The #KONY2012 #STOPKONY @INVISIBLE Moment

It has been an incredible week for the world of social media, thanks to the film makers and activists behind Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012″ campaign launched a week ago. There has been so much activity: social media experts, gurus, strategists, advisors, and hacks alike have all contributed to the stimulating discussion of whether or not it matters, and whether or not it is good, and whether or not it can be reproduced, and what some of the precious gems (“lessons”) might be to guide other activists toward such success.

Pooh pooh to all that. What’s important to know, right now, is that the campaign is big, it is persuasive, and it continues to grow. Having watched the trio of bright-eyed hipsters as they began their campaign of support for the children in Uganda – from the get-go centered on the idea of making a powerful film – I can only say how impressed I am by their passion, commitment, and creativity to a cause that they literally fell in to nearly ten years ago.

The guys originally headed to the Sudan to experience what they called a “hidden holocaust” in the region. Their goal was simple: to bring back footage and a story that would inform their family, friends, and American at large. They left the day the war in Iraq began.

Rewatching the original rough cut of the film documenting this experience, and how they encountered the story that would change their lives, I can see the context, the compassion, the insight, and the maturity that lays behind the new film that has garnered so much international attention. In my book, it is well-deserved, and I am confident that Invisible Children will be able to parlay this success into support that will directly benefit the Ugandan youth to whom they have been so committed. Kudos, IC!

http://www.epolitics.com/2012/03/14/seven-lessons-from-kony-2012/

A response to, \”Can Viral Videos Really Create Social Change\” on Frogloop 3/14

I think the question you ask, \”Can videos create social change\” is answered in your first sentence: Stop Kony has \”created a firestorm.\”

One of the saddest, most misdirected, most significant opportunities lost in this whole experience is that activists, advocates, pundits, and strategists – everyone except, it seems, the young people themselves – have failed to pick up the pieces where Invisible Children left off.

Let\’s rewind: almost ten years ago Invisible Children set out to make a movie that would bring the story of the \”hidden holocaust\” in Sudan to American audiences. They got sidetracked by Uganda, which at that point was maybe a sideshow to the Rwanda genocide in most people\’s minds, if anything (host of the RPF…never mind). So, for the next ten years these guys built a movement on what they\’d learned. And they kept going back – to connect with friends, to build schools, produce bracelets, gather more footage. Whatever it took to hustle the story and feed their growing movement back home.

And the movement back home was growing. From their Global Night Commute to the Schools for Schools campaign, Invisible Children has been building an army of young people who are educated about the issue, passionate about making the world a better place, and committed to action – whether a bake sale or a school improvement trip.

And then, a week ago, Stop Kony was launched, and everything changed. Suddenly, this vocal, passionate, outspoken group that had been dedicated, on point, committed, consistent, was on the firing line for everything that it was not. Instead of the nonprofit, NGO, academic, punditry saying holy sh!t this is our moment, they recoiled. When they could have stepped up to fill the gap, they tried to make it larger. By pushing stories and criticisms – some founded and some not – they\’ve created a climate of doubt and suspicion where if, instead, they\’d said, \”Hey this is incomplete, learn more here\” or \”military action is not the only option, consider these,\” or \”clicking \”like\” isn\’t enough: sign this petition\” they\’ve lost their single biggest opportunity to claim their piece of the moment, to ride the Stop Kony juggernaut.

Its too bad. Because 2/3 of what they ARE doing, from a visibility standpoint, is missing the mark I think.

An email sent in response to weak \”lessons\” learned from #STOPKONY and #KONY2012

Please forgive me for being blunt here. I\’ve watched IC and supported the \”night commuter\” movement in small ways since I learned about it in 2007.

So its funny that everyone is shooting for \”lessons\” from Stop Kony, since most of them entirely lack context. Its like some kind of forensic science typically used to reconstruct the past being applied to predict future success. When we\’re living the moment. Right now.

I can\’t tell you how useless most of these lessons will be because they are entirely missing the power of the last eight years of organizing that the \”viral video\” represents, and the relationships that have been built that span the globe. And the power of those relationships to influence others.

To break it down, dusty critiques of white male \”heros\” and disempowered voices (for example) are fairly groundless. Literally hundreds of thousands of people have been empowered in the journey they have shared over the last 8 years. Kony went viral because it is, in part, their story. Even 3, 6, 9 seconds of visibility in this video is a kind of affirmation most non-profits don\’t even give their staff, much less their constituents. In my view the video just happens to have a very white, very gifted spokesperson. Rightfully so, given the leadership role he has played to make it happen.

Kony isn\’t trying to be everything. Its trying to be one thing: realize a pledge that was made years ago. Like a cold front, its trying to create the conditions in which a powerful phase change can occur. Right now, they are saying, the most important thing you the viewer can do, is \”join us\” for an April event akin to a global \”art in.\” Oh yeah, and does it help that they have the world\’s attention? You bet.

If you take the time go to their site (instead of watching a video shared on, say, Facebook) you can see how it works: http://www.kony2012.com/

I hope folks will, for now, do a little less unpacking and a little more creative thinking about how to leverage this powerful media moment – that\’s where, I think, the real learning will take place.

  • lhtorres says:

    An email sent in response to weak \”lessons\” learned from #STOPKONY and #KONY2012

    Please forgive me for being blunt here. I\’ve watched IC and supported the \”night commuter\” movement in small ways since I learned about it in 2007.

    So its funny that everyone is shooting for \”lessons\” from Stop Kony, since most of them entirely lack context. Its like some kind of forensic science typically used to reconstruct the past being applied to predict future success. When we\’re living the moment. Right now.

    I can\’t tell you how useless most of these lessons will be because they are entirely missing the power of the last eight years of organizing that the \”viral video\” represents, and the relationships that have been built that span the globe. And the power of those relationships to influence others.

    To break it down, dusty critiques of white male \”heros\” and disempowered voices (for example) are fairly groundless. Literally hundreds of thousands of people have been empowered in the journey they have shared over the last 8 years. Kony went viral because it is, in part, their story. Even 3, 6, 9 seconds of visibility in this video is a kind of affirmation most non-profits don\’t even give their staff, much less their constituents. In my view the video just happens to have a very white, very gifted spokesperson. Rightfully so, given the leadership role he has played to make it happen.

    Kony isn\’t trying to be everything. Its trying to be one thing: realize a pledge that was made years ago. Like a cold front, its trying to create the conditions in which a powerful phase change can occur. Right now, they are saying, the most important thing you the viewer can do, is \”join us\” for an April event akin to a global \”art in.\” Oh yeah, and does it help that they have the world\’s attention? You bet.

    If you take the time go to their site (instead of watching a video shared on, say, Facebook) you can see how it works: http://www.kony2012.com/

    I hope folks will, for now, do a little less unpacking and a little more creative thinking about how to leverage this powerful media moment – that\’s where, I think, the real learning will take place.

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