Searching for Syria is an interactive experience created in partnership with the UNHCR, Google and R/GA. It’s main purpose is to help people around the world gain a deeper understanding of, and re-engage with the Syrian refugee crisis by answering the top five questions the world is asking. It combines rich imagery, film, 360º photospheres, data visualisations and before/after comparisons – all threaded together into a compelling and seamless short form, editorial style narrative.
The Syrian refugee crisis is the largest humanitarian crisis of our generation. Now in its seventh year it has caused untold devastation and chaos to the lives of more than five million people. Every refugee hoping to find shelter in the Middle East, Europe, or simply anywhere else that’s safe has left behind their home, their possessions, and their hopes and dreams for a stable future. The impact is hard to comprehend. Many factors make it hard for many people to understand and connect with what’s going on. Due to its extreme complexity, duration and the sheer amount of information available many are tuning out and experiencing a sense of ‘compassion fatigue’.
We created Searching for Syria as a response to this – a fresh, interactive approach that lets people quickly and easily explore the five top search queries people around the world are asking (based on Trends data in Google Search). Our ambition was to help people go beyond simply reading about the crisis into a deeper understanding whereby they would be more apt to take action by donating, joining or sharing. We set out to break down bias and commonly held misconceptions along the way creating a singular source of factual information users could digest in 5 mins or less on mobile, desktop or tablet.
We teamed up with Google to break through the compassion fatigue and the fear – to offer a new entry point that helps people re-engage with this conflict, consider it staggering human cost, and take action to address the urgent humanitarian needs
Christopher Reardon, chief of content production at UNHCR.Quote Source: The Drum
Storyline and innovation
This was a partnership built around data. Google understands what the world is searching for through Trends and Search data. In 2016 alone, there were 160 million search queries about Syria. We combed through the data and found that the searches could be broadly grouped into five main question types. These ranged from straightforward searches seeking to understand the crisis at a high level such as, “What was Syria like before the war?” to “What is going on in Syria?” and “What is a refugee?”, to the more empathetic and curious: “Where are refugees going” and “How can I help?”
In isolation, the answers to these questions are powerful – but brought together into one narrative, they become transformative. We worked with journalists and writers to bring this narrative to life through a series of seamless, long-scroll questions and answers. We opted for speed and simplicity playing into today’s user behaviors (specifically on mobile).
The experience is comprised of a series of snackable components all glued together along a narrative that include 360° photospheres with audio, rich imagery and film, interactive infographics and data visualizations, before-and-after image comparisons, personal stories and more.