Commitment 6.2:
We collect and use information ethically.

Compliance Indicators

Compliance with the Commitments will be assessed against the following Compliance Indicators. All of the applicable Compliance Indicators must be met by every ACFID Member to be considered compliant with the Code. Each of the Compliance Indicators has one or more compliance Verifiers. Verifiers are the description of evidence that is required to substantiate compliance with each Compliance Indicator. Guidance is also provided.

6.2.1 Members’ communications are accurate, respectful, and protect privacy and dignity.

An ethical decision-making framework, which must:

  • Align with the values of their organisation and this Code.
  • Commit the organisation to the use of images and messages in communications in a way that portrays the affected people in a manner that respects their dignity, values, history, religion, language and culture, and is authentic to the context, person and terms of consent given.
  • Be consistent with ACFID’s Fundraising Charter (8.1.2).
  • Be consistent with the Members’ privacy policy (7.2.2).

Guidance

An ethical decision-making framework assists Members to make decisions about the images, messages, and stories that it uses in communications with the public. It would describe steps that can be used to guide the Member through a process to make a decision when confronted with an ethical dilemma – such as whether to use a story, image or message to raise awareness or funds. 

6.2.2 Members have organisational requirements for the collection of information, images, and stories.

Policy, statement or guidance document that:

  • Commits the organisation to use images and messages in communications in a way that portrays the affected people (including children) in a manner that respects their dignity, values, history, religion, language and culture, and protects their safety and rights.
  • Is consistent with ACFID’s Fundraising Charter (see 8.1.2).
  • Includes a requirement for free, prior and informed consent and acknowledges people’s right to information.
  • Requires that the collection of information, images and stories does not harm people or the environment.
  • Applies to all information, stories and images collected for research, evaluation, and donor and supporter purposes.

Guidance

Your policy, statement or guidance document might be included within a broader communications policy or guidelines, or as a stand-alone document that directly addresses the collection of information, images and stories. The key aspects that must be addressed are outlined in the verifier to this Compliance Indicator. 

6.2.3 Members are respectful and considerate of the reputation of other ACFID Members.

Policy, statement or guidance document that commits the Member to not making statements about other ACFID Members with the intention of creating a reputational or other advantage to themselves.  

Guidance

A policy, statement or guidance document might outline the NGO sector’s commitment to principles of fairness and cooperation, identify the risks to the sector as a whole if individual member NGOs develop a bad reputation, and refer to the complaint mechanisms that are available through ACFID’s Code of Conduct Committee if there is a legitimate and well-founded concern about another NGO.

Good Practice Indicators

The following Good Practice Indicators describe a higher standard of practice than that set out in the Compliance Indicators. While Members do not need to meet the Good Practice Indicators to be considered compliant with the Code, they will self-assess against these indicators once every three years. This provides a clear pathway for Members to strengthen and improve practice over time.

  • Procedures for seeking consent for the use of images and stories are available in local languages and other forms such as images to ensure full accessibility to stakeholders. 
  • Training is provided to key personnel and partners  on appropriate ways to collect and use information, images and stories. The organisational ethical decision making framework is used to guide this.
  • Copies of communications or fundraising materials which use images or stories of primary stakeholders are provided to those stakeholders. 
  • The use of images and stories in communications and fundraising materials is jointly defined with the primary stakeholders involved.

Good Practice Guidance

Here are some practical suggestions for your organisation to further deepen and improve practice over time.

Organisational level

  • Integrate your policy on collecting information, images and stories into appropriate policies and guidelines relating to media, communications, marketing and fundraising
  • Ensure that staff involved in public engagement activities are familiar with key communications policies and guidelines
  • Provide awareness-raising, guidance and training to relevant staff, which could include the use of case studies
  • Undertake periodic reviews of all communication materials to ensure that images and messages respect the dignity, values, history, religion and culture of the people portrayed.

Policy and guidelines

  • Develop and implement a policy on the portrayal of local people and the use of images and pictures, including not visually altering images or significantly changing/editing direct quotes after they have been obtained to alter meaning and context.
  • Include a commitment to presenting individuals in respectful ways within relevant policies such as communications, marketing and fundraising.
  • Develop practical guidelines for use by staff, volunteers or contractors when documenting stories or taking photos in the field, including appropriate approaches to gaining consent for collecting images and stories. Verbal consent may be more appropriate than written consent in some contexts.
  • Keep records of the origins of images and case studies, permissions and copyright releases, as well as key details including name, age, location, date, program association and form of consent gained.
  • Developing a repository for these records to provide a quality control mechanism that ensures that images and case studies used are appropriate, accurate and consensual.
  • Seek advice from field partners and overseas staff on risks related to using images and case studies.
  • Ensure file labels do not reveal identifying information about a child when sending images electronically.
  • Ensure geo-tags are turned off on the camera when taking images.
  • Develop approval protocols to ensure that any image, photo or story that is used in communication materials meets ethical guidelines established by your organisation.

