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UNHCR Global

Launching one of UNHCR’s largest global campaigns to change negative perceptions of refugees.

The Challenge

To raise awareness of issues and disrupt current, often negative, public conversation around refugees.

The Insight

Leveraging a campaign that raised awareness and changed perceptions of the refugee crisis could shift the conversation.

The Solution

A personable, engaging activation featuring UNHCR’s Goodwill Ambassadors that motivated target audiences to sign up and donate to the cause.

In late 2019, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) faced a major challenge.

Across the world, intolerance of refugees was growing, and the refugee crisis had faded into the background. An increasing number of people (>50%) are convinced that refugees coming to their country are not genuine, and almost as many want to close their borders.

UNHCR’s annual Global Compact Forum, typically a B2B event aimed at stakeholders, was approaching. While an important event, it had failed to capture the public’s imagination. UNHCR needed to turn the event into something public-facing and global; to get the public talking and positively engaging on the issue of refugees, and celebrating refugees’ achievements around the world. UNHCR reached out to Blue State to help achieve this.

Understanding attitudes to overcome barriers

By utilizing existing research, Blue State gained insights into current attitudes towards refugees and developed a manifesto highlighting the challenges refugees faced, as well as their positive contributions to society.

Leveraging UNHCR’s Goodwill Ambassadors

The central campaign film, based on the creative concept ‘Everyone Counts’, was shot in locations around the world and featured 16 celebrities and UNHCR ambassadors including Benedict Cumberbatch, Ben Stiller, Cate Blanchett, Nomzamo Mbatha, David Morrissey, and Riz Ahmed. The ambassadors challenged and gently satirised the idea of the ‘celebrity led’ film, before placing a range of refugees themselves centre stage. 

Cate Blanchett interviewing Razan Alsous, a refugee who started her own cheesemaking business.

Complementary to the film, Blue State ran a social media campaign featuring refugees in unexpected places, taking over the accounts of ambassadors, including Stephen Fry, Hugh Jackman, Coldplay, and Neil Gaimen.

During the takeovers, ambassadors posted unusual facts and unknown success stories about themselves, before revealing that these were in fact the stories and contributions of refugees. 

The featured refugee stories included Razan Alsous, the founder of Yorkshire Dama cheese, pilot Maya Ghazal, and model Adut Akech.

After the reveal, people were directed to a quiz on the UNHCR website questioning how they would help refugees. After taking the quiz, participants received a personality type (e.g. activist, community builder) and a set of corresponding actions they could take, showing that there isn’t just one way to help refugees.

UNHCR Everyone Counts Quiz

The campaign was promoted on social channels including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Blue State also developed ten stickers for use on social channels to allow individuals to share inspiring stories about refugees.

UNHCR Instagram Stickers

The campaign outcome

Did the campaign raise awareness? It certainly did, reaching more than 538M individuals on Twitter and attracting 81,200 new followers on UNHCR’s global accounts that month. The #EveryOneCounts video collected nearly 8 million views and there have been more than 10,000 visits to the #EveryOneCounts website and quiz.

Did the campaign change perceptions of refugees? Check, with 52% of mentions expressing joy at the campaign or stories they uncovered, and doubling positive sentiment on Twitter around the topic of refugees.

Did the campaign encourage engagement and donations? Yes, when comparing the week of the awareness campaign launched with the seven days prior, 22% more money was raised globally and the global conversion rate increased by 27.9%. 

The campaign has been extended with Italy, China, MENA, Canada, Hong Kong and France rolling out activity from January onwards.


  • 2x positive sentiment around the topic of refugees on Twitter
  • 7.41m views of the #EveryOneCounts video
  • 22% increase in global funds raised
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