Wednesday, June 28, 2017

15+: We’ll Never Be Done

Erika Gallagher, Yaromyr Udod, and Agnieszka Przytarska are participants of 2017 Humanity in Action Poland Fellowship for social and human rights activists. By bringing the perspectives of LGBTQI activism from Ukraine, Poland and United States we had realized how invisible the topic of sex education is, especially for LGBTQI teens and youth. While there has been some educational progress in the United States, the issue of sexual education is completely dismissed in Ukraine and Poland, especially when it comes to safe sex for LGBTQI young adults. Sexuality is silenced as something shameful and most lessons are dedicated to the connection of sexually transmitted infections (STI) and homosexuality instead of providing reliable information. Topics intrinsic to queer teens are even more stigmatized due to homophobia and lack of visibility. 

We understand and empathize with the confusion and fear many teens experience because of the lack of information about sex, so we have decided to create this small handbook for them to help enable the exploration of the whole spectrum of sexuality (or at least a decent amount of it). Not to mention that sexual education is a part of wider reproductive rights framework thus making these issues fundamental human rights.

“Consent is not the absence of a no; it is the presence of a yes”

Studies show that comprehensive sex education creates a positive effect, “[reducing]… unprotected sex by 60 per cent and significantly [increasing] the use condoms and other contraceptives”- this is true in all countries, including the United States. Given the unlikelihood that Ukraine and Poland will introduce comprehensive sex education in any capacity, our ideas and handbook will hopefully be useful for queer teens who are either in closet or unable to get information on sex from reputable sources. As for the United States, queer adolescents are largely ignored in sex education courses, and the state-by-state system becomes frustrating for regulating content consumed by teens and young adults. There is no doubt that nowadays teens can access all kinds of information on internet but it’s not a big secret that not all of them are reliable. We hope to distribute our handbook both in print and as downloadable PDFs in two languages: Polish and English. 

"Use condoms; it's wise"

The whole process of completing the project took roughly three weeks. It had been the spectacular but very intense period of coming up with catchy ideas, drawing visuals and finding info from respectable sources. At the very beginning, Yaromyr was quite skeptical about the idea of creating a handbook in a limited period of time but girls insisted on it arguing that we have an advantage of particular skills in drawing and personal experience with the topic. 
We all agreed on a statement that teen sexuality is a taboo in our societies, particularly in Eastern European ones like Poland. Conversely, in US where society has reached more acceptance of LGBTQI community, it’s easier to talk about these issues (though not everywhere). This discrepancy had been seen in our group dynamic. For instance, Erika suggested including a wider spectrum of topics in regards to topics intrinsic to queer teens, whereas Yaromyr and Agnieszka were a bit more cautious despite the fact that they both are active in human rights/LGBTQI activism. This divide actually reflects the biggest challenge we had: how to include as many important topics as possible and at the same time not to make it too frank. It wouldn’t be a problem for people like us but in a conservative country like Poland, many might not understand the scale of our openness. 

"Confused about questions? Look into the book!"

Another challenge was to decide which topics are of high relevance and which can be dismissed. It turned that we cannot follow this logic as LGBTQI community is the very diverse group. Apart from bigger groups of gay teens, there are also queer, transgender, intersexual teens who have different experiences; hence some issues are only intrinsic for them. After several brainstorms, we came up with a though that it’s better to start from more inclusive topics in the realms of sexuality education and supplemented it with an info of community centers that can give a help to confused teens. 

"There are more options that you think. Go and get tested!"

Once we agreed on the concept, the implementation per se was smooth though with lots of efforts put into the projects. It’s needed to mention that working in a small group is very comfortable especially with like-minded people. So, we managed to create seventeen pages of enticing visuals which became our most interesting element literally during time of campaign. 

This book is interactive, but non-exhaustive—we can only fit so much information about such an important topic into a week. We hope that it will help serve as a reliable alternative to random Internet searches, and we have included an entire two pages dedicated to resources such as NGOs and websites to view or contact for assistance in Poland—this includes hotlines, STI testing sites, and more.

We believe that there is nothing shameful about consensual, safe sex, but remember that the topic of safe sex is never-ending, and therefore our book is not complete, nor will it ever be.
Don’t forget—be safe, feel good, and have fun!

