Health Not Handcuffs

Partner organisations: NZ Drug Foundation, Hapai Te Hauora, Just Speak, NZ Needle Exchange Programme, Te Rau Ora, People Against Prisons Aotearoa, Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ

Digital & Engagement Strategy - Brand, Messaging & Campaign Development - Website Development - Content Creation - Volunteer & Supporter Activation - Ongoing Digital Support

The 2020 Cannabis Legalisation Referendum was a huge opportunity for New Zealand to finally treat drug use as a health issue, not a criminal one. Health Not Handcuffs was launched in April 2019 by a group of health and social justice organisations united by a desire to see compassionate approaches to drug and alcohol use, informed by the evidence.

Health Not Handcuffs Supporters Photo Wall

Our Mahi

Our work on the Health Not Handcuffs campaign began 18 months out from the referendum with a strategy to build trust with our clients, fully immerse ourselves in the mission, and establish the target audience. We then began work on creating a brand, a purposefully low-fi ‘Kiwi’ persona to relate to our audience, some initial collateral to be shared by the project partners, and an action-oriented website before launching the campaign. From there we were contracted to actively support the campaign through several phases to the referendum.

Phase 1

Our first phase established the kaupapa of the campaign, ensuring the key messages radiated out through the community, and pulling the most eager supporters to the site to help establish the foundations of the community that would grow over the campaign. User-generated content was key to this process, with hundreds of supporters uploading their personal stories supporting drug law reform and why they were voting yes. 

Phase 2

The second phase was developed to energise & activate people, branding, organising and hosting Unify Rally at the Auckland Town Hall to bring advocates into the same room, equip them with the necessary resources and inspire them with a few well-known faces from Aotearoa and inspiring stories from abroad.

Crowd scenes and graphic images from Unify Rally

Phase 3

The third and final ‘Vote Yes’ phase upped the ante, as our most active and urgent push to an even wider audience. Each phase saw a refreshed design and website reskin, with Vote Yes utilising bright colours and attention-grabbing visuals. Supporters were encouraged to show their support publicly, to run stalls at markets, and to have online and offline persuasive conversations. 

The Results

At the time of writing the Yes vote for the referendum looks to have narrowly lost. Regardless, we're proud of the campaign we supported, activating thousands of people to take action in support of more compassionate drug laws.


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