Adeela Warley: Investing in self-expression helps service users tell their own stories

With a focus on user-generated content, charities are tapping into our emotions and empowering us to act

Organisations love devising new terms and acronyms. Right now, charities are producing lots of UGC. 

User-generated content may be management speak for good old self-expression, but it’s essentially a positive thing – and it’s being harnessed by charity storytellers, photographers and filmmakers to tell diverse, authentic stories with contributors up front. 

Samaritans took the time to establish trust and loyalty from the people they support, and now has a strong community of contributors. 

Nicola Leddy of the Teenage Cancer Trust says: “It's a collaboration – follow their lead and you are making the video together. Allow them to feel in control of their story – send them edits and make them feel part of the process so they are comfortable.” 

In tackling a hugely sensitive and emotional subject, Child Bereavement UK worked with its young subjects, ensuring their wellbeing and consent were the top priorities throughout. 

The result was a powerful film, with a clear call to action and signposts for support.

UGC can connect us to human truths, tap into our emotions and empower us to act. 

It even sits at the heart of the artist Grayson Perry’s Channel 4 TV series, Grayson’s Art Club, which has inspired people to unleash their creativity in lockdown. 

One contributor, Chloe, created an alphabet poster for her unwell dad with a joke for every letter of the alphabet. 

She sent a letter and joke to family and friends, asking them to create an artwork in whatever way they chose.

The evolving poster gave her father much joy and became a poignant tribute to him when he sadly passed away. 

Let’s invest in UGC with some more fitting words: unique, generous and creative. 

Adeela Warley is chief executive of CharityComms

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