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Philanthropy Thought Leader Uncategorized

See what kids can become if they are not hungry

The challenge was simple and straightforward: Create a video that tells the all too familiar story of more than 350,000 children across Greater Atlanta. These kids are hungry during the summer because they don’t have access to school lunches — that one daily meal they’ve become reliant on during the other 10 months of the year isn’t there anymore.

But we get to show how United Way of Greater Atlanta is fighting to rewrite that story. Children don’t have to do without anymore just because it’s summer time. United Way’s Silence the Growl initiative has stepped in to bridge that gap.

In six years, more than 230,000 meals fed children in need. United Way’s efforts have been successful. In 2019, United Way reached its goal of serving 80,000 meals. This success has allowed the program to expand year-round and because of programs like this, kids can focus on more important things — like, being kids.

United Way saw after its strategic planning meeting two years ago that the zip code a child lived in too often determined the fate of that child. United Way saw that, statistically, because of what zip code a child was born into, he or she was handed a disadvantage beyond their control. Through a set of 14 measures, United Way calculated at the time a child well-being score of 58.9.

On May 9, officials announced the score had improved in two years to 61.8. That equates to a change in the lives of more than 82,000 children in the region living in low or very low child well-being. By using the child as the lens, we can identify the big picture needs of the community, and if the child is fed, then there’s one less thing he or she needs to worry.

So, you are tasked with building this two-minute video connecting Silence the Growl and the Child Well-Being Movement, along with creative assets, content for radio spots and digital advertising. Also, you only have eight hours, and you’ll have to give a presentation on the completed concept at the end of the day to your client and a team of other marketing professionals for judging, which will be put up against concepts created by other industry professionals vying for a job and first-place title, too.

Simple and straightforward.


This was the task given to five of the top creative agencies across Atlanta when they agreed to an all-day Silence the Growl Hackathon on July 17. The hackathon was a partnership between United Way of Greater Atlanta and Jukin Media, an entertainment company headquartered in Los Angeles with offices in London, New York, Atlanta and New Delhi.

Jukin Media is a company that specializes in identifying user-generated content from around the world. They research, curate and acquire rights to videos for distribution.

“Our content team has an expertise of going out and scouring the web to find really cool content that will work on our social channels,” says Derek Smith, director of brand and agency licensing for Jukin across the Southeast. “It’s technology-  driven, and we look to find content relevant to our communities. We have a library of about 65,000 clips.”

Agencies at the hackathon were given access to Jukin’s library of user-generated content to develop marketing campaigns that would promote the initiative.

Jukin worked previously with United Way in New York, Smith says, and he had connections to United Way of Greater Atlanta CEO Milton J. Little, Jr. Smith says he thought it “might be cool” to replicate a creative hackathon around the work being done in Atlanta.

“Atlanta is the first market for this nonprofit hackathon project,” Smith says. “So, [United Way] is one of the innovative markets where this is happening.”

Liz Ward, chief marketing officer at United Way, said she was contacted by the business development office at Jukin to discuss the partnership. Ward agreed to the hackathon idea and selected the Silence the Growl initiative as the project the agencies would hack and create a concept for.

“Jukin had recruited the agencies and we created a brief,” Ward said. “Five teams came out and we briefed them at 8:30 a.m., and they were escorted to rooms in the Loudermilk Conference Center and we just let them do their thing.”

The agencies were given background on Silence the Growl and few of United Way’s creative assets to incorporate.

“We made clear the tone that we wanted,” Ward says. “We didn’t want drama, we wanted the opposite. We wanted there to be hope that this problem can be solved. We want people to see what kids can become if they are not hungry, and that was the direction that everybody gravitated toward.”


United Way of Greater Atlanta gravitated two years ago toward this concept that every child in the 13-county region deserved a chance to reach his or her full potential, but most of the agencies came into United Way for the hackathon with limited knowledge of this Child Well-Being Movement, Ward says.

But they latched onto it quickly.

They understood that a child was also at a disadvantage if he or she had to worry where their next meal was going to come from.

“They got that idea of needing food and being able to be a kid, play and have energy — it can’t happen when all you think about is how hungry you are,” Ward says. “There’s a difference between being hungry because you haven’t had lunch, and then food insecurity when you aren’t sure when your next meal is going to come.

“Kids can’t concentrate, they get sick, have no energy and we expect them to get over all of these hurdles… when they are so handicapped by this hunger.”

Amanda Schrembeck said one of the things that hit home with her were stats about how a child being hungry wouldn’t just affect how that child performs in school, but how the child performs outside of school once they grow up.

“What it boiled down to was, ‘If kids have decent meals every day, then what could the future hold for them?’” Schrembeck said. “What could a kid do if they weren’t hungry?”

Schrembeck is a Motion Designer for Dagger, a content marketing agency with an office downtown off of the eastside beltline, and she teamed up with Motion Graphics Lead Mitchell Hardage.

Together, the two worked to develop their concept around this idea of what a child could grow up to become if he or she were given the opportunity to reach their potential.

“We had this adorable concept that Amanda came up with, and we had 260 videos that we could pick from,” Hardage said. “A lot of the videos were of kids playing and goofing off, and Amanda had this concept of doodling on top of them what their future could be. Like, a kid plays with a toy car, and she said, ‘Let’s add a checkered flag and make them a racecar driver.’ “We thought this was cool and this has legs, and so we both got really excited about it.”

The duo was approached previously by their creative director with the project and selected because they worked well together, Schrembeck says. The event was put on their calendar and they each sat on a call with Ward and Smith to discuss the project.

They were sent a link to the homepage to prepare, and then not much else until the day of the event.

“I filled my backpack with just about every laptop accessory and tablet, and I just went into it with everything I had,” Hardage says with a laugh. “The brief for what would typically be a two-month process was for eight hours.”

The two worked quickly to nail down a concept, Schrembeck says.

“For me, the first step was highlighting the important things they wanted to feature from the brief, and that drove home the main message,” she says. “The other thing was coming up with the concept really fast because we needed the entire day to work with the videos.”

The two nailed down the concept within the first 30 minutes, so they spent the rest of the day refining that concept.

At the end of the day, Dagger and the other agencies presented to Ward, Smith and the marketing panel.

“They came out to present to the judges, and the judges were stumped,” Ward said. “We sat and deliberated about two agencies that just so clearly nailed it, and we loved their concepts. They had made great use of the user-generated content and had great calls to action and created empathy. We finally picked Dagger.”

The teams sat and celebrated at the end of the day, Hardage says. He loved the assignment and he hopes he can do similar projects in the future.

“I personally really enjoyed it,” he said. “I wish that every day could be like that. It was extremely well organized.”

Schrembeck was pleased with the final product.

“I think it has a flow to it, and that’s important to introduce the scale of the problem at the beginning,” she says. “We tried to pull on stats to tell the message, but we didn’t want to hang on that. We got into the hopefulness of the video and what kids can become, and we wanted to encourage others to donate and have a say in a kid’s future.”

If you would like to see the video, donate and “have a say in a kid’s future,” click here.

Bradley Roberts is a Content Manager at United Way of Greater Atlanta.


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