No Tabu: Rainbow Edition
Agnieszka, Yaromyr and Erika

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

It’s Beautiful to be Yourself

Global efforts to empower women and achieve gender equality are at the forefront of human rights struggles in the twenty-first century, applicable in Germany, the US, and Poland. As members of the group dedicated to women’s empowerment, we believe that both women and men have roles to play when it comes to fighting for gender equality. 

Our group, comprised of two women and one man, has worked together to contribute to positive societal change.

Our top choice for the issue in Polish society we wanted to research and address was women’s empowerment, but we were not immediately sure what specific topic would be measurable and achievable. After meeting with my assigned group and partnering with MamyGłos, an NGO dedicated to the empowerment of Polish teenage girls, we discussed how the increasing influence of globalization and neoliberalism has led to a great rise in advertisements around the world featuring women with unrealistic beauty standards. It was clear to us that increased body shaming and decreased body positivity are issues that need to be addressed.

Our campaign centered around the creation of five videos of young women sharing their own body stories and what makes them unique. We created graphics for our initiative and used the MamyGłos Facebook page to spread our message. Within a few hours our first video garnered over 8,000 views and the MamyGłos page increased by over 280 likes. As of mid-July, this initial post reached over 108,000 Facebook users. Moreover, numerous women have already submitted videos to document their own body story. Our ultimate goal is that teenage girls will see these videos and make their own to empower themselves, their friends, and other girls. Fortunately, MamyGłos will be administering the campaign even after the 2017 Humanity in Action Poland program concludes, eventually culminating with them dedicating funds to body positivity workshops around Poland.

From the beginning, there was a strong group consensus on the importance of addressing the issue of body shaming. Related to personal observations and experiences, each of us wanted to create an impactful campaign to bring positive change within Polish society. Although we easily agreed on the topic, we soon realized it was difficult to narrow down. This was mainly due to our topic's applicability to all people of all ages and identities, whose experiences and awareness toward body shaming vary significantly.  As such, we had to accept the fact that, in order to create an efficient and clear message, we would have to limit ourselves.

Our main challenge was to decide on our target group, ultimately Polish teenage girls, and then decide on an applicable campaign format to successfully reach out to them. “Killing our darlings” was an insightful challenge, since it meant to dismiss overly-ambitious ideas, which required us to distant ourselves from personal agendas. Our group consisted of three strong individuals with different gender identities and life stories. Rather than inhibiting our group's success, however, our differences were a source of inspiration. Empathy, compromise, and especially clear communication were all necessary to channel each person's skills and expectations regarding the working process and final outcome. In the end, each one of us complemented one another and combined our passions to create a successful #bodystory campaign to play a small role in addressing gender inequality around the globe
Needless to say, this was exactly the type of hands-on work for which we were looking. Additionally, this entire process has been indispensable in our journey to better understanding women’s empowerment. Throughout this process, we learned about the personal stories of five incredible women. One of our group members, Ola, shared her story about learning to love herself despite societal beauty norms. We believe stories like Ola’s are exactly what also needs to be seen on a young girl’s newsfeed. Our sincere hope is that at least one young girl watched it and was inspired by the message. Over the next months, to truly impact our target group of Polish teenage girls requires dedication and persistence in sharing our five videos, promoting the hashtag, and spreading our message of body positivity. As such, we dedicated ourselves to create videos, graphics, and sharing our message so MamyGłos will continue our work. We anticipate as our other videos become published, more people will both view and share them to increase awareness about the #bodystory campaign.

Ultimately, this campaign has shown us the potential influence of body positivity and how it relates to gender socialization. Finally, focusing on women’s empowerment in Polish society has shown us the beauty of human rights advocacy. These issues are not limited to one nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender identity or any identifying factor. These issues are transnational. This experience has reinforced our preconceived notion that, as human rights activists, we must recognize the inherent dignity of every person and bring out the best in the world. For women in our global society, promoting topics like body positivity can move us forward on our long journey for gender equality.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Not Alone: Combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Against Migrant Women through Bystander Support

Vaclav Masek, Sarah Molina, Eleni Zervos

How do we effectively address a community’s needs while simultaneously ensuring that we are not inaccurately speaking on their behalf?

