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February 1, 2023

Conflict minerals Inc: How Business and Advocacy Commodify Compassion


CoCo together with the Center for Business and Development Studies hosted a book seminar at CBS around Christoph N. Vogel's Conflict Minerals Inc. continuing to examine the key challenges of mixing for-profit businesses with humanitarian helping. The book was skillfully discussed by Shyamain Wickramasingha (CBS), Lisa Ann Richey (CBS) and Kasper Hoffmann (University of Copenhagen) who offered sharp comments on the book. 

Find the recording of the event here.

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October 26, 2022

Management Seminars: "Commodifying Compassion: Batman, B-Corps and Buonisti"

Lisa presented CoCo's work on the Italian humanitarian field, titled "Commodifying Compassion: Batman, B-Corps and Buonisti" at the University of Padova as part of the Management Seminars series.

You can find our working paper on institutional context of humanitarian helping in Italy here. 

October 19, 2022
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Batman Saves the Congo: Book Discussion

Alex and Lisa were overjoyed to discuss their book together with Monika Krause (London School of Economics),  Andreas Metzner-Szigeth (Free University of Bozen-Bolzano),

Michele Galluzzo (Free University of Bozen-Bolzano). The discussion was moderated by Roberto Farneti (Free University of Bozen-Bolzano). 

February 23, 2022

ISE - Lecture series: Sustainability superheroes? For-profit narratives of "doing good" in the era of the SDGs

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As part of the ISE - Lecture Series at Roskilde University, Mette Fog Olwig gave a presentation on her work on "Sustainability superheroes" and the changing for-profit narratives of "doing good" through the use of SDGs. Through her ethnographic study of the Danish sustainability "frontrunners" Mette concluded that businesses are increasing their role in determining which aspects of development are being addressed, through increased goal and target cherry-picking. Such selectivity is eventually impeding an integrated and grounded approach to sustainability, where the synergies, trade-offs and links between goals are addressed. These trends are increasingly leading to shifts in accountability and legitimacy within the area of sustainable development.

October 28, 2021

Presentation: A changing role for development research in a changing world? ’The D in the SDGs'

In the seminar "A changing role for development research in a changing world?" CoCo's Mette Fog Olwig presented "The D in the SDGs" at Roskilde University as part of the FAU "Travelling Seminar Series". In her presentation Mette outlines trends in development research and critically examines the role SDGs and subsequently businesses have in determining what aspects of development will be addressed. She highlights that the selectivity of SDGs assists in businesses' ability to pick and choose the goals that best align with their profit maximization, inhibiting an integrated and holistic approach to sustainability. Lastly, she reflects on the implications there trends have on future development research. 

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October 1, 2021

Book launch: Batman Saves the Congo: How Celebrities Disrupt the Politics of Development

The 1st of October, 2021 we had the opportunity to celebrate the launch of Batman Saves the Congo, co-hosted by the Centre for Business and Development Studies (CBDS), and Commodifying Compassion (CoCo) at Copenhagen Business School.


With a warm introduction by Dorte Salskov-Iversen, together with great discussants Eric Guthey, Consolata Sulley, Kasper Hoffman and Lene Bull Christiansen as well as moderator Hannah Elliot, the authors engaged in lively discussions around the book with topics ranging from Congo’s colonial history and art scene, elite politics in Africa to celebrity charisma and accountability. A big thank you to all discussants, guests, and staff for making this successful book launch possible! 

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June 3, 2021

The responsibility of business in the time of the SDGs: Sustainability superheroes

Mette Fog Olwig presented her work on for-profit narratives of "doing good" in the era of SDGs as part of a research seminar "The responsibility of business in the time of the SDGs". 

You can access the first part of the seminar here.

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April 28, 2021

EADI 2021 Panel: Making solidarity sexy, funny, and cool? Challenges of framing interventions and engaging the public in development and humanitarianism

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The increasing ‘privatization of helping’ in both its material and symbolic forms has made engaging in international development and humanitarianism a desirable practice that can be ‘sexy’, ‘funny’ and ‘cool’. Development outcomes themselves become so imbued with ‘symbolic’ and ‘ethical’ value that they are used to market consumer goods through virtual and interactive products where the spectacle or experience itself becomes a commodity. The ways in which these new engagements are experienced in the Global South and their effect on intercultural aid relations are in need of further study and reflection. 

Our EADI 2021 Seed Panel titled Making solidarity sexy, funny, and cool? Challenges of framing interventions and engaging the public in development and humanitarianism, convened by Lisa Ann Richey, will engage with diverse approaches to framing of development ranging from memes to sounds and technology.


