Observations by Tricia Heywood

KONY 2012 has moved me – 10 minutes into the video, www.kony2012.com I’d pledged some funds and forwarded the site to my database of friends.  I like to consider myself an ‘aware’ citizen and I’m familiar with Kony’s heinous crimes, but this video had me digging deeper and learning more.

I can’t imagine that anyone in North America, at least, has been left untouched by now. The online movement moved into the mainstream press two nights ago and with this the scrutiny of the pundits as they take a magnifying glass to the purpose and tactics of Invisible Children and the video projecting its message.  In this ‘age of transparency’ nonprofits sit alongside private companies in their glass houses.  We expect full disclosure.

This is a highly sensitive political issue and when lives are at stake it is critical to look at all sides.  I agree with much of what I’ve been reading.  Clearly this is a complicated situation, and perhaps some of the facts have been glossed over.  And yes corruption in the region adds huge complexities to handling the dismantling of Joseph Kony.

Invisible Children can’t un-kidnap these children, breathe life back into their parents, de-maim them or give them back their childhoods. But they can bring light to a severe situation that is unknown to most; I am surprised by how few of my friends and colleagues were aware of this situation. I believe this movement is the type that can instill a passion in us.  That it can motivate us to use our voices to move governments to change a situation that does not have direct impact on natural resources we use or threats to our borders…for a change.

So, what is it about this movement that that might lead it to success in achieving its mission and effecting change?  Well, there are several things at work here.  First, as we (Onesixtyfourth) have highlighted in our recent CultureQ report on Brands as the New Social Reformers http://www.onesixtyfourth.com/cultureq, the world lacks leadership, both politically and in the private sector.  People tell us they are desperately searching for inspiration.  And further that they crave opportunities to engage as global citizens.  In comes Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children and creator of KONY 2012, whose zealousness is sincere and thereby contagious.

But it’s more than the fact that Jason Russell has caught us at a point when we are looking for ways to contribute to society in a meaningful way.  KONY 2012 is cause we can engage in within the time constraints of our hectic lives.  And it is a movement that has been started by younger people – its kids fighting for kids.  It is highly targeted at one man.  It has a realistic aim; an outcome that is not only measurable but one we can easily believe will be successful.

Ironically, it’s the simplicity of the message and the clarity of the ask being made of us that is leading to criticism.

The message: Joseph Kony must be stopped.

The ask: talk about him to everyone you can, put the name Joseph Kony on the lips of everyone you know.  And, on April 20, 2012 – get up and move, get off of the couch and paint the streets (figuratively) Joseph Kony.

These are things we can easily do. And things that will help us to feel engaged.  Interconnected with our community and involved in changing our world.

So, what about the criticism?  Is Invisible Children oversimplifying a very complicated issue?  Is the video too soft?  Maybe.  Probably.  It certainly does not go into the brutal details of how these children suffer.  It could.  But, the truth is beyond comprehension for many.   And for those who want to further educate themselves there are plenty of  documentaries full of the stuff we only expect to see in our worst nightmares.

Invisible Children has created a tool to educate and do so without pushing people away – they are tactfully instilling passion for the cause.  And, in addition to sending a clear message within our grasp, the movement spans across socio-demographics.  It is not old against young, rich against poor, religion against religion, educated against uneducated, conservative against liberal.  Rather it uniting people of all kinds together in a powerful way across generations and borders.  It is connecting families and rallying communities.  Kids are talking to their parents.  Teachers are mobilizing their students.

So regardless of what the specifics that need to happen to maneuver the Ugandan government and persuade them to bring Kony down, the world is moving.  The world will know who Joseph Kony is; people will ask questions; they will look at their maps and will learn where Uganda sits on the earth’s surface; they will see the faces of these children and learn their stories; they will educate themselves on the ongoing war in the region and maybe even to start to grasp its complexities.  Ultimately, they will learn a little more about their world, which is interconnected yet in which atrocities can still go unnoticed.  And as a result, support will flood into the area.

Surely that is a victory in itself.  And it is definitely the first and very critical step to effecting the desired change.  Ousting the evils of Joseph Kony.