As a team assigned to create a social campaign on issues affecting migrant women, this was a question we were consistently revisiting. As none of us were members of this community, we knew we had to approach this topic with the understanding that our role was not to raise awareness as experts but rather to give our target audience a point of reference from which to mobilize to become informed.

With that in mind, while narrowing down on the issue we were going to focus on was a process with many changes throughout, we decided to create a campaign that tackled the issue of sexual harassment of migrant women in the workplace while our target audience would be these women’s co-workers and allies. The aim was to equip Polish people with the tools to collaborate with these women, not to recommend that we know what is best for the migrant women in these situations. Furthermore, when thinking about affecting change for members of at least two marginalized communities, the approach has to be guided by intersectional principles. Thus, when considering sexual harassment in the workplace, we needed to take into consideration the specific needs of migrant women and how that influences their position in relation to Polish women in the workforce. Both of these communities face sexual harassment in the workplace, but one is additionally vulnerable to it than the other. A social campaign is therefore ineffective if it does not acknowledge factors such as language barrier and less social capital.

One of the more obvious challenges of working to affect change in communities you are not a part of or interact with is to responsibly address their concerns in a way that does not speak over them. While in this case our campaign was targeted towards migrant women’s co-workers and allies, one of the limitations of our strategy was not directly speaking to the women most affected by sexual harassment in the workplace. This is particularly relevant to our campaign given that there are many reasons that migrant women may not speak out against sexual harassment at work, not least important of which is remaining employed. Therefore, one of the most critical caveats of our campaign was to ensure that we were not encouraging the Polish co-workers and allies of these women to speak out or report on their behalf but rather to work with the women affected and serve as a support network for what they want to do. Moving forward, our campaign would aim to more actively include the voices of these women so as to ensure our strategy aligned with their needs. Furthermore, all social campaigns require some degree of condensing the issue at hand, and striking the balance between wanting to effectively convey a message in a way that is accessible and still addressing its nuance can also be a challenge. Thus, when creating posters meant to address how to recognize sexual harassment, it was essential that we avoided graphic depictions but rather describe more ambiguous situations that people can recognize. 

One of the aspects of our initiative relevant to other campaigns is collaborating with other organizations that are working with similar issues. We created a resource guide for migrant women that included a list of non-profits they can reach out to so this way, we can redirect them to organizations with much more experience in the field. Both through our online and in-person initiatives, which included putting posters redirecting migrant women to our site, our aim was to create a more sensitized Polish population that can serve as active allies to these women. 

We initially had hesitations about the effect of our campaign. As none of us were Polish speakers, we were uncertain about our reach and whether the people who needed to see our campaign the most would. With the help of a supportive network of Polish fellows and staff, as well as willing friends and influencers however, we were able to spread our message far and even some of the organizations we were in touch with were eager to share our page. Furthermore, the process of narrowing down the focus of our campaign was initially overwhelming. We began with a different issue, that of fair trade and ethical labor laws that support migrant women, but when reevaluating its accessibility within the Polish context, we knew we had to shift our attention. Fortunately, one of the consistent and most rewarding aspects of our time working on the campaign was our productive communication with each other. We were able to overcome the setbacks that came throughout this entire process through our mutual commitment to the aim of this campaign and to being a constructive support system for each other.

Ultimately, working on this campaign fundamentally shaped our time with the fellowship. How to responsibly craft a message that resonates is a tool that is critical to activism, and this campaign was an opportunity to comprehensively engage with many practical skills relevant to social justice work. In terms of our impact within Poland specifically, our hope is that this can start a conversation that moves far past our social campaign. The aim is that the work we have done can mobilize even a few people to take action on this issue, and encourage others to serve as allies to the women affected. This way, in time, Poland can hopefully become a country that does not tolerate sexual harassment, and none of these women ever have to tackle these situations by themselves.

Sunday, June 25, 2017


Ana-Maria Szilagyi, Marilyn Alvarado and Kuba Belina Brzozowski

The Polish right wing, the radicals and conservatives have won the elections two years ago. But, more importantly, they won something even more fundamental: power over fundamental aspects of Polish identity.

