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March 20th, 2009

Phil Borges + CARE: A Case Study in NGO Collaboration

Posted by liveBooks

Valenda Campbell, Senior Photo Editor for CARE, really understands the power of great photography to help achieve the goals of an NGO. She and her team worked with renowned documentary photographer Phil Borges to create a rich visual presentation that highlights the importance of empowering women in indigenous communities — something Phil has long advocated and CARE has increasingly focused on. Their collaboration resulted in Women Empowered, an exhibition and book plus online and print assets, which has garnered acclaim from the photo community and increased CARE’s visibility and fundraising pull. In this and upcoming posts we discuss how they worked together to create a project with so much influence.

Abay, 28, Awash Fontale, Ethiopia ©Phil Borges, courtesy CARE

Miki Johnson: How did you first come across Phil Borges and his work? Did he make contact with you first?

Valenda Campbell: I’ve been here at CARE since 2001 and part of my role is to find photographers to represent our work. My associate photo editor at the time, Jason Sangster, and I were familiar with Phil’s work, through his Tibetan Portrait and Enduring Spirit projects. This was I guess around Spring of 2004 and we were looking at his work and saying, wow, his style of photography really captures that connection that we want our supporters to make with our project participants. And the way he was able to concisely give the viewer a glimpse into that person’s life and their world was just great. So we said let’s call him up and see if he’d be interested in working some with CARE. So Jason contacted him and we set up a conference call.

We got on the phone and told him what we were about. We let him know that we were really interested in working with him and asked if he would possibly do some work for CARE to help us get our message out. He was interested. I think Phil really connected with the fact that we work primarily with indigenous communities in developing countries and emphasize work with women and girls. He had been photographing indigenous communities for years and he already knew, from all of his travels and his previous projects, how women and girls who are usually marginalized can really influence their families and communities if given the opportunity. So it was just a really good match, and we began talking about what we could put together. What do we want to do? What do we want to accomplish? And that’s how it started.

MJ: And what did that conversation sound like when you guys started to talk about your goals and what you could do together?

VC: We familiarized Phil with everything CARE does, all the variety of programming we do, including microfinance, education, HIV/AIDS, maternal health, emergency relief, the whole gamut. We explained how, at that time, we were beginning to place new emphasis in our communications around CARE’s work with women. Our development work had evolved over the years, and we realized that CARE’s most successful programming was centered around the empowerment of women in the communities where we work. And that really struck a cord with Phil.

He’s a busy man, and he’s not one to just sort of take on a random commission here and there. He was really interested, but if we were going to do something, he wanted it to be a project. If he was going to commit some time to it, he wanted to have really specific outcomes in mind. And he let us know that the message that we had to deliver and the kinds of projects we were talking about was really meshing well with what he was looking to do for his next big project. He talked about everything he’d learned and come to realize through his work with these cultures and that he felt our messaging around women’s empowerment captured that.

So we said, OK, let’s talk about getting out there and possibly sending you to each of the primary regions where CARE works: Latin America, Asia, and Africa. We had definitely decided to put together some sort of exhibit and he was very interested in possibly producing a book. And I think at that time he was also starting to think about putting some work into multimedia. But we were still sort of feeling each other out. So after a few conversations and giving it some thought, I said I thought with our new women’s platform we could really put something around that thematically. The timing was just right. We were preparing to launch this new platform and Phil’s work would be a great piece of collateral CARE could use to reach out and talk to our donors. It would help us explain why are we putting this emphasis on women and help them grasp this whole new message that we were bringing to them. So it all came together nicely and we were like, yeah, we can do an exhibit, and we can do a book – and that work is what we know today as Women Empowered.

We started talking about the countries where Phil would go and how CARE would identify women in those communities for him to profile. We were both anxious to get out there and do it, and we agreed to kind of try each other on for size with the first commission. Neither of us wanted to dive completely into a big project like that until we were sure that our work styles meshed and that Phil was, as we felt he would be, a real believer in CARE’s work. We agreed to do the first trip and see how we both felt about it. I think that first trip was in October ’04, and it went really well. He put together a lot of material and found some really inspiring stories. Phil even took the opportunity to do a multimedia piece around this one remarkable woman named Abay which, we’ve featured on CARE’s web site. So it went well and we said, OK, all in, let’s go.


  1. April 7th, 2009 at 9:52 pm


    Hello !!! ;)
    My name is Piter Kokoniz. oOnly want to tell, that I like your blog very much!
    And want to ask you: will you continue to post in this blog in future?
    Sorry for my bad english:)
    Your Piter Kokoniz, from Latvia

  2. April 17th, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Valenda Campbell, CARE

    Thanks Piter. I’m glad you enjoyed the blog. There are a couple more to follow this one. And to answer your question, I’m really not much of a blogger but as long as liveBooks and the RESOLVE team keep asking, I am happy to keep contributing.

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