To get a preview of some of the papers discussed, have a read of John D. Cameron's blog post on the Soundtracks of Poverty or read the full article here.

March 23, 2021

Business, B-Corps and Buonisti: Understanding the Governance of Humanitarian Helping in Contemporary Italy

Lisa Ann Richey presents "Business, B-Corps and Buonisti: Understanding the Governance of Humanitarian Helping in Contemporary Italy", done in collaboration with Adriano Pedrana. The study is the first English language survey of the national humanitarian context in Italy, examining the institutional framework in which individual ethical consumption and 'do-gooders' or 'buonisti' operate. We find that private actors play an important role within the Italian institutional setting, creating a fertile ground for brand aid style partnerships and other forms of commodifying compassion. 

To find out more, join us on our panels at the ISA 2021 conference on Wednesday 7.4 and Friday 9.4.

Working paper by Lisa Ann Richey and Maha Rafi Atal on the study will be coming soon here

December 7, 2020
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Podcast episode: Covid Branding with Maha Rafi Atal and Lisa Ann Richey

How are companies branding themselves and framing consumption during Covid? Maha and Lisa got together with Sarah Netter as part of an internal podcast at the Department of Management, Society and Communication at Copenhagen Business School to provide answers to this question. They elaborate on how companies are trying to offer consumers two ways to engage: managing the pandemic through ‘Covid- helping’ and managing yourself through ‘Covid-coping’ and thus presenting shopping as a form of everyday heroism.


To find out more about the themes discussed in the podcast you can access the full brief here.

April 3, 2020

New paper release: Saving the world by doing business?

In their newly released working paper, Mette Fog Olwig and Julie Andersen Schou describe the institutional framework influencing humanitarian aid in Denmark, finding that there is a growing trend towards joint ventures between private businesses and civil society organizations. This trend is institutionalized through the public funding bodies in Denmark and consequently has important implications for the development sector.

The paper is released as part of the CBDS Working Paper Series and can be accessed on this online location.

March 3, 2020

Research and Reports on Localisation of Humanitarian Aid

Lisa Ann Richey presents the project 'Everyday Humanitarianism in Tanzania' at the Research and Reports event organized by Save the Children Denmark. Everyday Humanitarianism in Tanzania is a Danish Fellowship Centre project that explores how people interact in everyday situations to respond to crises outside of the formal structures of humanitarian assistance.

You can find more information about the event on this link.

January 23, 2020

Commodifying Compassion: Danish Institutional Framework

In recent years, publicly funded development and humanitarian aid is increasingly being replaced by private sector philanthropy. In this talk, Mette Fog Olwig and Julie Anderson Schou provide an overview of the institutional framework that currently influences these processes in Denmark. Michael Wendelbo Hansen will be discussant of this paper.

November 28, 2019

Research seminar: Refugee Shelter in a Logistical World: Designing Humanitarian Goods for Supply-Chain Humanitarianism 


The Centre for Business and Development Studies (CBDS) and the CoCo project are hosting a talk with Elisa Pascucci, postdoctoral researcher from University of Helsinki, Finland.

Focusing on the IKEA Foundation-sponsored “Better Shelter”, the talk explores the role of logistical calculative rationales in the provision of emergency housing for refugees. It explores the technologies that allow refugee shelter products – conceptualized as “humanitarian goods” – to circulate across production sites, camps, and disaster and border zones. In doing so, it highlights their connections to broader infrastructures and commercial networks in what recent literature has called “supply-chain humanitarianism” (Ziadah, 2019)

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September 18, 2019

Keynote speech: Communicating Commodified Compassion: Brand Aid in the Woke Age

At the 5th International CSR Communication Conference hosted by the Stockholm School of Economics, Lisa Richey gave the opening keynote on Brand Aid and compassionate consumption at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm.

September 13, 2019
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Lecture: Commodifying Compassion: Buying Into Saving the World

Lisa Richey gave a lecture at the EuroStorie research seminar in Helsinki organized by the Centre of Excellence in Law, Identity and the European Narratives in collaboration with Faculty of Social Sciences Development Studies, where she presented her current work on Commodifying Compassion and Brand Aid products.

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September 13, 2019

CoCo represented at the Festival for the Global Goals

On the 13th-14th of September, CBS and the Municipality of Frederiksberg held a Festival for the Global Goals, where the public was invited to meet businesses and organizations and learn how they engage with different aspects of sustainability. CoCo researcher Mette Fog Olwig was present at the CBS Sustainability tent, presenting the work of the CoCo project and questioning the role of “sustainability superheroes".

