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CARE “I Am Powerful” Campaign

The findings and recommendation of the 2007 UNICEF report made formal the wisdom of practice among many international aid and charity organizations: through empowering women, whole communities may be given the chance to lift themselves out of poverty. By feeding female children equally and caring for them as well as boys are cared for, by ensuring that teenage girls stay in school, by educating adult women in a range of skills from basic numeracy to financial management to defending their rights, and by providing economic opportunities for females that they can control and invest in themselves, a wealth of benefits accrues. Far from implementing a gender bias, such programs are aimed at the known reality that a woman with a little extra money to spend—and the power to spend it—will use her wealth to provide better nutrition for her family, gain access to healthcare and education for them, and help to build her community. Educating women has immediate and dramatic effects in reducing fertility rates and protecting against HIV, and may help to stem the domestic violence that so often characterizes life in poor countries. Thus, investments in women's empowerment in the developing world create a ripple effect that not only helps a whole circle of people in the present, but reaches forward into the future.

The CARE “I Am Powerful” branding campaign featured in this issue is a dramatically focused message that distills the wisdom of this international aid organization's own practice into a series of beautiful photographs, inspiring music, and challenging words. Though the campaign has run for the less than two years in the United States, the results from citizen donors, especially women, as well as corporate partners, has been remarkable—probably the most successful charity campaign in fifty years. Celebrities like Meg Ryan, Christy Turlington Burns, and Sarah Michelle Gellar have become impassioned spokeswomen. Leading businesswomen such as Sheila Johnson, owner of the WNBA's Washington Mystics, have come forward with matching funds and special support programs behind the campaign. And many media companies have donated space and time, from television to airport dioramas.

In autumn 2007, we met with the marketing staff who developed this campaign in the CARE headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. The roundtable discussion we had is reproduced here, along with a wealth of materials that CARE generously shared with us, featuring their history, their current projects, the campaign, and, especially, their corporate relationships.

Much of CARE's work is supported by ordinary citizens, but corporate sponsorships in a variety of forms are an essential part of their strategy to reach donors and help women in the developing world. Like many not-for-profit organizations, CARE relies on assistance from media and corporations to find placements for its messages. Clear Channel, MORE magazine, and numerous airport managers have helped CARE gain visibility for the “I Am Powerful” campaign. In addition, however, other corporate sponsors have been involved in creative projects that help raise money and foreground CARE's cause. The Starbucks relationship is featured in an article in this issue. Hewlett-Packard also played a significant early role by sponsoring a worldwide trek for photographers, who provided the imagery for the campaign. In addition, these photographs were used to make a series of gift cards for Mother's Day that consumers could print and make themselves. A calendar produced and distributed through Borders also used these same images.

Other products have included an exercise video and a snack box of “Indulgence”, complete with opening panel that delivers CARE's message.

This case, therefore, provides an important corrective to the academic logic that often creates harsh compartments between the private and public sector, between selling goods and doing good.

Finally, one African man's story, “An Unlikely Advocate for Women,” of his slow realization that bullying and mistreating his wife had negative repercussions for both of them is touching testimony to the way CARE's strategy improves lives around the world.

Linda M. Scott