            Every November 11, on Independence Day, ‘patriots’ march to show who they are by protesting the supposed enemies of the nation: migrants, refugees, Muslims. ‘Stop the Islamization of Poland’ is only one of the least brutal posters. The right wing has been successful in associating the march, supposedly celebrating Poland and Polish patriots, to these fictional enemies of the nation -- those who need to be left out in order for Poland to remain as it is. This association between patriotism and anti-migrant sentiments has been so successful and penetrated to such an extent the mentality of most Poles that the liberals have ceased considering themselves patriots. Liberals ceased to consider themselves patriots not because they have issues with the concept itself; indeed, if separated from the current political connotations, most Polish people would want to consider themselves patriots. But since they do welcome refugees in Poland, since they do understand the importance of integrating migrants and since they do not want religion to influence the operations of the State, liberals ceased to think that, in the current political context, they can still be ‘patriots’. This happened unconsciously: most liberals never realized that they stopped considering themselves Polish patriots and that they became victims of the rhetoric associating patriotism to anti-migrant feelings.

During the development of our social campaign, we realized that while the anti-migrant rhetoric in Poland is strong, not many migrants nor refugees live in the country. How to counteract hate speech against Muslims and refugees when there are virtually no Muslims nor refugees in Poland? We soon understood that while those protesting against the (supposed) Islamization of Poland are very loud and not willing to listen, there is a large part of the population that has been left out of the debate. We decided to address our campaign to these people; we were aware that most Poles do not care about the inclusion of migrants, nor do they care about the refugee crisis in Europe or about the dangers of a xenophobic political rhetoric. Nevertheless, we did know that Poles care about Poland and their place in it. It is at this point that we understood that if we managed to show that being a Polish patriot means fighting for a more inclusive Poland, then our campaign had the potential to achieve two important goals: first, we could detach the notion of Polish patriotism from the anti-migrant rhetoric and second, we could focus the attention on those Poles who are patriots and work for a more inclusive Polish society.

"Nationalism, and thus more chauvinism, is taken from hatred. Patriotism comes from love."

Given the previous theoretical background, our campaign has been carried out on our Facebook page that features videos and memes. The videos feature Poles working with migrants and refugees who, because of their work, consider themselves Polish patriots. In all videos, people answer two questions “What does patriotism mean to you?” and “How does it look like to be a Pole patriot in your daily life?”. The biggest challenge has come from finding people who wanted to be featured in our campaign. Indeed, while most people found our idea to be very interesting in that it touched a very sensitive aspect of Polish identity, most of them never considered giving a personal interpretation to Polish patriotism; as such, most people felt uncomfortable and did not know where to start when thinking about what Polish patriotism means to them. Most people would have wanted to consider themselves Polish patriots but they themselves did not want to reclaim patriotism - they would have preferred other people to do it for them, in a top-down process. It has been a challenge to engage people to reflect on an issue they are not used to consider; nevertheless, the reactions of people showed that we touched a very sensitive and fundamental aspect of Polish identity. While reclaiming patriotism is hard for Poles, they do care about being Polish patriots.

We learned that reclaiming patriotism is a long social and individual process. Our campaign has achieved a first victory in this long process: in all our interviews and conversations, people started realizing that while the right-wing has hijacked what patriotism means in Poland, they have the power to detach the current connotations of political patriotism from the concept itself. They started considering that their personal idea of Polish patriotism and their everyday life can be a version of what patriotism is.

We also learned that it is very difficult to produce a campaign in one week on a topic that is so sensitive to most people living in Poland. We would have needed more time to find and feature a diverse group of people who are working with refugees and who see themselves as Polish patriots because of the work they do. Because of the strength of the current xenophobic rhetoric in Poland, Poles have given up on considering themselves Polish patriots; as such, we would have needed more time to talk to people and create a space where they can reflect and reclaim Polish patriotism. Indeed while patriotism is a central aspect of Poles’ lives, it is at the same time a very complex theoretical concept. Because of the theoretical complexity, more work would have been needed to encourage people to personify patriotism, to bring it to the ground and not be scared to discuss and give patriotism any meaning they saw fit.