September 9, 2019

Paper presentation: Brand Aid and Value Chain Partnerships at the Service of Corporate Strategy: Starbucks and Kahawa Bora Coffee in Eastern Congo

Lisa presented the new article, co-authored with Stefano Ponte, at the 2nd paper seminar held by the new CBDS research cluster "Knowledge and Global Development", led by CoCo researcher Maha Rafi Atal. Based on research on the Starbucks Kahawa Bora specialty coffee project, which is implemented by Ben Affleck’s Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), Richey and Ponte address how partnerships in development are moving from disengaged cause-marketing to engaged value chain interventions, and present the concept of “Brand Aid 2.0”.

June 2019

Keynote Speech: Everyday Humanitarianism - How New Actors and Alliances Shape Contemporary Helping

At the 2nd European Conference on Citizen Initiatives for Global Solidarity in Brussels, Lisa Richey gave the introductory keynote speech to start off the two-day conference. 

June 2019

ECAS 2019 Panel Session: Commodifying Africa - Material and Representational Interests, Influences and Impacts

For the 2019 European Conference on African Studies, hosted by the University of Edinburgh, Lisa Richey and Stefano Ponte organized a panel session, which examined various aspects of humanitarianism, development and investment partnerships where good causes, products, and consumers are tied together in what are presented as unproblematic ways to 'save' Africa.

June 2019

Seminar with Stefano Ponte and Lisa Ann Richey

At a seminar hosted by The Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) and The Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID), at the University of Sheffield, UK., Lisa Richey presented her recent work with the talk: Commodifying Compassion - Pushing the Boundaries of Ethical Consumption. The seminar also included a talk by Professor Stefano Ponte and was chaired by Professor Dan Brockington

June 2019

Keynote Presentation: Effects and Affects of Commodified Compassion

Lisa Richey gave a keynote presentation on commodified compassion at The Centre for Research into Sustainability (CRIS), a multidisciplinary, international group of researchers and educators at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK. 

Source: Twitter 
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April 2019

CoCo Seminar with David Girling: Using charity images in humanitarian marketing

David Girling, Senior Lecturer and Director of Research Communication in the School of International Development, University of East Anglia, presented his latest research on the use of charity images in humanitarian campaigns at a seminar hosted by the CoCo project and Copenhagen Business School (CBS). The seminar was part of the CBS Sustainability Seminar Series.

Read more about David Girling's research project Radi-Aid Research here

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March 2019

International Studies Association Annual Meeting

At the annual ISA convention in Toronto, the CoCo team organized two panels. The first, Caring Through Consumption I: What is at Stake in Development and Humanitarian Practices?, was chaired by CoCo member Alexandra Budabin. The second, Caring Through Consumption II: What is at Stake in Gendering Global Humanitarianism and Development?, was chaired by Natalie Hudson from University of Dayton.

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March 2019

Research Seminar: Corporate Caring and the Politics of Gender in Humanitarian Partnerships

On March 7th, Lisa Richey presented a paper on the gendered public face of corporate caring at a seminar organized by the DFF-funded network Interventions - A Research Network on Humanitarian Politics and Culture.  

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February 2019

Inaugural Lecture

Lisa Richey gave her inaugural lecture "Commodifying Compassion: Linking Ethical Consumption with Everyday Humanitarianism" as Professor of Globalization at Copenhagen Business School.

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January 2019

Writeshop: Global Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Opening up the Black Box 

Mette Fog Olwig organized and hosted a writeshop at Roskilde University that brought together scholars from the fields of human and development geography, political ecology, political science, anthropology, and management and organizational studies to discuss empirical and theoretical questions relating to global partnerships for sustainable development. The writeshop was organized with support from the DFF-funded network Interventions - A Research Network on Humanitarian Politics and Culture.

December 2018

Annual CAE Conference

Mette Fog Olwig, Mie Vestergaard and Lisa Ann Richey presented their work, under the title "Changing dynamics of business involvement in development aid to Africa", at the Center of African Economies, Roskilde University.  

November 2018

DIIS Comment: 
Døren er åben for innovative NGO-partnerskaber

Mie Vestergaard and Adam Moe Fejerskov at the Danish Institute for International Studies wrote a short piece on the risks and potentials of innovate partnerships between NGOs and the private sector. 


