The Other Hundred, a worldwide initiative recognising photographers, created a digital awards program using Award Force software during the pandemic to grow engagement and community. Lindsay Nash of Award Force reports
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The Other Hundred, a project of the Global Institute for Tomorrow, is a non-profit global photojournalism initiative that recognises photographers who capture life across the globe.
For past instalments of the program, the organisation held gallery events and published a corresponding book. In 2020, it needed something completely different – a program to engage their community completely online.
As a result, The Other Hundred Healers was created to celebrate contributions from people 'behind the scenes' during the pandemic – from delivery workers and truck drivers to waste collectors and supermarket staff. The photos were provocative, dignified, diverse and positive. Entrants could submit up to ten photos. Entry was free and winning submissions received a cash prize.
While gallery events and an awards ceremony engaged The Other Hundred ‘s community and sponsors in the past, this year the organisers needed a system to accept, judge and award entries online – all while driving engagement with their growing community of photographers.
They also needed to continue fundraising for their program, which would not be possible without their sponsors.
The program managers had previously used a dated custom-made awards portal. And, with a team split between Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, The Other Hundred Healers needed to create a virtual program with easy entrant, management and judging accessibility. They needed software that would allow them to go through each entry together, despite their geographic locations. And they wanted to drive involvement.
“In the past, the open call happened for four to five months, where people put photos in and the public had no idea what was going on,” said Jaqueline P’ng, a program organiser. “They’d never seen a single picture or heard a single story until the results were out. We had exhibitions and events to help market it after the open call. But in this edition, we didn’t have that luxury. The buzz had to come during the open call phase.”
Award Force’s Public Voting feature was what The Other Hundred Healers needed to help market their program during the open call phase. This type of crowd voting allows entrants to share their entry across social media, asking the public to help vote and support their entry.
It was a boon for their awards community, P’ng said. “The program depended on the participants themselves to promote their own entry during the open call phase.
“We told them – get your friends, family and your network to vote for you,” P’ng said. “And everyone had fun doing it. It was a very powerful way to run the program creatively and in terms of marketing and publicity.”
Along with Award Force’s online awards platform and Public Voting feature, the organisation also implemented Instagram Live events to help drive participation.
They still had a physical gallery space in Hong Kong where they hung the winning images, but because of social distancing regulations, they could only invite a small audience. So, they held live Instagram events to stream the gallery showings and invited their photographers from around the world.
“We did this fun thing where we took a picture of each image and what was hanging next to it on the gallery wall and sent it to each photographer saying, ‘Get to know your neighbour”
At the Hong Kong virtual gallery exhibition, they had close to 1,000 participants watching it on Instagram live.
“The key to our live events was to build a rapport in the running up to the event,” P’ng said. “Otherwise, it’s easy to miss. We had to work around time zones across Africa and Asia and Europe. But it was possible.”
In terms of the results? It was all about engagement, P’ng said. “The engagement this year has been a lot longer, more personal and deeper compared to previous years. We were able to better convey our messages to our photographers: ‘Let us be your career springboard. We are thinking about you all the time – even now that the event is over.’”
The switch to Award Force software for the virtual awards program was a success, said P’ng, who praised the platform for its ease of use and the ability for entrants to put their program in front of a wider audience.
“We ran our first public voting round, which was very powerful,” P’ng said. “The engagement was – and is – great. We’re still engaging and building relationships with the people and communities who submitted their entries to us.”