Red Havas has partnered with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to launch a 70th anniversary global podcast series.
Mark Campbell, Global Head of Content at Red Havas, tells Dare! about the seven-part series, “Forced to Flee”, that will showcase stories of past and current refugees around the world, highlighting some of the Agency’s most important work and key moments in history.
How did the partnership between Red Havas and the UN Refugee Agency come about?
We were recommended to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) by UNICEF, who we’ve been working with for the last two years. It was extremely rewarding to see the work we had done with UNICEF, including flagship events, such as ‘World Children’s Day 2020’, had led to positive corridor conversations and recommendations within the UN.
It started with an unexpected call as I huddled in my local café, piggybacking their erratic broadband as my own had finally been stretched beyond its limits thanks to months of working from home during the height of the covid pandemic. So, it wasn’t the most ideal of starts, but despite that, they asked us to come on board. Finally, after 6 months of tireless lobbying by our client, the project was pushed through a multitude of UN channels, budget was approved and work started on delivering a global production; at a time when a vast majority of the world’s borders were closed!
Tell us about ‘Forced to Flee’ and the inspiration behind this project?
The driving factor was more motivation, than inspiration, coupled with the UN’s wish to mark the 70th anniversary of UNHCR. This was also alongside requests from various UN / UNHCR stakeholders around the world to do this through the stories of some of those affected by this unrelenting crisis since the agency’s inception.
The UN were mindful that just focusing on the history of the agency would be a tough sell to the public, and, in any case, they wanted to put refugees, not themselves, at the heart of the content. The decision to share these stories in the form of a limited podcast series was based on the medium’s growing global popularity, its on-demand, on-the-go convenience (which we knew would be a crucial audience expectation) but also because of its intimate and immersive nature.
How were the seven refugees who participated chosen?
There are hundreds of remarkable stories that could have been told. To help the selection process they had to touch various bases: the stories had to traverse the world because human displacement affects every region of the planet and they had to travel through time, rather than focus exclusively on more recent emergencies. At the same time, they also had to talk a little to how UNHCR’s work had evolved since 1950-51. Exploring every humanitarian crisis over the past 70 years was clearly impossible, so we had to be selective once we had conducted extensive historical research.
So, our contributors emerged from that rather complicated process – there were many parameters, and we had to engage many UNHCR representatives in numerous countries to help us find the right people. Last but not least, the series couldn’t endanger anyone by bringing their stories to a wider audience. There were lots of factors, many extremely critical, to take into account.
Whose story impacted you the most?
It’s impossible to choose just one as each person’s story has impacted me in different ways – they have their own unique power and ways of making you look at this complex issue, which is essential when creating a series narrative and cadence that audiences will be compelled to follow across an entire 7-episode series.
Where does the series live?
The podcast is widely available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts, as well as many other directories and providers around the world. It is also featured on the UNHCR’s website – www.unhcr.org/forced-to-flee-podcast.
What has been the reaction to this series so far?
From the podcast itself, through to the visual identity and creative assets to support it, the project has been unanimously well received across the board within the UN, which, given the complexity of the organisation, and sheer number of stakeholders all with differing viewpoints on this topic, is no mean feat.
We even attracted the attention of a certain Cate Blanchett who contacted the UN to say:
‘Listened to episode 1. It’s really, really great. You should have asked me to do the narration!’