Footsies for charity: Street Child Africa and the rise of the hashtag campaign

On Friday the charity Street Child Africa wants people to post a "footsie" to help raise funds. Morwenna Ferrier explores why hashtag campaigns are seriously stepping up

Summer is officially the season of the selfie, three months when your general happiness sits in direct correlation to the amount of time you've spent documenting it on Instagram.

Take my feed, currently awash with #belfies, #shelfies and other people's feet. Balk not – #Footsies (a buzzword you'll soon be familiar with) are for a good cause.

Hot on the heels of the #nomakeupselfie, taking a picture of your naked foot is the latest way to show off on social media and donate to charity. Launched by the UK charity Street Child Africa, the focus of the Barefoot Friday campaign is to raise money for 100,000 children in notably abject poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. Instagram users upload pictures of their feet, captioned with the hashtag #Footsie and a phone number, asking followers to pledge £3 by texting said number. It is also asking the public to "foot-nominate" their friends by tagging them in the post.

There is nothing new about this. As Slate describes it, this sort of activism has become "a gateway between politics and popular culture, a platform to educate the ignorant and draw attention to the operation of power in the world". Social media is already buckling under the weight of #. Why not put # to good use?

From the #nomakeupselfie to #bringbackourgirls, whether to raise money or awareness, hashtag campaigns are becoming increasingly en vogue. This is probably because they require a manageable level of involvement: all you have to do is upload a photograph of your feet. It sits tidily between armchair activism and actual, get-out-of-your-armchair activism. "Plus, it's fun," adds Sheila Lutchanah of Street Child Africa. "The aid here is visual – feet – and, of course, it being summer, it means we have our feet out, so it's easy to get involved."

She has a point. A study last spring found that the majority of people who "like" a Facebook page for a cause never actually follow up the gesture by donating. Take the "Save Darfur" page on Facebook. More than a million people "signed up" but less than 3,000 donated anything. Of course, one of the most successful, albeit accidental, social media campaigns to date has been the aforementioned #nomakeupselfie – Cancer Research UK did not initiate the campaign, but later joined it. Criticised after some users seemed to use the cause for more vanity-geared reasons, the campaign remains a triumph, raising £2m in just 48 hours. Another grassroots hashtag campaign, #redlipstickselfie, has also started making gradual but actual steps to raise money for lung cancer.

"Social media is taking over so we wanted to get in there," explains Lutchanah. "And yes, we were certainly inspired by the success of hashtag campaigns when coming up with our own."

The aim of the campaign reaches beyond shoes, of course. Street Child Africa has a more holistic approach to charity, treating each situation, each child delicately and individually. They earmark abuse, abject poverty and war as the key issues, with the money covering a spectrum of needs, from shoes to intervention (the charity's workers are all trained social workers) and reuniting trafficked children with their families, a common issue, especially in Senegal and Ghana.

Hashtag activism does have its limitations. Not everyone's gran is on Twitter. But that's the point: "We're trying to attract women in their mid-20s to mid-40s, who watch less terrestrial TV, do everything online and communicate heavily through social media," Lutchanah says.

"Guilting does work on daytime TV, because its viewers are used to being spoken to in that way." She's talking, of course, about the slew of charity adverts in the 90s that peddled a more emotive, Biblical message, such as Oxfam's "Give A Man A Fish". They worked by shocking the viewer into the extent of man's inhumanity. With campaigns such as Footsie, the participation is not only voluntary, it's gentle: "Charity campaigns don't need to be overwhelming or depressing," she says. "Younger audiences don't like that – they like bite-size information with the idea of learning later."

In theory, the Footsie campaign is a smart and noble idea. Online, there's just one hitch: like most reasonable people, I don't like looking at my own feet, let alone anyone else's. But I'll happily pledge £3, and so should you, seeing as I've volunteered to put my unpedicured stumps in a national newspaper.

News
Jeremy Clarkson
people
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own