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WaterAid chatbot links supporters with benefitting communities

Melanie May | 9 February 2018 | News

Sellu's photo on a WaterAid chatbot conversation

WaterAid has launched a chatbot that connects supporters with the people they are helping.

The charity worked with Facebook-approved developer, The Bot Platform, and Sellu, a farmer and fisherman from the remote village of Tombohuaun in Sierra Leone’s eastern province, to create the chatbot Talk to Sellu, which launched on Facebook Messenger in early December.

Talk to Sellu via chatbot


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Users are introduced to Sellu – as well as members of the wider community – and, once subscribed to the bot, taken on a unique journey to the heart of village life in Tombohuaun, the focus community for WaterAid‘s winter fundraising appeal, Untapped.

Through a series of messages, photos and video content, Sellu takes users on a guided tour of his home, introduces them to his wife Fatu and daughter Nancy and even teaches them how to say ‘hello’ in the local language, ‘Mende’. There are also updates on the new water and sanitation infrastructures being built with help from WaterAid supporters. Users will ultimately be asked if they would like to donate towards WaterAid’s Untapped appeal to help bring clean water, decent toilets good hygiene to communities like Sellu’s.

Talking to Sellu via Messenger

Dan Gray, WaterAid Digital Engagement Manager, said:

“At the moment, the predominant use of chatbots is for service handling, with bots trained to learn answers to basic FAQs, or use machine learning to comb the internet for content. We decided to take a different approach, and work within the limitations of the technology to create some good, old-fashioned storytelling; immersing our digital audiences in the life of Sellu – a farmer, fisherman father-of-three from Tombohuaun, Sierra Leone.
“The ability to continuously interact with large cohorts of engaged digital users makes the chatbot a powerful tool for awareness, activation and retention all in one and we hope people will be encouraged to donate to our winter fundraising appeal, Untapped.”

‘Talk to Sellu’ is being promoted across WaterAid’s social media channels as well as via email and digital campaigns as part of WaterAid’s Untapped Appeal. Every £1 the public donates to the appeal by 31 January 2018 will be matched by the UK Government.

This campaign was subsequently featured at IWITOT (I Wish I’d Thought of That) 2019 by Wayne Murray.

Watch why he wished he’d thought of this campaign.

Main image credit: WaterAid/ Nana Kofi Acquah. Nancy and Lucy and their parents Sellu and Fatu. Tombohuaun