Sometimes, simply participating can be enough

The participation ribbon has come to be regarded as the ultimate symbol of mediocrity, with cynics saying it sends the wrong message that everyone gets a prize simply for showing up.

But international child advocacy organization Right to Play says that simply participating would be enough to change the lives of the millions of children around the world who miss out on normal childhood pursuits because of conflict and archaic practices like child labour.

Developed by BBDO Canada, the new fundraising campaign “Participation Changes Lives” is an evolution of “We Rise,” the platform that arose out of Right to Play’s global rebrand in 2018. This year’s campaign focuses on the children who simply want a chance to participate, urging would-be donors to give these children the “life-saving gift of participation” and give them back their childhood.

The campaign consists of a series of online videos that shows participation ribbons being fashioned out of objects representing obstacles to childhood play, such as the wedding dress of a child bride, a mining pan of a child labourer, and a tarp representing the camps that house children displaced by war.

One spot focuses on a Metis youth explaining the feeling of being excluded while we see the notebook he used to document his experiences as a young boy being turned into a ribbon. Another spot tells the story of a boy forced to work in a mine at the age of nine. As he speaks, viewers see someone using metal shears to turn the pan he used for mining into a participation ribbon.

“In North America, participation ribbons and trophies are often viewed as a token of mediocracy—a way to reward kids for just showing up,” said BBDO’s associate creative director, Jake Bundock. “But for millions of kids, a safe place to participate in play, sports or education is just not an option.”

Chris Powell