In the project

Online seminar for volunteering at Europe's (external) borders


6. Public Outreach

If you are interested in combining your voluntary stay with public outreach and advocacy work to draw attention to the political and social situation for people on the move, it is important to be mindful. Public outreach - if well done - can have crucial impact on donations as well as political discourses in the long run. In this unit, we want to draw your attention to some important pitfalls and challenges of public outreach when working with people on the move.


How is Public Outreach connected to volunteering?

  • Public outreach is a valuable - but also powerful - tool to raise awareness in society about the situation of people seeking protection in Europe and, if well done, to increase political pressure on decision-makers to change that situation.
  • There are various ways of public outreach and advocacy work which you can possibly combine with fundraising (see unit 7): Blog entries, interviews, newsletters, Facebook or Instagram posts are all very easily accessible and useful tools for raising awareness of the situation on the ground.

Given that the discourse on flight and migration has become highly politicised and conflictual in recent years, it is necessary to address the dangers and challenges of public relations work in this context. The following four principles should help you to protect the privacy of others in your reports and draw a dignified picture of the people you report about.

Basic guidelines in Public Outreach

Things you should always keep in mind.

The following four principles are intended to help you to create sensitive public outreach content that is both effective in terms of publicity and appropriate to the topic of your reporting. This way, you can protect the privacy of others and present a dignified image of your fellow human beings.
Convey a humane image!

  • The public documentation of many volunteers' stay abroad does not pay enough attention to protecting the dignity of other people. The result may often be an objectifying and often degrading generalisation of groups of people and the situation in which they find themselves.
  • Certain images trivialise the political oppression from which many people flee, others create the perception of whole groups of people as passive, and indigident "victims" who do not do justice to the complex situation of people on the move.
  • Once you engage in public outreach, It is up to you how your reports on the situation of people seeking protection are perceived and what associations they trigger in people! So please make sure that you do not reproduce stereotypes or harmful images. Make sure that your posts do not contribute to the dehumanisation of protection-seekers or reduce them to their flight experience.
  • Try to put your perspective on what is happening to the rear. Instead, ask the people you support or work with about the stories, images and facts they want to share with the public and try to do justice to those.

Obtain consent!

  • If you feel it is necessary to portray a person, it is essential to ask whether it is okay to take their picture or film them. In general, we recommend not to take pictures of people for your personal public outreach, unless they specifically ask for it. Always respect the privacy of others and ask if you can share the picture/video on your social networks. After all, no one wants to be photographed or filmed without being asked and find themselves on any social networking sites.
  • Do not take pictures of sick people or of people who are in a degrading or humiliating situation.
  • Be especially sensitive to children: Before you take a picture of a child or with a child, get the explicit consent of its parents and of course ask permission from the child as well.
  • In any case, discuss possible guidelines for reporting in/on the project with your organisation. For example, there are organisations that take great care to ensure that people are not recognisable at all and that the images are pixelated accordingly. We support such precautions.

Question your intentions!

  • Keep reflecting: What are your intentions as a volunteer supporting people on the move? Do you commit yourself to the project in order to show solidarity, to develop yourself personally, or do you perhaps have completely different motives? The answer to those questions will influence your reports and thus the picture you paint of the situation on the ground. Who plays the main role, who is telling the story and through which lense is the situation portrayed?
  • Always ask yourself why you do what you do before you share something on your social networks. Good intentions, such as raising awareness about the situation of refugees or fundraising, are no justification for violating the dignity or privacy of other people or creating a picture that does not adhere to their self perception.
  • Also question whether you are merely supporting your own perception with your reports, or whether you are trying to reflect the perspective of people on the move, who are still rarely found in Western / European public media. Sometimes less is more, sometimes it is not your story to tell. There is always the possibility to share other people’s voices and content instead of painting your own picture.
Break stereotypes!

  • Use your blog entries, posts and stories to present a more differentiated picture of the situation and the people. In this way you can break down discriminatory stereotypes rather than continuing to reproduce them.
  • Include people that you work with in reflecting on your reporting:
    • Does it homogenise or stereotype groups of people?
    • Do you portray the individuals in your stories with dignity?
    • Are volunteers staged as saviors or heroes?
    • Who is in the picture in an active role, who is in a passive role?


How do I check my posts on social media?

  • Question your intentions: Why are you posting this content or photo? Is it necessary or is there some authentic content by people concerned themselves that you could share instead?
  • If you want to take a picture and share it, do you have the consent of the person or legal guardian?
  • Do you know the name(s) and background story of the person(s) portrayed?
  • Would you like to be portrayed in this way and does it do justice to the person’s situation? Does your portrayal do justice to the person’s situation?
  • Did you offer the photographed or portrayed person(s) a copy or link of your report?
  • If you include names of people or organisations, do you have the permission to use them?
  • Did you portray any representations of certain traditions, religions and cultures in a respectful and dignified manner?
  • Do you intentionally avoid any degrading or harmful image or portrayal of people, especially of sick people?
  • Do you portray yourself as a hero or saviour in the situation?
  • Do you break up stereotypes, avoid generalisations and present a differentiated picture of the situation? (For example by including places and names and emphasising that it is just one story, or a limited extract you are reporting on)?
Questions? Critical feedback? Ideas? Additions?
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