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Google and UNHCR: Searching for Syria

 

Role

Project Originator and Co-Lead

About

The Syrian refugee crisis is one of the most devastating crisis of our generation. Yet, we saw from our Google Search data that millions of people throughout the world wanted to understand the crisis - but were unable to find the answers they sought.

With this in mind, Google partnered with the UNHCR to create www.searchingforsyria.org. This unprecedented project sought to create an arresting - yet digestible - interactive experience for people to make sense of the largest humanitarian crisis of our time.

By leveraging powerful UN data and non traditional data sources (social media history, Google Search trends, never before released satellite imagery, data visualizations, film, 360º imagery, and before/after comparisons), Searching for Syria combines information and impact to drive users to action.

Creative Partners: Google Brand Studio, R/GA, Living on One, Sender Films

Results

Engagement and action oriented results:

  • Nearly 10% of the over 2 million people who visited the site took action by either donating, joining or sharing.
  • Average time on site was over 2:43 minutes, with some spending more than 45 mins.
  • In its first few days, visitors to Searching for Syria spent a collective 10 years interacting with its content.
  • Of the 44,000 clicks to the donate page of the site there were 3,200 donations.

Widespread PR pickup:

  • More than +8K press articles globally including The Verge, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, Brussels Times and World Economic Forum

High engagement for UNHCR:

  • The project generated the largest spike in new signatures to the #WithRefugees petition since it was launched in 2016
  • May 2017, when Searching for Syria was launched, was the second-highest viewing month for UNHCR YouTube video content in the history of their account.
  •  May 2017 was the highest month in history for new subscribers to UNHCR's YouTube account
 

All Photos Below - Credit: Searching for Syria

Actionable ways to get involved.   Beyond giving people the background and education on the severity of the crisis, it was crucial to enable people to act on this knowledge and emotion. We partnered with the UNHCR to clearly give 3 clearly defined options to help.  Nearly 10% of the over 2 million people who visited the site took action by either donating, joining or sharing.

Actionable ways to get involved.  Beyond giving people the background and education on the severity of the crisis, it was crucial to enable people to act on this knowledge and emotion. We partnered with the UNHCR to clearly give 3 clearly defined options to help.  Nearly 10% of the over 2 million people who visited the site took action by either donating, joining or sharing.

Simple, stark visuals.   Real images   showcased insurmountable change affecting the region, as this sliding image comparing the Grand Umayaad Mosque of Aleppo in 2013 v. before the war.  Visitors controlled their experience so they could see the devastation and impact of the crisis over time. 

Simple, stark visuals.  Real images showcased insurmountable change affecting the region, as this sliding image comparing the Grand Umayaad Mosque of Aleppo in 2013 v. before the war.  Visitors controlled their experience so they could see the devastation and impact of the crisis over time. 

Non traditional, humanizing data sources.  Social media posts from refugees, Google search trends from around the world, and YouTube search trends from within Syria showcases the human side. We all have phones, watch our favorite videos, and chat with our friends. The contrast of this data from refugees with how we use it in our lives brought the crisis to life for people around the world. 

Non traditional, humanizing data sources. Social media posts from refugees, Google search trends from around the world, and YouTube search trends from within Syria showcases the human side. We all have phones, watch our favorite videos, and chat with our friends. The contrast of this data from refugees with how we use it in our lives brought the crisis to life for people around the world. 

Arresting, powerful, shareable facts.  We knew from our research that people wanted to understand what was going on, but felt overwhelmed at all the information. Enabling the facts to be quickly surfaced, digested, and shared was core to the project. 

Arresting, powerful, shareable facts. We knew from our research that people wanted to understand what was going on, but felt overwhelmed at all the information. Enabling the facts to be quickly surfaced, digested, and shared was core to the project. 

Never before released satellite imagery.  The Google Earth team released never before seen satellite imagery to show the severity of the crisis in new ways. The above image showed how cars had been abandoned at the border by fleeing refugees. We combed through years of data to find arresting, relevant data to share. 

Never before released satellite imagery. The Google Earth team released never before seen satellite imagery to show the severity of the crisis in new ways. The above image showed how cars had been abandoned at the border by fleeing refugees. We combed through years of data to find arresting, relevant data to share. 

Ancient history brought to life with technology.   We partnered with local photographers, activists, and citizens to bring the rich cultural heritage - that we all share - to life with 360 technology. 

Ancient history brought to life with technology.  We partnered with local photographers, activists, and citizens to bring the rich cultural heritage - that we all share - to life with 360 technology. 

Powerful, contextual films. King Abdullah's speech on why Jordan chose to open its borders - they currently house the largest number of Syrian refugees - shows the human side of one nation's response.

Compelling, relatable insights.  With the help of the UN, we sought to show site visitors how Syria not only had a rich history, but that the crisis devastated a booming economy. 

Compelling, relatable insights. With the help of the UN, we sought to show site visitors how Syria not only had a rich history, but that the crisis devastated a booming economy. 

Research backed UX design to empower sharing and action.   Visitors were constantly encouraged to share what they'd learned and what they wanted people to know throughout the site.  Each user could share the most relevant question over the most relevant platform.

Research backed UX design to empower sharing and action.  Visitors were constantly encouraged to share what they'd learned and what they wanted people to know throughout the site.  Each user could share the most relevant question over the most relevant platform.