Sept. 12, 2021

8: Not enough NGOs consider paying story contributors - Laura Elizabeth Pohl, humanitarian photographer


“A lot of us get into this work with NGOs because we want to make a difference but there are times when NGOs are actually doing more harm and they’re not living up to their standard of being humanitarian.”

This episode features Laura Elizabeth Pohl, a humanitarian photographer, filmmaker, writer and editor from the US living in Cape Town, South Africa. Laura prides herself on producing stories about issues like immigration, agriculture, healthcare access and economic and social justice in an ethical way with care and respect for the dignity of the people featured. Her work for international NGOs has taken her to more than 20 countries. Laura was previously an entertainment journalist and interviewed celebrities including Britney Spears, and Mary J. Blige, and also worked as a Dow Jones business reporter in Korea, before she transitioned into photojournalism. The founder and co-editor of NGO Storytelling, a website to inform and inspire humanitarian storytellers, Laura also hosts her own podcast, Creative + Moneywise, where she interviews other photographers about their real-life money stories and career paths. 

In this episode, we consider this question: should the people featured in NGO stories be paid? We discuss the pros and cons of offering individuals compensation for sharing stories which are used by organisations to raise funds or advance their advocacy goals. We also hear Laura’s reflections on some of the unethical behaviour she’s witnessed when gathering stories in countries across the world, such as when she was sent to interview a struggling family in the DRC – who were receiving no support from the international nonprofit that selected them. This episode contains useful tips as to how NGOs and their storytellers can help the people featured in their communications to feel more valued.

Useful links: 

Check out Laura’s website

Check out Laura’s podcast, Creative + Moneywise
Check out the NGO Storytelling blog

Connect with Storytelling for Impact: 

Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/storytellingforimpact/

Follow Susannah Birkwood on Twitter: @Susannahbirkwoo

Email: storytellingforimpactpodcast@gmail.com