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All Grown Up – Introducing Play Action International, Formerly East African Playgrounds

Posted on 22 June 2020

Play Action International, formerly East African Playgrounds, a non-profit organisation that enriches disadvantaged children’s lives through the power of play, has undertaken a strategic re-brand and communications overhaul to assure its survival during and beyond the pandemic.

The Guardian, The Telegraph, Third Sector, Sky News and RT News have all reported on the plight facing the 10,000+ small UK charities working in the overseas aid sector. The lack of dedicated government funding support and the merger of DFID and FCO mean that 45% of small international development charities are facing the prospect of closure within the next 12 months. The impact on the world’s poorest communities that these organisations serve will be catastrophic and will significantly push back recent progress achieved towards commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

A small UK-based international development charity, East African Playgrounds has not been immune to the effects of COVID-19 and experienced a dramatic 95% fall in its fundraising income within weeks of the UK lockdown coming into effect. Many charities experiencing a similarly devastating drop in income chose to batten down the hatches to attempt to ride out the storm. No stranger to rising to a challenge in the face of adversity, East African Playgrounds drew on its experience of working in complex operating environments and took a wholly different and refreshing approach. The forward plan, supported by the board and external advisors, was to – embrace the challenges brought on by the pandemic and use the situation as an opportunity to swiftly re-invent itself. 

Murielle Maupoint, CEO of Play Action International explained: We do so much more than build playgrounds in East Africa. We create safe spaces and opportunities to bring play into children’s lives. We have proved that play-based initiatives can increase school enrolment and attendance, reduce dropouts, reduce child labour, heal trauma and provide children with the foundations to live a fuller life. Yet our name put us in a very niched pigeonhole which prevented the world from fully appreciating the breadth of the incredible services and products we offer, and the importance of play in children’s lives. If we were going to survive this pandemic, I knew that we needed to strategically and tactically contemporise our identity to truly reflect who we are and what we do and accelerate the implementation of our new programmes.”

Seizing the drive, passion and vision of the team, Trustees agreed at the charity’s April 2020 board meeting to undertaking a full re-brand to be implemented on 1 September 2020. With just a 4-month timescale, the charity quickly mobilised a ‘re-brand team’ to support senior management to deliver this ambitious project – enabling East African Playgrounds to graduate from its early beginnings and to communicate more effectively the breath of its services and products, its vision and the importance of play in children’s lives. Iain Hunter of THE Worldwide Partners has been invaluable in providing the necessary external oversight to ensure the re-brand achieved the desired strategic objectives. Matt Saunders of CharityBox worked round the clock to ensure we could reflect our new brand and vision in a new website. Mike Young of Mike Young Design developed the new playful visual brand identity – ensuring that we could capture the essence of East African Playgrounds in the new logo.

We are extremely proud to launch the newly named Play Action International. Resplendent in its bold and contemporary new look, the re-brand team has been preparing a range of internal and external communications and a plethora of digital materials. These will ensure that our brand values and image are cohesively linked for those who are yet to learn about the work of the organisation, while being sure not to overlook all our supporters and partners who have been so loyal to East African Playgrounds over the last 10+ years.

Ashton Josephs, Marketing and Communications Manager at Play Action International says “From the outset it has been imperative to take our supporters on a journey with us. The synergy between our old and new branding has been a part of the visual tapestry we have worked hard to build on and enhance. Just like our play programmes, we are constantly evolving, and this applies to our fundraising and communications activities, particularly in the current climate. I’m hugely proud of the team, our volunteer advisors and our web and logo designers who have helped us to strengthen Play Action International’s brand identity in the years to come.”

Carla Gill, who founded East African Playgrounds a decade ago is thrilled to see the organisation take its brand from its humble beginnings into the future. She says: “We believe that play is critical to the well-being of children and provides the foundations for their future. Now more than ever children need the opportunities and facilities to play to help them process and overcome the varying effects of the pandemic. The transformation of East African Playgrounds to Play Action International sets the foundation for us to ensure many more vulnerable children, across the whole world, can live enriched lives through the transformative power of play.”

Across the whole world, people are suffering from the effects of COVID. From the loss of loved ones, redundancies, business closures to the psychological impact of lockdown, very few have been unaffected.  However, whilst much has been reported on the negative effects of the pandemic, we risk losing sight of some of the stories that reflect the amazing human drive to overcome adversity.

Murielle says: “COVID has given us the impetus to put everything we do, and how we do it, under the microscope. We have found ways to reduce costs, improve cashflow, revise our positioning in the sector, and develop innovative products and services to drive new income in the future. It has been a complete organisational overhaul befitting of a new brand. And this has only been possible because of the passion, commitment and incredible ‘can do’ attitude of our team. Inspired by the resilience of the children we work with and the unimaginable hardships they overcome every day; the team simply refuse to be defeated by COVID-19.”

As the world gets to grips with the challenges of the current pandemic climate, Play Action International looks ahead with confidence and excitement to the next chapter to build on its incredible history. Thus far, it has impacted more than half a million children through its play-based programmes and has plans to work with many other INGOs to support vulnerable children in at least 10 more countries in the next 10 years. The future looks bright for Play Action International, now equipped with its new contemporary and very grown up brand image!

For further information & photographs please contact:

Ashton Josephs, Marketing and Communications Manager, Play Action International: