Lessons to Be Learned: Kony 2012

Kony 2012 is a film created by Invisible Children, Inc. The film’s purpose is to promote the charity’s ‘Stop Kony’ movement to make indicted Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony internationally known in order to arrest him in 2012.

The video has spread virally – 80 million on YouTube alone – created controversy, and perhaps ignited passions not seen in kids and young adults in generations. Here is some general background from Wikipedia on the video, and two articles worth noting:

from today’s The New York Times:

Backlash Aside, Charities See Lessons in a Web Video

It has galvanized young Americans, inspired a flood of donations and stirred a backlash from critics. But for some in the nonprofit world, the reaction to the unprecedented success of an advocacy video about the murderous African warlord Joseph Kony can be summed up in a word: envy.

… The video, produced by a California nonprofit group, Invisible Children, rocketed across the Internet after it was posted on March 5, attracting a global audience of tens of millions in days.

… Early on, the video spread most rapidly among people under 25, a fact that struck Marc DuBois, executive director of the British office of Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, as a watershed. He said that Invisible Children demonstrated the potential of youthful idealism to raise not just awareness of a cause, but also money for it.

Dan Pallotta writing in the Harvard Business Review:

The Kony 2012 “Controversy”

In the 1960s, critics whined that the money spent to go to the moon was more than it was worth. They didn’t get that it wasn’t about collecting moon rocks. It was about collecting passion and aiming it at something impossible. It was about demonstrating to ourselves that we were underestimating our potential by massive orders of magnitude. They didn’t get the impact of millions of eight year-old kids watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, whispering to ourselves, “My God, anything is possible.”

You should see the light in the eyes of the college kids engaged in Invisible Children’s mission. That’s the larger value of what these guys have created. A generation of kids believing again that they can change the world, and seeing themselves accomplish it. [emphasis added]

The criticism is largely based in envy at Invisible Children’s success. Envy? In charity? Yes. There are an awful lot of people out there for whom all of this work is still about their own holiness. They’d rather children remain obscured by criticism of the way in which they’re being made visible.