In Review: The Year’s Most Pressing Social Issues at the 2023 Anthem Awards.
These were the top issues and causes that Anthem Winners championed in their work, at every level.
Throughout history, important societal issues have pushed their way into the cultural zeitgeist in many ways. Often it happens via necessity—organizers, individuals and companies meeting the needs of an injustice or moment. And sometimes consistent dialogue and art that help culture progress to center these conversations. Pushing critical issues and social movements into global consciousness is only possible through the dedicated work of nonprofits, individuals and purpose-driven businesses to forge large-scale change. While reviewing the 2023 Anthem Winners, we were inspired by the causes that dominated conversations over the past year, and the incredible projects dedicated to them. Explore some of the year’s most important causes reflected in social impact work.
Issue 1: War and Crisis in Ukraine
One of the year’s important issues has been the war and crisis in Ukraine. Following Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine, the international community has stepped up to support Ukrainians’ resistance and continued need for support. Emergency response efforts from organizations, grassroots organizers and companies have taken on many forms — from websites to help the masses understand this issue, to resources for the large waves of Ukrainian refugees who were forced to flee to neighboring countries. See a few Anthem winners that tackled this critical topic.
Feel What We Feel by TANK Worldwide/Grey Canada
Health – Awareness & Media Categories – Rapid Response Campaign
In March 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during an address to the Canadian parliament, asked those in the room to imagine if major Canadian cities were under war. His statement, “I would like you to feel this: what we feel every day.” inspired Canadian agencies TANK Worldwide, Grey Canada and Rodeo FX to spark greater empathy for the Ukrainian plight by imagining what war-torn Toronto, Montreal and New York would look like. The experience includes a call for visitors to donate to Razom, an emergency rapid response organization that is dedicated to helping Ukraine.
The Other Side of Truth by The First The Last
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – Awareness & Media Categories – Global Awareness Campaign
The Other Side of Truth is an interactive record of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Russia’s attempt to control the conflict’s narrative. This website consists of two views—the first, World Truth, takes visitors through the war’s origins, which trace back to 2014, and the human toll of this conflict. The second view, Russian Truth, The second view, Russian Truth, corrects narratives the Kremlin and Russian media have shared to give an accurate depiction of Russia’s actions and intentions in Europe
#HOPEforUkraine by Project HOPE
Humanitarian Action & Services – Fundraising Categories – Non Profit Campaign
Project HOPE has worked on the front lines of the world’s health challenges for more than 60 years. They work to provide monetary relief to communities in need, mobilize their network of healthcare workers, and send medical supplies to conflict sites. In response to the crisis in Ukraine, Project HOPE has delivered $8.5 million, treated more than 26,000 patients by launching medical unites, have provided mental health consultations to 3,300 displaced Ukranians in shelters, and more.
Free Digital Language Courses for Ukrainian Speakers by Babbel
Humanitarian Action & Services – Community Engagement Categories – Corporate Social Responsibility
For those who have been displaced, learning a language is necessary for surviving and navigating a new home. Following Russia’s invasion, Babbel, a language learning software and e-platform, wanted to help make resettling easier for Ukrainians. They became the first language app to launch free courses for Ukrainian speakers to learn English, German and Polish. Babbel made a huge impact, with over 400,000 Ukrainian speakers signing up to learn a language.
Issue 2: Disability Justice and Inclusivity
Over the years, disability justice has grown into a burgeoning movement, due to the direct actions and efforts by disability activists. Discussions have moved beyond viewing disability as a single-issue concern, and towards an intersectional movement that dismantles systems of ableism, and support for the experiences of folks across the disability spectrum—and this year’s Anthem Winners are a testament to that fact. Explore some of the work below.
Selma Blair and Andraéa LaVant Partnership by Google
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – Awareness & Media Categories – Influencer Endorsement
Google wanted to show the creative industry that accessible marketing should be incorporated into the fabric of their projects. To do so, they launched All In, Google’s internal marketing toolkit to make accessibility a permanent part of inclusive marketing—from building inclusive teams to building inclusion into the creative process. Their short film, produced in coordination with the initiative, features Selma Blair and Andraéa LaVant, two disability activists, discussing their experiences, and why Google’s Accessible Marketing Playbook is a valuable resource.
