Reaching a wider audience (above: a cat listens to the live broadcast of the BBC Today Programme on Radio 4 at the British base in Basra Palace, 2006)

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Celebrity Guide to Doing Good in the World


You may have heard me bang on about how celebrities who take on causes, don’t necessarily help those causes. Respect to Clooney who seems to be using his skills to record short promos for the UN, and hasn’t finger wagged Al-Bashir on Darfur lately (and I understand he has offered General Agwai a helicopter). But rather than analyse the effectiveness of Jude Law‘s recent mission in Afghanistan (Jude who? Many an Afghan is heard to mutter), I thought it would be helpful if I could pen a rough guide for those celebrities who have come to a point in their careers where they feel they want to give something back. Or maybe you have been asked to back a charitable winner (or a looser) and are weighing up your options. First see where you fit on the Do-good-o-meter?


My career is waning and my image needs improving

I’m bored
I am taking a break from my usual work

I can “raise awareness” of a cause (and let everyone know how nice I am)
I’m nice, of course I will help


I support a cause and want to take time out to help, I don’t really care what people think of me

I want to quit work for a while and do something with more meaning

I am passionate about this issue – I really want to use all my skills and experience to make positive change as effectively as possible

The rest of this article is really only aimed at those on the indigo end of the rainbow. Well done, you are coming from the right place. Chances are you have incredible ability to influence and be a top class ambassador for your cause and dare I say it - a public diplomat. So, a rough guide:

1. If you scored indigo you will already have a passion for your cause. You could want global nuclear disarmament, or better research for a particular disease which took away someone close to you. Maybe you are moved by the plight of the gorilla, or the people of a warring nation? The first thing to do is research. Go there. Meet the sufferers and those working with them. Don’t just talk to NGOs, talk to Governments, broad civil society, academia, the commercial world – get all views.

2. Next draw conclusions about what might help. For example the best way to save the gorilla might be to combat poverty and tribal warfare in the region – and not by “raising awareness” by printing a load of Save the Gorilla T-Shirts. Invite others to help you draw conclusions and get to the root of the issue.

3. Have a strategy. Get professional help with this (a-hem, I would say that) – it will help you hone into what you can realistically hope for, how you could achieve it and in what time scale. It will also help you explore who you should be lobbying and how to measure if your plans are working.

4. Co-ordinate. Is there anyone already tackling this, that you could support? Don’t reinvent a wheel in vanity, someone might already be doing some great work, and could just need a hand.

5. Think about what you are good at (and what you are bad at). Are you a writer, actor, or ice skater? Use your skills and make it relevant. I’m thinking Jamie Olivers school dinners campaign more relevant than Joanna Lumley championing the Gurkhas right to live in Britain (ok, she did well and there was a family history with them). But you get it – make it relevant and your involvement credible.

6. Finally think grass roots. Take your skills and the problem to the sufferers and ask them what you should do and what they think would work. Chances are they will now best. A top down approach is patronizing. OK – unless they are gorillas, silly. But you know what I mean. Talk to the family and friends of the…erm…gorillas.

So, just a few simple words of wisdom, perhaps better suited to my nomadic-wisdom blog, but not altogether uncomfortable on this public-diplomacy page. I look forward to hearing about your successes, so I can highlight them rather than banging on about the wrong approach! Even you, Jude.


The idea for this article was shamelessly pilfered from my bright boyfriend. Thanks hun.

BBC blogger on celebrity charity work http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2007/08/power_of_celebrity.html

Me banging on about celebrity backers
http://public-diplomacy.blogspot.com/2008/05/celebrity-backerspublic-diplomats.html

1 comment:

Karate Weapons said...

well atleast they are doing something good