100 Faces is an arts partnership linking together the Commonwealth Bank (CBA) (and Cabramatta High School, who were paired together by the Australian Business and Community Network (ABCN). The initiative sees CBA employees mentor Cabramatta’s public school students, many of whom are from migrant backgrounds, to create stories, paintings, collage and photography to capture what has often been a difficult journey.
Following the first successful pairings of students and CBA staff in 2007, CBA’s community team and Horizon Communication Group worked to co-ordinate and showcase the success of the scheme on a national level.
Building on the work of the mentors, the communications strategy focused on raising participants’ self confidence still further through obtaining public recognition. A professional exhibition celebrated the students’ achievements and artwork. A high-profile media campaign promoted the children’s abilities and the ABCN’s wider mission, demonstrating how business can support educators to make a difference to young peoples’ lives.
Students have been empowered to tell their own stories, learning vital life skills in the process. The campaign has been praised by national and international opinion-formers and a further nine companies have taken up the ‘Faces’ program since it was first piloted.
The Australian Business and Community Network’s (ABCN) Partners in Learning scheme is an initiative which links business leaders with “Priority Funded” schools in lower socio-economic areas. Through CBA’s membership of the Network, its Chief Executive Ralph Norris mentors Cabramatta High Principal, Beth Godwin, exploring ways in which the Bank might support her teachers and students.
Located in culturally diverse South-Western Sydney, 97% of Cabramatta High students don’t speak English as their first language. Many are new arrivals to Australia, still coming to terms with experiences of war, natural disaster and family loss (see Appendix A). Unsurprisingly, a significant number of these students require additional support to help them achieve their full potential.
In response to this need, CBA designed a campaign to unlock the pupils’ artistic talents, giving them the courage to share their unique stories.
Research for this campaign took three forms:
1) In-depth collaboration with Cabramatta High School to scope, plan, test and expand the learning component of the mentoring campaign.
CBA’s initial scoping research was led by CEO Mr Norris himself. A series of conversations with Principal Godwin identified that creative learning techniques and additional mentoring might help improve Cabramatta students’ written and verbal skills, and that publicising their progress might further boost their self-esteem.
Acting on this insight, teaching staff at Cabramatta High, including Intensive English Centre teachers, worked with the Bank’s Community Team to develop a preliminary mentoring scheme. This approach was tested in 2007, with CBA volunteers and Cabramatta students collaborating on artwork that was eventually used to create a book, ’40 Faces’.
Based on positive feedback from students, teachers and staff, the ABCN identified the potential for the scheme to expand nationally in 2008 to involve some of its other member companies.
2) Audit of previous arts coverage to inform the communication strategy
3) Series of interviews with program participants to draft the media materials
Horizon audited previous arts coverage, identifying that strong personal narratives and background material could make the difference between a short ‘What’s On’ clip, and an in-depth profile which might capture our Target Publics’ imagination (see below).
With this in mind, Horizon conducted interviews with the Principal, mentors and most importantly the students themselves, sitting down with them face-to-face to explore their stories. We then built a publicity plan and media materials around their biographies (see ‘Communication Strategy’ below).
- Participating Cabramatta pupils: The program strived to make a long-term difference to the students’ educational and emotional development, and all efforts were concentrated on giving them regular encouragement, support and recognition – both directly and through the recognition of the other target groups below.
- The community: The project also aimed to reach families, friends and carers of current and future pupils, building their faith in the school’s ability to inspire students from all backgrounds.
- CBA staff: Engaging the Bank’s employees was crucial to recruiting 2008 mentors, and ensuring other volunteers would come forward to sustain the partnership in future years.
- Business decision-makers and other opinion-formers: Cabramatta High is just one school. CBA had already inspired other ABCN member companies to follow its example and hoped to issue a wider call to action for other businesses and institutions to support the work of the ABCN.
The eight month campaign used a range of communication channels: from internal communication to an event and high-energy media program.
The impact of the scheme depended on the levels of trust which could be built between the volunteers and student artists, and so the set-up of the relationships between mentors and students was fundamental.
At the initial stage, it was important to avoid any external communication activity which might have overwhelmed or intimidated the pupils. A four-pronged strategy was used to establish constructive partnerships between volunteers and students.
- Phase One: Set-up and Mentoring (April – October 2008). This focused on internal communication to CBA staff to identify mentors and then brief them on their responsibilities. Regular contact then took place between mentors and mentees, which allowed them to give direct coaching and encouragement to the key target audience (the students, see above).
- Phase Two: Celebration (October-November 2008). 2007’s pilot had shown that the students were capable of producing astonishing work. In anticipation of this, an official exhibition was planned to showcase the work of the students, and to provide a platform for generating media interest. This event would round off the mentoring scheme in a memorable way for all partners.
