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“The art of saying nothing: a new campaigning approach?”
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“The art of saying nothing: a new campaigning approach?”

Australian youth, with their ability to mobilize a crowd through new forms of social media and their knack for garnering media attention with unique stunts, are transforming the campaigning space, reports Steph Carter, a 21-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent from Queensland.

For the modern day campaigner, whether their cause be the environment, animal rights or social justice, the window of opportunity to convey a message is a small one.

The general public is a unique beast, becoming increasingly unresponsive to ‘traditional’ methods of social conscience revival: asking for donations, brochure distribution and petition signing.

As World Vision Australia’s national youth movement ‘Vision Generation’ recently discovered, perhaps the recipe to a successful campaign is to stay quiet on the issue – literally.

On Tuesday 5th July 2011, the city of Brisbane experienced an unexpected interruption to its usual winter morning peak hour chaos. Dressed in black and carrying newspaper props, more than 70 mimes swiftly and silently converged on the city centre, infiltrating public transport networks and the city sidewalk.

This silence was no ordinary one: the mime was staged to raise awareness about World Vision’s Child Health Now campaign and child and maternal health in developing countries. Taking a seat in Brisbane’s largest public square, the mimes staged a silent protest, relying on their painted newspaper props to convey the campaign message.

Making up the mime mass was more than 70 youth members of Vision Generation, mobilized prior to the event on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. As part of the protest, the costumed campaigners conducted a silent procession around the city, much to the interest and attention of early morning commuters.

Said Vision Generation Queensland state director Jasmine Mikschi, “actions can speak louder than words. We are raising awareness about the millions of women and children who die needlessly from preventable causes in the developing world. Without essential medical care, these women and children can fall victim to preventable diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria and neonatal complications”.

World Vision’s international ‘Child Health Now’ campaign was launched in 2009 and calls on governments to increase foreign aid and meet their commitment to the Millennium Development Goals. Goals 4 and 5, focusing on child and maternal health and mortality, were a particular focus of Vision Generation’s silent protest. Said one young mime, “I think that we’ve really caught the attention of Brisbane city today. We haven’t spoken in the past hour, but our message stands loud and clear. The orange balloons show that we are representing World Vision, and I think we’ve done that in a new and exciting way!”

The mass mime flashmob comes at a time when many youth organisations around Australia are experimenting with new and creative ways to raise awareness about their respective causes. With energy and passion in abundance, young people are proving that they can get people to sit up and listen – really listen – and raise awareness for a good cause. With their ability to mobilize a crowd through new forms of social media and their knack for garnering media attention with unique stunts, Australian youth are transforming the campaigning space.

In the aftermath of Vision Generation’s silent protest, where 70 young people demonstrated that silence certainly can be a traffic stopper, it seems fair to say: Australia, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/


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