The Arrels Foundation’s main objective was to bring attention the issue of homelessness, a subject that is often forgotten, in an impactful and meaningful way. It was also to increase donations so they can keep working on reducing homelessness with the goal of one day abolishing it.
Just like any other NGO Arrels depend on donations to carry on their work, but to compel people to donate, their biggest battle is first to defeat the prejudice most people have about homelessness, a prejudice that for the most part, suppresses the feeling of compassion which is the human gateway that leads humans to take action in the face of injustice.
For most, if he is even noticed, the first thought that arises when they see a homeless person is that they must have done something to end up in that situation. Nevertheless, it is important to know that most people do not choose homelessness. Instead, homelessness results from a social system which fails to catch and support people who are at risk of homelessness.
So, our main challenge was to make homeless people visible again and to contribute helping others feel compassion towards homeless people to make the NGO’s mission possible. They needed to remind people that we ultimately all want the same things out of life (love, safety, health, happiness).
We decided to steer away from the usual victim-oriented campaign. If we wanted society to treat homeless people as people, as our peers, we had to portray them as such… and this was our main insight: Homeless people are no different from those who are not. And as our fellow men, they need to be seen and given a second
There has always been an ethical line between advertising and reality and using stock photos to enhance a message or promote a product have contributed to many of the most pervasive stereotypes and clichés in our society, so it made sense to use advertising to help us shatter prejudices against homeless people. We would use images to criticise the effects stereotypical images have on our society.
So, we created a Creative Commons license image library, an online depository of images for anyone to use in their content production projects, we called it HOMELESS COMMONS.
But this library had one thing differentiating it from all the other thousands and thousands of image libraries: Every single model in every single image was an ex-homeless person.
A powerful way of demonstrating how prejudice can blind us from seeing with Humanity.
If no one told you where our models came from, your eyes would see the usual images found in an image library: The perfect family having diner, playing outdoors, the perfect businessman, the perfect couple, the perfect well, you get the point, the perfect everything!
Our Homeless Commons image library was created to challenge and change perceptions by making people realize how easily we can all fall into prejudice.
We tricked and hacked the ‘’system’’ by creating images that could be used in advertising, made with models who were portrayed in a normal situation, but that prejudices did not allow us to see with humanity had we seen them sleeping of begging on the streets.
We started by analyzing the most searched-for photographs on the main image libraries and identified recurrent themes from which we created 136 images.
We then had Arrels help us find ex-homeless people who they had helped towards the recovery of their autonomy, to ask them if they would be our models. We paid them professional wages for the work.
We worked with a total of 7 people: Manel, Paco, Valerio, Martin, Jordan, Esteban, and Salvador. All of them had compelling stories to tell, such as Martin who was a bank executive before he lost it all.
Because this campaign had 0 budget, we mostly relied on PR actions and the goodwill of people to bring coverage and awareness.
To help us in this task we created an emotive video explaining the initiative and launched it on #Giving Tuesday, an international day of giving and solidarity.
On that same day, we also asked advertisers and media distributors to donate media space to communicate the initiative.
Our agency donated 10K to launch a programmatic campaign to push the video on Social Media and digital
In order to bring continuity and recurrent donation to the project, we approached advertising and marketing agencies with a concerted commercial effort to promote our image library for their campaigns and projects.
All 136 images were available on the Arrels Website for €50 and 22€ for a series of 40. People also had the option of making an open donation.