Application of Virtual Reality to Social Change Work
Virtual reality is a newer medium with great potential to transform the ways many global development and human rights organizations communicate their work. It also creates an opportunity to virtually bring the necessary people – supporters, donors, and all others curious about the work being done on the ground, right to the communities and people they would otherwise not have access to. The award-winning, “Clouds Over Sidra” a virtual reality film that was released in January of 2015, was one such film. It spotlights a twelve year-old girl named Sidra in the Za’atari camp in Jordan — currently home to an estimated 84,000 refugees from the Syrian civil war.
The groundbreaking film created for the United Nations utilizing the Samsung Gear VR 360-degree platform, is the first film captured in virtual reality for the UN and is developed to assist the UN’s campaign to highlight the plight of vulnerable communities, especially refugees. Since the success of “Clouds Over Sidra” there has been a lot of discussion on how nonprofits and global development organizations could take advantage of virtual reality to build awareness of their causes. Trickle Up is one of the organizations taking on virtual reality. It is a global poverty alleviation organization that works with people far below the poverty line and most vulnerable people from around the world to help them achieve financial independence and become part of the social connection experience.
Below is a question asked to Trickle Up’s Communications Officer, Tyler McClelland.
When asked what made Trickle Up decide to try VR?
Tyler said, “Trickle Up works in some of the poorest and most remote places on earth and for most of our supporters, making the journey to visit our participants and get a feel for their life just isn’t possible. But when it is possible, the experience is overwhelmingly powerful.
Trickle Up holds an annual fundraising gala where videos are featured from the field to showcase their work to some of their biggest supporters. The first step, and certainly an important one, was to ensure internal buy-in from management and our team. It was critical to have everyone on the same page from the outset and have a clear idea of our objectives and a general outline for the content. The final piece of the puzzle was deployment: How were we going to distribute the VR pieces? We needed a couple of components to get our VR content out there: a hosting platform and a printer who could print Google Cardboard glasses.
There are several companies who host VR content, including YouTube 360, and several companies who print cardboard glasses, which can be found on the Google Cardboard website. We found a company who could actually do both the printing and the hosting, which was ideal. Once we had the glasses printed and the content online, we were ready to deploy. At our gala, we set up a booth with trained staff and volunteers to demonstrate and help guests experience the videos. Having VR at the event generated a lot of curiosity and excitement.