Amnesty's virtual reality-themed #360Syria project wins prestigious Third Sector award
‘We’re delighted by the Third Sector award and delighted that the #360Syria project is gaining wide recognition’ - Kate Allen
Amnesty International UK’s virtual reality-themed #360Syria project has won the Third Sector ‘Digital Innovation of the Year” award in this year’s charity sector awards.
The award - which was announced at an event at the Lancaster London hotel in central London last night - was given to Amnesty for its ground-breaking use of head-set virtual reality viewers by street fundraisers, as well as a 360-degree-photos-based “Fear of the sky” website.
Both of these utilise extremely stark images of the devastation wrought by Syrian government barrel bombing of the besieged city of Aleppo to produce strongly “immersive” - and profoundly impactful - experiences for the viewer.
Last year, Amnesty launched its #360Syria street campaign, which - in a global first for fundraising - saw virtual reality headsets used by Amnesty’s street fundraisers in various locations in the UK. Since then Amnesty has used the VR viewers in its street fundraising operations in London, Manchester, Bristol and Leeds, as well as at festivals and in schools, allowing a wide range of people to see in vivid detail some of the scenes of destruction in barrel-bombed districts of Aleppo. Amnesty fundraisers and activists have seen a strong and often emotional response from the public and a significant increase in people signing up to direct debit donations toward Amnesty’s human rights work. The highly cost-effective project uses inexpensive refurbished smartphones and low-tech VR headsets (costing less than £15 each).
Meanwhile, with “Fear of the sky”, Amnesty brought together specially-created 360-degree photography, narration, sound recordings, 3D data graphics and videos gathered by Amnesty-trained Syrian media activists from the Lamba Media Production organisation. Visitors to Fear of the sky can navigate around full-screen “photospheres” which capture the apocalyptic scenes and sounds after barrel bombing attacks in Aleppo.
In addition to the fundraising and campaigning impact of the project, the #360Syria project is assisting Amnesty’s efforts to build a body of evidence of human rights violations and crimes against humanity being committed in Syria.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“We’re delighted by the Third Sector award and delighted that the #360Syria project is gaining wide recognition.
“Syria is the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis and it’s vital that we explore new and innovative ways of connecting people to what’s happening there.
“Many of us might think we already know about the Syrian government’s barrel bombing of places like Aleppo, but viewing apocalyptic scenes as part of an immersive experience provides you with a whole new level of understanding.”
Blanket barrel bombing
The Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has claimed that Syrian government forces do not possess or use barrel bombs, though their use has been widely documented. The Syrian Network for Human Rights has reported that over 6,000 barrel bombs were dropped by Syrian government forces in the first half of 2016 alone, with large numbers hitting Aleppo. In a report last year, Amnesty detailed the horrific damage done by Syrian government barrel bombing of Aleppo, where scores of people a month were being killed in the attacks - with schools, hospitals, mosques and crowded market places all hit.