Even though we faced many difficulties, the potential of the campaign is shown by its initial success: our page reached 8180 people, 1119 people interacted with our publications and 1698 people viewed our videos in the first week. Even more than the numbers, our personal interactions with people showed that we need a social debate on what Poles want Polish patriotism to mean. This debate needs to start with those who are often the most silent in the public sphere but who do the real work for a more inclusive Poland.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

‘I am happy because I can express and be myself’: young LGBTQI people in Poland say ‘I’m here’

Gosia Kot, Sarah Bhatti, Bryan Stromer

Embracing your differences and the things that make you unique can be difficult - especially for young LGBTQI people in Poland. The most recent report by the Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH) from 2012 reveals that there is very little awareness in schools towards the discrimination of LGBTQI students. The number of students that went through physical and psychological violence has been on the rise and has affected LGBTQI students above-average. Being directly asked about their sense of loneliness, over half of the respondents affirmed this question and 42% also said that they were having suicidal thoughts over the last few months.

Considering this report, two things became clear to us. First the feeling of loneliness indicates a lack of support and combined with the report data can be interpreted as a lack of support within peer groups and in the families of LGBTQI young people. Secondly we realized that young LGBTQI people are often victimized in portraits and online representations. This realization struck us and we decided to challenge this typical ‘sob story’ and to empower young people to reclaim their story on their own terms. We were very glad that members of Equality Volunteering (organizer of the Warsaw Equality march) and members of KPH agreed to meet up with us. They confirmed the need to change the discourse on LGBTQI people from a victimizing one to a more affirmative message.

Based on these impressions, we created a campaign to inspire LGBTQI young people to embrace their uniqueness and diversity as a counter-speech to the widespread hate speech and victimization. “Jestem Tu” is the slogan of the campaign in Polish (English equivalent, “I’m here”). Through social media channels including Facebook “Jestem Tu” delivers a positive and affirmative message to LGBTQI youth. We are inviting participants to write down statements about their personal story, their inspirations and uniqueness and to capture it with a photo, which we will publish on our media platform, which allows our message to reach beyond Warsaw and gain a greater audience. Additionally, we met up with three young LGBTQI people from Warsaw to explore questions like: What is your wildest dream? What makes you you? What makes you feel strong and what inspires you? We interviewed them and edited a short video to share their answers and stories to encourage other members of the LGBTQI youth community to take part in the “Jestem Tu” campaign.

We found the answers that the LGBTQI youth gave to be especially inspiring given that many of them felt comfortable sharing their hopes and dreams. For example, one person that we interviewed shared that his dream is that he can one day legally get married to his partner in Poland. The responses that we got to our posts were also extremely positive and demonstrated the need for this type of campaign. However, we were most moved by the fact that various LGBTQI youth from around the country have begun to reach out to us and share their stories as well. In two weeks of campaign we received 13 stories from young LGBTQI people across Poland and our FB page has been liked by over 300 people. The statements we have received are very diverse, they touch upon personal dreams, sources of inspiration and constitute personal testimonies of their activism:

‘I’m inspired by music, pure sound. I love alternative and Polish rock music. Music express what’s hurting a young person. Not only does it give joy, but also shows that diversity can be openly talked about. My favorite artist is Spięty. He talks openly how it is globally and in Poland. He doesn’t always discuss it in a simple language, that’s why it’s so beautiful. Music is the only tool thanks to this we can talk about out LGBT community without restrains and prejudice.’

‘I’m queer and trans person who wants for next generations to live in more accepting times, so I do everything and will do my best to show that #ImHere (#jestemtu), that trans persons exist, that we’re ordinary people who just want to be happy. 

The whole development of the campaign was an important learning experience for all of us as we had to face and solve challenges appearing on the way. One of the first ones was adjusting the message of the campaign we had in mind at the beginning ‘own it’ to Polish language and context. We discussed this issue with LGBTQI activists and Polish language speakers to tailor the message so it sounds catchy and clear at the same time. Another challenge was that we had only one Polish language speaker in the group, so promotion was done mostly by her. However, we established the task division in our group on every stage of the campaign, adjusting the tasks to everyone’s skills. Therefore, our cooperation was smooth and effective. We were in touch every day to assess what works and plan next steps. We truly enjoyed the group work on the campaign and would like to cooperate together in the future.