Read the comment here. For more perspectives on this issue, watch the DIIS event "Innovative NGO-partnerskaber i en Verdensmålstid" from November 22nd here

October 2018

Keynote Presentation: The Neoliberal Politics of Celebrity Humanitarianism

Lisa Ann Richey and Alexandra Budabin presented at a three-day Interdisciplinary Workshop at the University of Copenhagen “Celebrity and Protest in Africa and in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle”. Lisa Richey gave the keynote presentation and Alexandra Budabin presented her paper on “Building Solidarity through Coffee: How Ben Affleck Brings Broader Public Engagement to Development.”

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April 2018

American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting

At the AAG Annual Meeting in New Orleans, the CoCo team coordinated a double paper session titled "Commodifying Humanitarianism – Exploring Business-Humanitarian Partnerships." The session explored contemporary trends in the commodification of humanitarianism whereby good causes, products, and consumers are tied together in what are presented as unproblematic ways to ‘save the world’.

At the AAG Annual Meeting in New Orleans, the CoCo team coordinated a double paper session titled "Commodifying Humanitarianism – Exploring Business-Humanitarian Partnerships." The session explored contemporary trends in the commodification of humanitarianism whereby good causes, products, and consumers are tied together in what are presented as unproblematic ways to ‘save the world’.

The CoCo team presented three papers at the conference:

  • Alexandra Budabin: “Serving up the Most Dangerous Cup of Coffee in the World: Ben Affleck and Business-Humanitarian Partnerships in Eastern Congo”

  • Mette Fog Olwig: "Happy Heroes, Brand Loyalty and the Value of Values: When Business meets Humanitarianism"

  • Mie Vestergaard: "Win-Win – So Who Loses? Humanitarian Considerations when Partnering with Private Business"

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April 2018

Panel Discussion at The Duke Human Rights Center

Lisa Richey, Alexandra Budabin and Mie Vestergaard presented their work at a panel discussion hosted by The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. 

  • Lisa Richey:“Implications of Commodifying Compassion on Business, Politics and Social Relations”

  • Mie Vestergaard: “Private Business, Partnerships and Humanitarianism in Africa: ‘Win-Win – So Who Loses?’”

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March 2018

Seminar at the Kenan Institute for Ethics

Lisa Richey organized a seminar on "Decolonizing Academia" at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. 

December 2017

Presentation at the Danish Red Cross International Department and General Secretariat

November 2017

American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting

At the AAA Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, Lisa Richey presented her paper "Photographic Engagements with Humanitarian Africa: Moral Publics or Ironic Spectators?" in a session titled "Affective Labor: The Politics and Ethics of Transnational Humanitarian Volunteering."

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November 2017

Interdisciplinary Conference: Image and Imagination, Between Representation and
Communication, Education and Psychology

Alexandra Budabin presented her paper “Crafting Humanitarian Imaginaries: The Visual Story-Telling of Buy-One Give-One Marketing Campaigns” at the conference at the Free University of Bolzano, Italy. 

November 2017

African Studies Association Annual Meeting

At the ASA Annual Meeting in Chicago, Lisa Richey presented her newly released book "Celebrity Humanitarianism and North-South Relations: Politics, place and power."

June 2017

CoCo Masterclass with Laura Horn

In June, the CoCo team hosted a masterclass on Marxist theories of commodification with Laura Horn, Associate Professor of International Relations and European Integration at the Department of Society and Globalisation at Roskilde University. 

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May 2017

Sustainability Festival

Alexandra Budabin facilitated a workshop on “Cause-related marketing – Buying sustainable products or rather stop buying at all?” at the Sustainability Festival at the Free University of Bolzano in Italy.

February 2017

International Studies Association Annual Meeting

At the ISA annual meeting in Baltimore, MD, Lisa Richey presented her paper "Peacebuilding and the Celebrity-Business-Humanitarian Complex: the case of Ben Affleck’s work in Congo"


Lisa Richey and Alexandra Budabin both participated and presented in the panel session “The Humanitarian in the Mirror: Producing, Consuming, and Re-using Humanitarian Representations of the Global South.” Lisa gave a presentation on “The Moral Panic of North-South Relations: The Case of the Humanitarians of Tinder”  and Alexandra presented a paper titled “Mobilizing Consumer-Activists for Development? Assessing the Humanitarian Narrative of Cause-Related Marketing Campaigns”

February 2017

Keynote Presentation: 
Commodifying Compassion: Some Reflections on the Implications of Turning People and Humanitarian Causes into Marketable Things

Lisa Richey was one of two keynote speakers at the 2017 conference From Stigma to Brand: Commodifying and Aestheticizing Urban Poverty and Violence held at Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich. The conference was organized by Ludwig-Maximilians University, University of Amsterdam and London School of Economics.

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