainstorming ideas, we chanced upon an online health article that was shared by a friend. We thought that the topic was something close to our hearts, but not talked about much in the media landscape. Most of us used to have the misconception that Asian Flush was about good blood circulation or drunkenness, so we were especially vested in correcting this perspective for our friends as well.

Bring us through your campaign strategy.

To speak to our health-literate yet sceptical target audience, our campaign messages could not have a top-down, authoritative tone of voice. We needed a 'plain folks' appeal. So we created the kind of content that we ourselves as university students like to consume to get through the day — which employed humour. We adapted various memes to convey our health messages, and were careful not to 'force' the issue. We also adopted a humorous and light-hearted tone for our edutainment video, and we simplified scientific jargon into easy-to-understand concepts. An example would be the comparison of an Asian Flusher's inability to process alcohol to that of an individual with lactose intolerance.

Another key activity was the interactive textual narrative game "Fair Game", which was inspired by the recent trend of online narrative adventure games. It takes the player through a series of decisions that uniquely shapes the narrative's development, mirroring the effects of one's chosen route in a social drinking situation.

For the roadshows at our school, we introduced the game of beerless pong. No beer was involved, but players had to wear the Drunk Buster Goggles. The eyewear simulated the effects of drunkenness, including visual distortion, alteration of depth and reduction of peripheral vision. And when players scored a goal, they were tested on an alcohol-related health question.

What were some challenges which your team faced during the campaign?

At the initial research stage, we had difficulty in finding experts who could provide medical advice regarding the health aspects. Fortunately, we finally managed to link up with Singapore Cancer Society and other professionals for help.

Could you share an anecdote that made the campaign so memorable for the team?

It must have been how well-received our video was. We were quite nervous about it because it was an important part of getting our message out. Originally, we even contemplated engaging an influencer to increase our video's reach, but we did not have enough money to pay for one. The result was beyond our imagination! We never thought the number of views and shares could climb to the thousands and eventually exceed 100,000.

What did you learn from the campaign?

It was about having the confidence in our ideas and the willingness to take risks. Choosing an under-researched topic such as the Asian Flush was a huge risk. But just because something is new, it does not mean that we should not out to try it. Even the 'RED AF' name was a risk (it is an Internet slang acronym that stands for "as f***"). The textual narrative game was another leap of faith too. It was not as well-received as the other tactics, but we had no regrets investing in it. After all, we will never know unless we try.

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