- Phase Three: Publicity. With students completing their art work, the time would also be right to introduce them to media. Positive coverage would act as further validation for students personally, but would also allow CBA to campaign for others to support the ABCN by participating in similar learning partnerships. The emphasis here was agreed not to be so much on attracting members of the general public to the exhibition (which was more designed for friends and family), but to achieve thought-provoking coverage which would demonstrate the broader benefits of the project. A conservative target of three pieces of quality coverage was set.
Phase One: Set-Up and Mentoring
Staff members were recruited from an internal database of volunteers, as well as through the CBA intranet. A total of 15 employees were recruited, each able to dedicate around 16 hours to mentoring and travel to the school over two terms.
Once on board, each mentor worked with 2-3 students to ensure they felt comfortable (one of the insights from the research phase had been that one-on-one contact would likely slow down the students from ‘opening up’ to the adult volunteer).
During four sessions over two terms, students were encouraged to explore their cultural origins and express them through art and storytelling.
In addition to mentoring on-site at Cabramatta High School, a field trip to the Opera Centre (arranged through the Group’s long-term sponsorship of Opera Australia) helped the children understand how text and the creative arts can work together in harmony.
An internal CBA trainer also gave an interactive “Presentation Skills” workshop to the students, building confidence about sharing their stories in public.
Phase Two: Celebration
Art exhibitions were the culmination of the ABCN’s 100 Faces program, with public, professional displays validating the experiences of the children and the progress they’d made with their mentors.
The Community Team secured the iconic Commonwealth Banking Chamber in Sydney’s Martin Place for the Cabramatta exhibition, a convenient central Sydney CBD venue which was miles away from the students’ normal school environment. CBA also project managed the delivery of the artwork, canvas display, catering and signage, as well as the development of a commemorative DVD capturing highlights of the program.
Phase Three: Publicity
Horizon’s research had shown that the strong visual hook of the artwork, coupled with the compelling individual stories, made for an attractive media package. However, this needed to be handled sensitively and appropriately, to ensure the experience was a positive one for our ‘Faces’.
As with any campaign involving young people, we worked closely with the school to ensure the selected students were supported through any media enquiries and able to approach interviews confidently. Horizon and the Principal nominated six young artists to be featured in ‘Student Snapshots’ – media backgrounders developed with extracts of moving stories and artworks. Of these, two were chosen as lead ‘spokestudents’ for the media.
The Snapshots, an event release and picture desk alert were then released under embargo two weeks prior to the exhibition’s official opening. This approach enabled us to engage diarists, arts correspondents and social affairs reporters, going beyond generic ‘events listings’ in pursuit of longer-lead, feature coverage.
The media campaign exceeded its original objectives of three pieces of coverage four-fold. Twelve pieces of quality coverage have been achieved to date, including:
- A feature package on ABC’s national 7:30 Report
- Two picture-lead stories in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph
- In-studio interviews on ABC Radio National’s Life Matters
- SBS World News and SBS World View Radio
This program had an ambitious behavioural goal – help students convert difficult experiences into rich learning opportunities. While it is difficult to evaluate the long-term emotional and educational impact on students, the qualitative and quantitative measurements that we do have are extremely positive.
Design and deliver an effective mentorship program to directly benefit participating students at Cabramatta
100%. All 2008 CBA staff volunteers said they felt their time made a real difference or contribution, students enjoyed the experience and teachers reported a clear impact on their abilities, in and outside of the classroom.
“We have noted significant improvement in the children’s self confidence, written skills and communication skills.” (Principal Godwin)
Stage a successful exhibition
100%. Displaying and celebrating the students’ efforts gave them a whole new perspective on the power of their heritage, and on opportunities in their new adopted home. It created a fitting climax for the whole mentoring scheme, and provided a strong news angle for the media (see below).
Design an effective PR campaign to generate quality media coverage which would reach target audiences:
1) Cabramatta students/and 2) local community
2) CBA staff
3) Business leaders and other opinion formers
100%. Students actively participated in interviews – at school and in studio – with outlets like the ABC, SBS and Daily Telegraph, in addition to appearing in the main surburban paper, the Fairfield Advance. This experience and exposure made the mentorship scheme even more memorable, and helped them earn the respect of their friends, family and local community.
100%. The campaign was effective in laying down strong foundations for future co-operation between school and Bank: over 40 CBA staff members signed up immediately after the exhibition for 2009 programs.
Nine other companies signed up for 100 Faces in 2008, including American Express, Optus, Fuji Xerox and Stockland.
A representative from the UN Peace Foundation was so inspired by the exhibition that two students were invited to share their stories at a UN Multiculturalism Roundtable at State Parliament House, reaching even more potential supporters.
Overall this campaign was highly successful, reaching out beyond just one single school community to inspire a whole wave of future partners.
As Tu Duong, an ex-Cabramatta High student and 2008 100 Faces mentor from CBA concludes, the partnership helped:
“...show them positive ways to draw upon their experiences, and reinforce that, despite all the obstacles in their lives, they have the support and creativity to overcome them.”