Have you ever heard of Radi-Aid? Through satire and humorous parodies, the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH) under the name Radi-Aid, has sought to dismantle stereotypical perceptions and representations of the global South. They released several videos the past few years as a form of mediatized activism. The campaign had raised awareness of the way development communication repeatedly fail to deal with issues of the white gaze.
It all started with their video, “Africa for Norway” which currently has approximately 3,5 millions views on Youtube alone. It was a response to the Live Aid charity initiative: “Do they know it’s Christmas”. Featuring a number of Western celebrities, the Live Aid initiative was oozing patronizing and demeaning stereotypes of the global South. To counter these narratives, Radi-Aid created this video, showing black musicians satirically appealing to African communities to raise money for the ‘freezing people of Norway”.
After the video received widespread recognition globally, they continued with the campaign. Several of their videos has that reached far. “Who wants to be a volunteer” for example, plays on the show “Who wants to be a millionaire”. It raises the issue of “voluntourism”. This refers to when a privileged westerner combines charity and with adventure in an mission of “saving Africa”.
In addition to the videos, they have also started he Radi-Aid Awards. This was an annual award handed to the best and the worst fundraising videos of the year (2013-2017).
Humour as a counter-narrative
All of videos in the Radi-Aid campaign is steeped in satire. Schwarz & Richey (2019) has been looking into the Radi Aid campaign in Humanitarian humor, digilantism, and the dilemmas of representing volunteer tourism on social media. They argue that the campaigns such as this really do “interrupt the ways the humanitarian aid industry broadly, and international volunteers specifically, visualize and narrate distant suffering,” using “edgy humor to identify and expose socially unacceptable representation practices.” Yet, they also argue that in order for the people to understand the humor in initiatives such as these, they need to have basic understanding of the issues of much of development communication. (Schwarz & Richey 2019)
Why are initiatives like Radi-Aid important?
SAHI and Radi-Aid aimed to encourage alternative stories aimed to do though this campaign. They wanted people reflect on the way development is communicated and increase awareness of harmful stereotypes in charity efforts.(Radi Aid 2020)
Why is that so important? Their position is that:
”Stereotypes and oversimplifications lead to poor debates and poor policies. NGO communicators play a crucial role in people’s understanding of development in the world today, and therefore also a crucial role in fighting these representations.” (Radi Aid 2020)
The Radi Aid initiative has been featured in several newspapers, they have been invited to do TEDtalks and have been given opportunity to speak at a number of conferences. (Radi Aid, 2020)
Schwarz & Richey found in their research, when interviewing young people involved in volunteering abroad, that initiatives such as Radi-Aid and aloke has made them think twice of what kind of narratives they are using in their personal communication about their experiences.
It has sparked a wider conversation that was long overdue and that has to take place on all levels of the development sector.
Radi-Aid, 2020, Radi-Aid: About. Available at: https://www.radiaid.com/about Accessed: 2020-10-20
Schwarz, K. & Richey, L.-A. 2019: Humanitarian humor, digilantism, and the dilemmas of representing volunteer tourism on social media, New Media & Society, 21:9, 1928-1946.
SAIH Norway, 2012. Africa For Norway – New charity single out now! Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJLqyuxm96k, Accessed: 2020-10-18
SAIH Norway, 2014. Who wants to be a volunteer? Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymcflrj_rRc , Accessed: 2020-10-18