Guidance for images and messages

  • Present photographs, films, videos, DVDs and messages of women and men, boys and girls in a respectful manner, honestly portraying their personal experience and context and as partners in the development process.
  • Do not use images or messages that manipulate the story to portray people in a pitiful way or that embellishes/exaggerates the impact of your organisation’s work.
  • Do not create images of children where they are not adequately clothed and in poses that could be seen as sexually suggestive.
  • Ensure images are honest representations of the context and facts.
  • Portray participants in activities which reflect their daily lives.
  • Convey the context and complexity of the situations in which local people live. Images of people in vulnerable situations should focus more on the reasons for and the context of a situation, rather than on an individual’s suffering.
  • Honestly portray the diversity of local people including age, disability and other marginalised groups.
  • Inform key persons in images of what the image is being used for, where the image will be used and over what period of time and obtain their permission. In the case of a child, obtain consent from a parent or guardian.
  • Show some examples of the kinds of materials that are produced so that those involved understand how their personal details and story might be used.
  • Ensure images and information and the associated permissions being used are current – information should not be used indefinitely.
  • Terms of informed consent should include a period of time for which consent has been given – 1, 3 or 5 years.
  • Where possible and appropriate, use the names of those photographed when captioning the image to give people a voice and identity.
  • Ensure that the identification of or use of images of local people will not bring them into any danger.
  • When photographing or filming a person, identify and seek to comply with local traditions or restrictions for reproducing personal images.
  • Ensure those whose situation is being represented have the opportunity to communicate their stories themselves. Consider using local spokespersons to show that local people are actively involved in development or humanitarian work.
  • Use images and messages to diversify voices, perspectives, and representations in your public communications, including critical reflection from partners and communities and an examination of your organisation’s values.
  • Quote people accurately – without doctoring, manipulating or altering quotes to suit communications.
  • Ensure you use a competent translator fluent in both languages.

ACFID Resources

“Thanks, but no thanks.” Navigating the Response to the Sulawesi Tsunami  

As part of our Spotlight on Quality Principle 6, Tim Watkin, ACFID’s Head of Government Relations and ...

5 resources that will make you think again about ethical communications

How can you ensure your next Facebook post is ‘ethical’? And why is being ethical so important?Ethics is not ...

ACFID Fundraising Charter

ACFID Webinar – how to develop and apply ethical decision-making frameworks

Are you involved in developing communications materials for your organisation?Join us as we explore how to develop ...

Dollars and sense – thinking ethically about communications

Marketing Manager at Transform Aid International, Greg Wood, shares with us how they approach important ethical ...

Other Resources

Communications monitoring, evaluation and learning toolkit

This toolkit provides a framework to think about communications monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL), and ...

Communications Policy – Australian Himalayan Foundation

AHF shares its Communications Policy as an example of their organizational requirements when collecting and using ...

Crimes (Child Sex Tourism) Amendment Act 1994

Commonwealth Amendment Act on Crimes (Child Sex Tourism)

EDMF from MercyWorks

This MWL EDMF commits to the use of images and messages in communications in a way that portrays the affected ...

Ethical Content Guidelines – Oxfam Australia

Oxfam Australia shares their Ethical Content Guidelines which aim to ensure photos, videos and stories are ...

Example EDMF and Communications Policy (Palmera Projects)

This policy provides a commitment and framework to ensure that Palmera’s operations, decision making, finances, ...

Illustrative Guide to the Dochas Code of Conduct on Images and Message

The Illustrative Guide is a support to organisations seeking to implement the Code and should be used as a ...

Principles and Standards of Fundraising Practice

Fundraiser’s guide to ethical, accountable and transparent fundraising.

Privacy Act 1988

Commonwealth Act to make provision to protect the privacy of individuals, and for related purposes

Putting the people in the pictures first

These Guidelines were developed by Bond, the UK network for organisations working in international development. ...

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