SOS Chil­dren’s Vil­lages Nor­way: would you give your jack­et to Johannes?

Exhibited by
Suzi Attree, corporate fundraising account manager, Helen & Douglas House
March 16, 2017
Medium of Communication
Online, press
Target Audience
Individuals, awareness
Type of Charity
Children, youth & family. Aid and development.
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance
February 2014

SOFII’s view

A filmed social experiment to raise awareness of the plight of refugees showed the generosity of strangers and resulted in thousands of krone in donations. NGOs often try shock tactics in order to get the public’s attention, but getting the audience to feel empathy rather than sympathy is that much harder.

Summary / objectives

The campaign aimed to help Syrian children and families during the winter by encouraging donations for jackets for them.  They aimed to raise NOK 200,000, but ended with over 10 times that amount.


A social experiment was set up by SOS Children’s Villages Norway (SOS-barnebyer Norge) as part of the SOS Mayday action network to raise awareness about the thousands of children suffering in war-torn Syria. 

It involved an 11-year-old boy - whose family are sponsors of SOS-barnebyer - sitting alone at a bus stop in the freezing cold telling commuters his jacket had been stolen to see how they would react. A heartbreaking scene, but the actions of the ordinary people who witnessed the plight of Johannes is both joyous and inspiring. 

Throughout the day, more and more people offered Johannes their gloves and even the coats off their backs as they waited for their bus. According to Johannes, who volunteered for the experiment, only three people out of the dozens who came and sat at the bus stop made no effort to help him. He said

There were so many nice people. We filmed for two days, and I thought maybe only three or four of them would give me their jacket altogether. But there are many more who did it. Many more than those who are shown in the video.

A hidden camera captured the entire experiment. The video was uploaded to YouTube and shared on social media.

Synne Rønning, from SOS-barnebyer helped to create the video. She says, 

The campaign has worked as an eye opener - people who watch it ask themselves: What would I do? The goal was to touch upon the fear of becoming numb to crises that don't affect you directly.

It's hard not to be emotionally hit by the video. Instinctively, we offer help however we can when a suffering child is right in front of us. The ask at the end of the video flips this by turning Johannes into the embodiment of children in Syria and asking for a text (SMS) donation to buy a jacket for a freezing child.


The video quickly went viral, and has now been seen by over 13 million viewers - it is the biggest campaign viral to ever come out of Norway. 

An article about the experiment became the most read article in Norway’s biggest national daily (Aftenposten) ever and the campaign has generated more than 800 articles and been on numerous TV and radio shows across the globe.

SOS-barnebyer had previously set a fundraising target of NOK 200,000, but ended with over 10 times the amount. This was enough to buy over 26,000 jackets. The money was used to buy winter clothing, blankets and other equipment that Syrian children and families needed to survive the winter and to assist in further efforts to distribute food and water. It also helped to create child-friendly zones where children can get psychological help, play and just simply be children.

Special characteristics

The video was an eye-opener for people – it bridges the gap between our own neighbourhood and a crisis happening in a different country.  It pulls out our common humanity and makes the distance between the donor and the cause, and the geographical distance, irrelevant.  It is a very simple idea that draws on a basic human reaction – to help others more vulnerable than yourself. 

Because the help was genuine, it makes you feel good to watch it and you want to be a part of it.  Rather than guilt or sadness, it feels empowering to watch. 


As above, characteristics.  

The campaign should make us all think about how to make a community out of our donors and a community of donors out of everyone. It also focuses on one important characteristic – making the donor feel good.  The details of what the money is exactly going to buy and for which specific group or crisis isn’t relevant – it pulls on our basic desires and empathy as people.

It makes the choice seem simple – not even a choice but an obvious course of action.

If we can feel good about a message we have created, it will make donors feel good.

How can you get your message across – what is the basic driver – not what you do but why?  And what is the one clear, simple way you can get it across almost without words.

Creator / originator

SOS Children’s Villages Norway and Släger Kommunikasjon 

Other relevant information

This case study was presented at I Wish I'd Thought Of That (IWITOT) London 2016 by Suzi Attree who was one of the audition winners for I Want To Talk At That and mentored by Kath Abrahams, Director of Engagement & Fundraising at Diabetes UK.

Suzi's presentation was filmed and can be seen below.

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Johannes and his family are real-life sponsors of SOS-barnebyer
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A young woman asks him why he has no coat in such cold weather. He replies that it was stolen. She takes off her own jacket and wraps him in it.
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This young man shivered in a thin t-shirt after giving Johannes his coat.
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SOS Children's Villages handing out coats to children in Syria