14 October, 2021
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Interview: Is the Activist Economy good for social change?  | The Stream, Al Jazeera

Lisa together with Labour Rights Activist and CEO of Remake Ayesha Barenblat and Human Rights Activist Kumi Naidoo, joins a conversation on The Stream in Al Jazeera on celebrity activism and humanitarianism. Pointing out the challenges that social movements face in garnering support and gaining publicity in today's media climate and the industry of celebrity humanitarianism, the speakers ponder on the crucial balance and context in which celebrity humanitarianism can be beneficial, or even necessary. However, recognizing the increasing emergence of celebrity activism as a business strategy, they point out the dangers in the commodification of compassion. Using the specific cases of e.g. pinkwashing and Ben Affleck's involvement, the discussants share their expertise and perspectives on current trends of commercialization of social justice activism and ask the necessary question: Who is it really helping?

28 September, 2021

Commentary: ‘The Activist’ reality TV show sparked furor, but treating causes as commodities with help from celebrities happens all the time

After having faced strong criticism, Global Citizen’s new reality TV series “The Activist”, has issued public apologies and announced its change in format. In their article for the Conversation, Alex and Lisa touched on this recent backlash, explaining that celebrity activism is nothing new, and has been acting as a significant disruptor in the field of humanitarianism for years. Indeed, they point out that celebrity activism often ends up supporting the celebrities and brands more than the actual cause: “Even as a canceled TV show, “The Activist,” is destined to spotlight the unaccountable power stars possess, far more than the causes than it’s supposed to be about.”

May 2021

Twitter thread: Commodifying Humanitarian Sentiments? The Black Box of The For-Profit and Non-Profit Partnership

This twitter thread @CoCoResearch breaks down the highlights of our special issue in World Development journal "Commodifying Humanitarian Sentiments? The Black Box of The For-Profit and Non-Profit Partnership". In her intro @MFOlwig shows how the papers of the SI open the "black box" of partnerships , showing how global management strategies flatten local diversity and strip politics out of humanitarianism, highlighting the need for more local accountability. With a diverse set of case studies, the SI examines these partnerships for example on the role of vacation "good doing"Starbucks partnerships in Eastern Congo"sisterhood partnerships" and IKEA's refugee camp shelters. The SI also aims to understand why this is through the examination of the role of SDGs and "sustainability superheroes", and suggests alternative forms of moving forward through new forms of measuring success of these partnerships. The SI concludes that  the profit motive that arises when you commodify care and compassion, expands inequality and perpetuates hierarchies.

Find the full, GIF-rich, twitter thread here. 

May 2021

Twitter thread: Why are humanitarian sentiments profitable and what does that mean for global development?

"We must look beyond their photogenic, feel-good sentiments and delve into the devilish details of partnership outcomes and the unequal power relationships they reify, expand and deepen."


@mikegoodman56 collects the highlights of their conclusion with @BrandAid_World and @rohawkins, of the World Development Special Issue "Commodifying Humanitarian Sentiments? The Black Box of The For-Profit and Non-Profit Partnership" where they argue that the commodification of care and compassion expands inequality and perpetuates hierarchies.

To have a read of the best quotes from the conclusion, access the full thread here.

May 2021

Twitter thread: 'Buonisti' within the Italian humanitarian context

In a Twitter thread, Maha Rafi Atal highlights some of the main findings from the working paper 'The Institutional Context of Humanitarian Helping in Contemporary Italy'  with Adriano Pedrana and Lisa Ann Richey. In the thread she points out the specific particularities of humanitarianism in Italy and how the country's historical and institutional context shape the local configurations of development aid as well as how donors and receivers are perceived today. 

To learn more about the links between Italian humanitarian past and its current manifestations, head to the twitter thread here

You can also access the working paper here, for a detailed examination of the history of Italian cooperation in Humanitarian helping and its role in better understanding most recent trends in Italian humanitarianism. 


Commentary: Lessons from the Early Days of "Covid-Branding"

August 2020

Among many things, corona virus disrupted fieldwork at Commodifying Compassion, and so researchers Lisa Richey and Maha Rafi Atal turned their attention to analysing trends in early Covid Branding. The research was picked up at Forbes magazine and their insights were shared. The core message? That not every time is the right time for real-time marketing.  


The full article in Forbes magazine can be read here and the research can be read in full here.

October 2019

Commentary: Imagining Africa as the Market for Profiting from Whiteness

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September 2019

Twitter thread: Crowdfunding or taxes? 

In a Twitter thread, Commodifying Compassion engaged with a recent column in the Wall Street Journal, which proposed an elaborate system for crowdfunding 'good' causes such as health care. The column inspired a series of humorous 

comments from Twitter users pointing out the similarity between this 'innovative idea' and the well-known concept of taxes. However, Italy has for years had a unique model for financing non-profits, religious organizations and political parties through taxes, combining the regular tax system with elements of crowdfunding. The researchers of Commodifying Compassion are currently working on a paper about these programs and the implications they have for how private companies interact with humanitarian causes in Italy compared to other places.

Click here to see the whole Twitter thread and learn more about Italy's 8 per mille, 5 per mille and 2 per mille programs.

July 2019

Blog post: Can ‘humanitarian humour’ and satire improve the images that volunteer-tourists upload on social media?

In a recent post on The Humanitarian News Research Network website, Carolina Are presents main points from Lisa Richey's new research article co-authored by Kaylan C. Schwarz: Humanitarian humor, digilantism, and the dilemmas of representing volunteer tourism on social media (2019). The post features visuals from the online campaigns described in the research article such as "Humanitarians of Tinder" and "Barbie Saviour". The blog post can be read here.

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May 2019

Interview: Can humanitarian causes be both marketable and ethical?

An interview with Lisa Richey was published on the AidEx blog AidExVoices. In the blog post, Lisa Richey shared her perspectives on the issue of Commodifying Compassion, and reflected on the question of how we as consumers and citizens can think critically about the promises of Brand Aid and "win-for-all" products or services.

Read the blog post here.

April 2019

Blog Post: The Rise of Caring Capitalism in the Humanitarian Space

Alexandra Budabin wrote a blog post, which summarizes the insights and discussions from the two panels organized by the CoCo project at the 2019 International Studies Association Annual Convention. The blog post was published on the Human Rights blog by University of Dayton.

Read the blog post here.

March 2019

Interview: Comic Relief and the power of celebrity

In a blog post on the official blog of AidEx, AidExVoices, Lisa Richey commented on the use of celebrities and consumer goods in fundraising events such as Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day. For more comments on this topic, see also this article in Huffington Post.   

Read the blog post here.