Third Sector Awards 2016: Digital Innovation of the Year - Winner: Amnesty International UK for 360 Syria

Awarded to a charity or social enterprise that is pushing the boundaries of digital technology to reach supporters, donors or beneficiaries

The virtual reality headset in action
The virtual reality headset in action

What did it do?

At the beginning of last year, Amnesty International UK fundraisers faced a challenge: with Syria too dangerous for journalists, it was difficult to garner support from the UK public, who had no idea about life in Syria’s warzones.

For 360 Syria, AIUK trained citizen journalists inside Aleppo to capture innovative spherical images of the war-torn streets that surrounded them and, by combining the images with low-cost virtual reality headsets, it was able to give the public an immersive experience, allowing them to see through the eyes of a Syrian person under siege.

The campaign marked a global first for street fundraising and gave many people their first experience of virtual reality, which AIUK hoped would help to reverse the negative image of street fundraisers.

How much did it cost?

This project was delivered in-house and on a shoestring budget. In total the project cost £31,500, including the cost of providing £14 VR headsets and refurbished smartphones, and of building the project website.

What did it achieve?

More than 100,000 people have used the virtual-reality headsets, and there was a 9 per cent increase in the number of people signing up to direct debits. It also gave AIUK a valuable tool to carry out its lobbying, awareness-raising and education work, and generated significant media coverage.

Syrian activists were empowered. The images provided evidence that the Syrian government was using illegal weapons and, as a result of the training, Syrian activists went on to produce immersive pieces for outlets including The Guardian, The New York Times and Channel 4 News.

The project was commended by the Singularity University at the NASA Research Park in California. The charity has been invited there twice to speak about its use of virtual reality and now has a working partnership with the university.

What did the judges say?

Mark Woods, head of digital innovation and live social media at Comic Relief, said: "In many ways ahead of its time, this project represents cutting-edge digital innovation that pulled no punches."

Highly commended

British Red Cross for Emergency mobile app


British Heart Foundation for MyMarathon


SignHealth for InterpreterNow

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus