On April 27, 2010 the popular website Mashable ran a post titled 1MillionShirts Leverages Social Media to Help Clothe Africa. The post was about a new charitable campaign launched by a pair of US-based social media marketing professionals whose goal was to get everyday consumers to “Help us send one million t-shirts to the people of Africa”. As the Mashable author wrote
The 1MillionShirts project, launched this month, is asking for used (but decent) T-shirts to be sent in with a one dollar bill to help with container costs. The shirts will then be shipped to Africa to help clothe folks in need.
The mis-guided campaign team set out to use social media tools to spread the word, encouraging supporters to use the #1millionshirts tag in comments about the campaign on Twitter. Within hours of the #1millionshirts tag appearing on Twitter a heated debate ensued between the marketers and the African development and aid professionals with both sides writing online, talking on Twitter, and even getting on an international conference call. In 24 hours what started out as a typical American-lead Africa aid charity campaign had fueled a full blown debate on the merits of such efforts, and how campaigns such as these negatively affect African communities and the aid industry.
To further the open discussion, and educate other would-be Africa aid campaigners, I have tapped the wisdom of the crowd to produce a case-study document titled “No Tees Please: Why Africa aid campaigns #FAIL”. The contributors to the eBook have shared their perspectives on this and other Africa aid campaigns and the hard lessons which can be learned when they miss their mark.
Feel free to download and distribute the eBook embedded below freely to anyone you feel can learn from the diverse perspectives on smart aid and foreign-lead African development initiatives. A special thanks to the numerous contributors and my co-editor Raquel Wilson for helping get this project out the door in a short period. Leave your comment below or follow me on Twitter (@GKofiAnnan) to join the ongoing conversation.
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