Although we received positive messages and stories, it has been difficult to achieve more impact. One of the lessons learnt is to build partnerships earlier on and contact potential allies before the campaign starts. We contacted many organizations and media, but response was weak due to start of summer holiday. However, we were still able to find success. This was demonstrated by a popular LGBT news website published the article about our campaign and we were invited by girls’ magazine Girls’ Room to submit a blog post on the campaign. As we hope for the campaign to continue, the promotion efforts don’t stop.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Jewish Past and Future of Poland

Aleksandra Lekowska, Miłosz Lindner, Vlad Ivchenko

HiA Fellowship Warsaw program 2017 was focusing firmly around the rights of minority groups. In absolutely relevant in the context of modern Poland, where about 97% declare themselves as catholic Poles. Is there a space for the Other in this picture of homogenous Poland?
According to the last census, about 8 000 Jewish population live in Poland. Our project “8 Thousand Jews” aimed to encourage the Jewish community in Warsaw to tell their stories and to dismantle the stereotypes.
Therefore, we wanted to provide a safe space for Polish Jews, so they can freely appear in virtual space and speak up. In order to do so, we created the “8 tysięcy Żydów” project, which in Polish means “8 thousand Jews.” The action plan is relatively simple: we invite members of the Jewish community in Poland to take part in a photoshoot, take professional pictures of them (with or without their face shown), and ask what they would like to communicate to the rest of Poland. The final product entirely depends on the featured person. They choose the style of the picture, pose, and what it shows or does not. All sorts of messages are important, from what it means for them to be a Polish Jew, through their favorite food, to the fact that they go to work and come back from it daily. The whole point is to provide a safe space for the Polish Jews to show Poland their diversity, as well as the fact that they are essentially no different from another Pole.

We have created a Facebook page ( for our campaign at @8tysiecyZydow which currently contains infographics about Jews in Poland, as well as an invitation to take part in the photoshoot.
During the campaign, we have met with different Jewish communities in Warsaw. I was very  surprised to see that members of the Jewish community focus on their families. Mrs. Anna Zielińska guided us around the nursery and told us about regular fathers' meetings. In my opinion these meetings provide for the children in the community needed support and care within the community.
After meeting with the workers of the Community and visiting the Nożyk Synagogue, the only still existing pre-war Jewish prayer house in Warsaw, we were asked to support the work of the community. Our work was primarily concerned with the reorganization of the rabbinical library. Additionally, we helped in the transcription of the interview.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet with the community. Although it is a relatively small group (about 700 members), it remains very active and works with children and elderly people in the community.
With our project, we would like to address the issue of the conservative Polish society by showing the presence of other ethnical and religious group. This campaign aimed to dismantle stereotypes people have about Jews and encourage the community and its members to show them up.
The initial idea that we developed, focusing on poetry written by Polish Jews, received a warm feedback from the Jewish Community, however non-Jewish audiences had some concerns about design and the concept itself. Here are some excerpts from what we’ve heard:

Member of the Jewish community of Warsaw:
“I think it's great! There are so many ways and to develop It.”
HIA Senior Fellow:
“Love it! Particularly the fact that it appeals to nursery rhymes that all Polish children know!”
This year’s Fellow:
“I like your idea. As far as I remember I would fit into your "target group". I would go broader than the literature itself. For example - Nobel Prize laureates who are not very well known in Poland, like Jozef Rotblat. “

Instead, we decided to pursue the idea of “8 tysięcy Żydów”. The situation changed and the approaches switched binarily. The non-Jewish followers of the website got interested in the new content and the possibility to ‘meet’ the modern Jewish counterparts, but on the other hand the Jewish Community was reserved and defensive towards the project that requires involvement of individuals. What’s interesting is that some representatives from Jewish Community in Wrocław contacted us and wanted to take part in it. That surprised us, but also made us think that the campaign has its supporters.
Our group had faced some challenges. It was inevitable to experience the team formation cycle. In the end we got along pretty well and it was a pleasure to work on a project that demanded our creativity and sensibility regarding the issues that it tackled.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Internet Inclusive: Making the Internet More Accessible for Everyone

Alicja Dańkowska, Kalina Dobrowolska and Vedika Luthra

Our successes and challenges in creating a social media awareness campaign

Coming up with a social media campaign within a week sounds easy. As millennials, using sites like Facebook and Instagram become routine, habitual. So how hard could it be to share a couple videos, write up a few excerpts and post a few memes? Just ask the fellows. Creating a campaign isn’t quite as easy as it appears. 

