APCO provides pro bono services to refugee advocacy organization

APCO is partnering with Jesuit Refugee Service on its fall concert tour to raise money for global refugee education programs.

via JRS/USA Twitter, featuring one of the artists on the Lampedusa concert tour, Emmylou Harris
via JRS/USA Twitter, featuring one of the artists on the Lampedusa concert tour, Emmylou Harris

WASHINGTON: APCO Worldwide is providing pro bono services to the Jesuit Refugee Service, an international Catholic nonprofit that supports and advocates for refugees.

APCO is working with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) as part of its pro bono program. The agency calls for proposals from organizations and chooses one to work with for two years, providing free counsel, training for an organization’s staff on PR and communications, and on-the-ground volunteer work. JRS was one of three organizations APCO considered for the program.

"We as industry have a responsibility to help problem solve in our world," said Lisa Ross, MD of APCO’s Washington, D.C. office. "This was a natural link and alignment with us because of the work we do [with] global issues management. It is so close to our point of view on the world and the way we see business."

The Lampedusa concert tour -- named after the island off of Italy where Pope Francis first received refugees -- is an 11-city tour that takes place in October. Its proceeds will go toward JRS’ global education initiative, which provides educational programs to children in refugee camps. The goal of the concert series is to raise about $35 million to double the size of the education program, said Gail Griffith, director of JRS global education initiative.

"We knew that we needed more help when we decided to put together the singer-songwriter acoustic concert tour, Lampedusa," Griffith said. "What we hope to do by partnering with APCO is coming up with a way to change the conversation, how people look at refugees, and how they characterize the problem."

APCO will be supporting the concert tour with marketing, media relations, a social media campaign, and branding, including designing a logo, and creating a video for the tour. The agency will continue to work with JRS beyond the tour, training its staff and lending volunteers.

APCO has dedicated 10 staffers from its APCO+ program, which houses the firm’s entry level employees, to aid JRS. The staffers are led by Becky Boles, SVP and head of APCO+.

"It gives my team an opportunity to own a client," Boles said. "It's not often you get to work with something this real and this relevant, especially to millennials and the world they're growing up in."

Boles said the first six months of the work will focus on the concert series and other PR services. She said if the concert does well, there’s a potential to expand it to other parts of the world and bring more awareness to the issue.

The refugee crisis is a massive global issue, with more than 65.3 million displaced people in the world, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ 2015 yearly report. JRS has been working with refugees since its founding in 1980.

"Whenever you have an issue that is this dramatic, with such global implications, people get exhausted quickly because the problem is so huge," Griffith said. "Trying to humanize it is our challenge."

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