Every year, people around the world mark Refugee Week — a week-long celebration that highlights the unique contributions that refugees make to our culture and community. 

It is a time to stand in solidarity and show support for refugees and displaced people around the world. 

For over six years, we have worked hand in hand with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency to help bring awareness and raise vital funds to support the growing number of people who have been forced to flee their homes. 

And the need has never been more urgent. 

For the 12th consecutive year, global displacement figures rose again to 120 million in May 2024. Ongoing conflicts in places like Sudan, Gaza and Ukraine continue to ruin lives and force families to find safety. 

Alongside this, the increase in popularity of anti-immigration rhetoric and right-wing policies means that there is now even fewer safe places for refugees.

At Blue State, we have worked across 30+ UNHCR markets, helping to raise over $21m since 2019 and encouraging hundreds of thousands of people to stand in solidarity with refugees and displaced people. We continue to work with the teams globally, whilst also expanding our reach with innovative and new solutions. 

Like in Italy. We have been working with the UNHCR team there for 4 years, and have helped to develop and deliver their paid media strategy and acquisition campaigns. In recent years, refugees and the displacement crises haven’t made headline news, and this contributed to a wider issue around brand visibility in market. In collaboration with the Comms and PR teams, we took a new approach; to generate our own headlines and conversations and create the noise needed to drive donor engagement and financial support. Partnering with news outlets and media partners, including organic podcasts, it offered a  new way in which to help bring the issue to life and create a marketing funnel with people who were engaging with this content. By educating the public on the ongoing crisis, we were able to continue to grow digital fundraising in a saturated marketplace. 

We’re also continuing to expand into new mediums to get creative in how we tell refugee stories. In multiple markets we are seeing great success adding audio into our media mix — especially when aligning targeting with the wider channel strategy. When the crisis in Ukraine erupted, we partnered with UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador David Morrissey to record audio ads and run activity on Spotify, driving engagement far higher than platform benchmarks and encouraging people to donate directly, to great results.  

Ethical storytelling and creative is at the heart of how we approach all of our campaigns. We work closely with the UNHCR teams on the ground who gather content to ensure that we present refugees and their stories in a dignified and accurate way. For the 2024 winter campaign for UK for UNHCR, we are already working in collaboration with refugees in the Zaatari camp in Jordan to make sure their experiences are told authentically and their voices are heard. 

We’ve also helped the organisation create new propositions, toolkits and products to make their fundraising more effective around the world. From shaping the right creative positioning for UNHCR to talk about climate change and its impact on refugees to encouraging audiences to help build access to education for displaced communities and helping the team figure out how to transform one off donations into monthly income – our work has spanned countries, languages and appeared in digital, print and the physical world.

Representing refugee experiences and their stories is incredibly important to us and has been the basis of a number of the campaigns we’ve run. Tackling misinformation and bias was an issue we focused on in our 2023 winter campaign partnering with UK for UNHCR where we challenged the stereotypes of refugees in AI. We found that within any AI image generation tool we tested, inputting the word ‘refugee’ would generate problematic images based on racial and geographical stereotypes. We invited audiences to help change the picture of refugees and the way they are represented by submitting experiences, stories and images that better reflect the reality refugees experience into our own AI model.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing today we urge you to take a moment to think about refugees and learn a little about the amazing work UNHCR helps make possible.