The Disability Justice Project by Disability Justice Project
Human & Civil Rights – Awareness & Media Categories – News & Journalism
The Disability Justice Project (DJP) pairs disabled journalists in the Global South, in the nascent stages of their careers, with mentors and professional journalists. The program’s goal is to push the global disability justice movement to the forefront of storytelling, while training fellows on rights-based reporting. DJP’s website showcases many of these projects, including “A New Challenge,” by filmmaker Duster Lucius, which follows the first DeafBlind student to be accepted to a prestigious high school in Blantyre, Malawi.
RAMPD (Recording Artists and Music Professionals with Disabilities)
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – Community Engagement Categories – Networking or Community Organizations
Founded in May 2021, RAMPD (Recording Artists and Music Professionals with Disabilities) is a global network of music industry creators who live with disabilities. Their mission is to connect renowned professionals with opportunities in the music industry, and uplift their voices. The RAMPD Official Launch Party, a virtual event live from the GRAMMY Museum Experience, is a showcase of disabled musicians and disability culture, complete with visual and audio descriptions, closed captions and other features to make it a seamless experience.
Inaccessible Cities by Al Jazeera Digital
Human & Civil Rights – Awareness & Media Categories – Global Awareness Campaign
It is estimated that by 2050, nearly 1 billion people who live in cities around the world will have a disability. However many major cities lack accessible infrastructure to accommodate a growing population and their needs. In the immersive experience Inaccessible Cities, AJ Contrast, explores the challenges of navigating cities like New York City, Lagos and Mumbai with a disability. Each city view gives visitors the opportunity to see the nuanced difficulties of public transportation, as well as the toll it takes on those who live with disabilities.
Issue 3: Intersectionality in Movements
Today, progressive social movements need to be built with intersectionality baked into their DNA. Coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, leading critical race theory scholar, “intersectionality” describes an understanding that individuals’ experiences with oppression are compounded by their identity markers that encounter multiple forms of exclusion. This year’s Anthem Winners centered intersectionality in their initiatives—from centering Indigenous voices in climate justice actions to discussing Black women and medical racism. See some of the projects below.
Reciprocity Project by Nia Tero
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – Awareness & Media Categories – Special Projects
Launched by nonprofits Nia Tero and Upstander Project, Reciprocity Project is a short film series and multimedia platform that centers Indigenous voices in the climate crisis discussion. Through a showcase of films, the project centers Indigenous perspectives and value systems, which have long recognized nature as a source to respect. Season One asks the storytellers and creators to investigate what “reciprocity” means to their communities.
See My Skin by Edelman
Health – Awareness & Media Categories – Strategy
Racism is deeply embedded in the U.S. medical system, leading to large inequities in care, misdiagnosis and untreated conditions. There’s an even larger discrepancy and lack of diversity in dermatology, with Black and Hispanic leading 25% higher in mortality rates for life-threatening skin conditions. To address the problem, Edelman and Vaseline created See My Skin, an online database designed to search conditions on skin of color.
SMI Is Not A Crime: CJ Reform and Mental Health by American Psychiatric Association Foundation
Health – Community Engagement Categories – Partnership or Collaboration
SMI Adviser is a long-term collaboration between the American Psychiatric Association Foundation (APA) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to support people who suffer from mental illness. SMI Is Not A Crime is a resource to help psychiatrists and communities reduce the risk for people with serious mental illness of entering the criminal justice system.
Issue 4: Youth Activism and Empowerment
With Gen Z at the center of global conversations and starting to be on the front lines of social movements like climate justice and gun reform, it is imperative that organizations, companies and leaders take this generation’s concerns into consideration. This year’s Anthem Winners advocated for youth in numerous ways, from launching Gen Z-led platforms to advocating for transgender youth, and more.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – Awareness & Media Categories – Local Awareness Campaign
The Outrage is a hub for youth activists, based in Washington DC. They push progressive issues through on-the-ground actions at marches, protests, campaigns and programming. They also donate all proceeds of the merchandise they sell to nonprofits and social movements.
Let Them Play by BRINK
Human & Civil Rights – Awareness & Media Categories – Media Impact Campaign
Transgender youth are under attack in battleground states, with community leaders actively attempting to bar trans athletes from competing, eliminate gender affirming care, and deny them their human rights. BRINK created the video campaign “Let Them Play” to communicate the importance of this issue, and generate wider support for young transgender athletes to play alongside their peers.
Question d’actualité (What’s Your Source?) by Radio-Canada MAJ
Education, Art & Culture – Awareness & Media Categories – News & Journalism
MAJ is a vertical of Radio-Canada, focusing on youth news in a way that speaks to Gen Z. Their mission is to spark conversations that make young people want to learn about current events. Question d’actualité is a six-part series that follows Estelle, a high-school student on a journey to becoming more informed—from visiting large newsrooms to understanding neutral information and where to find reliable information.
Issue 5: LGBTQIA+ Rights
Anti-LGBTQIA+ policies and rhetoric have ramped up over the past few years, and it has been coupled by a similar resistance. This year’s Anthem Winners focused on empowering the LGBTQIA+ community, their stories and experiences, while fighting back against widespread transphobia, and harmful legislation. See a few of the projects below.
The Love Connection by Hearts & Science
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – Awareness & Media Categories – Branded Content or Collaboration
Created in collaboration with AT&T and ATTN, The Love Connection is a documentary series that gives non-binary, transgender and nonconforming people a platform to share their journeys. It zeroed in on five individuals and influencers, Peppermint, Laith, Alok, Aydian and Isis King, showing their unique experiences with finding love and building community. The campaign also showed how vital access to telecommunications and the Internet is for LGBTQIA+ individuals, to foster connections that may not be easily accessible in their immediate surroundings.
I Always Knew Gender Was Fluid by It Gets Better Project
Education, Art & Culture – Awareness & Media Categories – Strategy
Choosing to live as your authentic self gives others the courage to do the same. It Gets Better Project produced a short film with Chella Man, a trans-masculine, genderqueer, deaf boxer and artists. They sat with Chella to explore his experience in turning to art to find his identity, create community, and on joining a trans boxing collective. Watch the project.
#TransphobiaIsASin by The Black Trans Prayer Book
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – Awareness & Media Categories – Social Media Content, Campaign or Channel
The Black Trans Prayer Book is an interfaith, multi-dimensional, artistic, and theological work that collects stories, art and meditations of Black transgender and nonbinary people. It started as a resistance to Black transgender people being pushed out of faith spaces, yet still deeply connecting to legacies of spirituality. Their work also questions what it means to practice faith that challenges white supremacy and transphobia.
Issue 6: AAPI Rights and Representation
The peak pandemic years have seen AAPI communities around the world in crisis, battling rampant violence, harmful misinformation that aims to scapegoat AAPI individuals, and white supremacist systems that leave them vulnerable. This year’s Anthem Winners aimed to tell authentic stories that represent the AAPI communities wide experiences, resilience, and grassroots work to advocate for their lives and rights.
Asian American Stories of Resilience and Beyond by WORLD Channel
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – Awareness & Media Categories – Partnership or Collaboration
This documentary series, produced in partnership with Asian American Documentary Network, the Center for Asian American Media and PBS features seven short films from emerging creators that highlight the diversity and resilience of the AAPI community. The stories feature the impact COVID-19 has had on one Filipino woman’s family, one Minneapolis family reckoning with racial violence, and more.
Hawaii: Native Hawaiians and The Fight For Survival by AJ+
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – Awareness & Media Categories – Film, Video, Television or Show
For many Hawaians, the island is becoming unaffordable, due to the tourism industry and companies acquiring land in the country. According to this project by AJ+, the average price for a single-family home in Maui is more than $1 million, but the average salary worker only makes $40,000 a year in the tourism industry.
Immigrantly Podcast by Immigrantly
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – Awareness & Media Categories – Podcast or Audio
The Immigrantly podcast is hosted and produced by Saadia Khan, a Southeast Asian immigrant rights activist and inclusive feminist. Launched in 2021, Immigrantly bears witness to the everyday experiences of immigrant life across the United States, while diving into personal conversations around race, identity, and mainstream narratives in a divided country. Dive in for episodes that cover everything from grief and family histories, to how reproductive justice impacts immigrants.