For starters, where do you even begin? Because our group was given the category of “others”, it was up to us to come up with our own topic to explore and raise awareness towards. This proved especially difficult given the vast range of subjects that could potentially be chosen. In the end, we settled with people with disabilities, as we felt that a campaign pertaining to those with disabilities would be beneficial.

Once we chose a topic, narrowing down became the next struggle. Initially, we wanted to explore the idea of creating a campaign that promoted equality among all individuals. Then, we thought about promoting the idea that it is the environment that makes us disabled. However, we struggled with the ambiguity of both concepts and, with the help of Kasia Bierzanowska (a translator by profession and founder of Nie-Pełnoprawna, an social initiative dedicated to advocating for rights of people with disabilities)  and Magda Szarota (board member of HIA Poland and advocate for people with disabilities), we eventually settled upon raising awareness towards making the internet more accessible for people with visual impairments.

This topic was narrow enough to make several memes, posts and videos about, and we named it Internet Inclusive, so to make the internet a place for everyone.  

On our page, we shared a variety of memes, videos and challenged other Facebook pages and brands to create descriptions of their photos so that those using audio readers would be able to understand the content of the photograph. It was satisfying to see that several pages did ‘accept the challenge’ and follow our instructions in order to create posts that were friendly towards people who are visually impaired.

Creating a campaign and using social media as somewhat of a marketing tool was difficult, in that we spent most of our budget promoting the page all at once, when we should have been spending a small amount each day on different posts. Furthermore, for sites like Facebook, it is imperative to post multiple times a day, over the span of several hours. In the beginning, we posted more frequently within a given time, which means that Facebook may have thought we were spam. However, we quickly learned to space out our posts.

Furthermore, when we first began, it was difficult for us to determine what layout of graphics we should use. Several times, we changed the format of our design, settling on a simple black and white theme in order to make it easier for visually impaired individuals to enjoy. In addition, because we do not have such disabilities ourselves, it was especially difficult to try and research from the perspective of someone who does. Therefore, we took into account feedback that we received on our page and actively listened to others.

Considering our time frame, however, we did fairly well, acquiring approximately 190 likes and reaching almost 6000 people. Our hope is that the campaign has played role in making the internet more inclusive, no matter how big or small.

Overall, creating a social media campaign was enriching. Not only did we learn about how social media can be used as an effective tool to spread positive messages, we also learned how difficult it can be to start and run a campaign. For us, the key struggle was choosing a topic. However, once we decided upon Internet Inclusive, it was not difficult to find and come up with content. Because we knew many of the pages we challenged, this too, did not prove to be too difficult. Furthermore, we worked incredibly well together, listening to each member’s input and coming up with compromises when necessary. What was difficult was the marketing angle - posting often and at the right time. Creating “viral content” is never easy, which is why it was challenging to obtain 200 or more likes in the given time frame.

Furthermore, creating a campaign was a learning experience for us. After starting our Facebook page, we decided to change the layout of our graphics in order to make it more visible for people with sight impairments, as we found that our original graphics may not have been friendly for people with visual disabilities. Also, we fixed the descriptions of our graphics after one person had written us a message with some recommendations about how to improve the quality of our initiative.

Regarding the organizations we’ve challenged, none of them rejected but we still haven’t come up with effective ways of encouraging our existing partners to keep the job done - and the potential ones to accept our challenge. Overall, we perceive our campaign to be fairly successful, although not all goals have been fully reached.

In the process, we have learned a few key lessons:
1) Always ask for feedback - do it on every stage of a project, try to consult it with as many various people as possible,
2) Do not be afraid of deleting all your previous work and starting all over again with a fresh idea - even if it happens just before the deadline of submitting a subject,
3) Reach out to many organizations and people interested in your topic in order to spread the news about your initiative,
4) Stay open to new ideas coming along an implementation process, learn through experiments and have fun!

Link to videos on YouTube channel: