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‘It’s a repository of creative philanthropy’: what now for the UN’s open brief to creatives?

We’re now three months down the line from when the United Nations (UN) first put out its open brief. And with no end of Covid-19 in sight and a second spike plausible, what’s next for the project?

As one of the headliners of The Drum’s Can-Do Festival, Dawda Jaborteh, global head of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Strategy Hub, and Maya Bogle, founder of Talenthouse, which supported the project, share their experiences of working on the project, discussing what went on behind the scenes. You can watch the session in full here, or read some insights from the chat below.

Back in March, the UN put out an open brief to the creative community to help stem the spread of coronavirus, encouraging creatives of all countries and languages to develop eye-catching PSA work.

Covering six messaging areas (personal hygiene, physical distancing, know the symptoms, spread kindness, myth-busting and donate) the resulting work ranges from illustrations to animation, radio scripts to poetry.

The brief first went live on 25 March and by 30 March Jobarteh found he had to call on Talenthouse’s creative briefing platform to handle the sheer volume of work being submitted.

The response since has been enormous, with over 17,000 entries from 143 countries and in 20 different languages (you can see some of the most ingenious responses here). With the initial peak of the coronavirus now behind us, but a potential second one on the way, where is the project now?

“I hope it won’t be relevant in the next couple of months,” says Jaborteh, although he admits that with a second spike it unfortunately could well be. “Everything we’ve done is intentional in terms of dealing with the emergency in front of us and the response. But we’ve also built into the future, in terms of the longevity and enabling this repository of ‘creative philanthropy’ to be used beyond this immediate emergency we have in front of us.”

Even though she is the co-founder of the art networking site Talenthouse, Bogle says the open brief has taught her something extraordinary about the power of collective collaboration.

“Collaboration is pretty much in our DNA. It is something we vehemently and passionately believe in. More than anything, what we’ve learned from this is that there is a global community of creators out there who want to help, who want to step in, who want to put their amazing skillsets to work solving problems.

She adds: “There’s probably a great deal more that we could galvanise that community into doing beyond just about selling more products, goods and services for brands, and actually changing the world into a better and a more peaceful place to be.“

Jaborteh says the project reiterates the need for the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals blueprint. “We’ve seen that the emergency response is all tied to sustainable development, and, had we been further ahead in terms of achievement of those goals, our systems would have provided greater resilience and responsiveness.

“There is clearly a pent-up demand and supply for purpose... for doing good and helping communities keep themselves and each other safe. And we see that with brands, such as with the Black Lives Matter movement right now. The price of entry is no longer just being seen to do good, but actually doing good and having purpose. Brands that aren’t capable of genuinely and authentically doing that may be left behind.“

Jaborteh and Bogle spoke with The Drum‘s Imogen Watson as part of The Drum‘s Can-Do Festival, an online event celebrating the positive energy, innovation and creative thinking that can make the marketing community such a powerful force for good. You can watch the interview in full here.

Sign up to watch forthcoming sessions and see the full Can-Do schedule here.

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