In Defense of Kony 2012 and the Work of Invisible Children
In light of the new response video by Ben Keesey, CEO of Invisible Children, I want to explain why the organization is an effective, credible and transparent charity organization.
In the video Keesey explains many of the criticisms that have been leveled against Invisible Children. The organization’s responses to other critiques can be found on its official website or Tumblr post that cover the majority of the questions IC has been asked. Moreover, interested individuals can tweet at #askICanything and Keesey will try to respond to a few questions every day.
If IC didn’t believe and commit to its in model, it wouldn’t try to so openly answer questions from its audience, which are so prominently displayed on its website.
Moreover, the video addresses finances and its financial model in allocating funds, which I addressed in my last PolicyMic editorial on this topic. IC divvies up its funds appropriately and in a manner that best addresses its mission and purpose, evidenced through its incredible success in not only raising awareness about the issue to the international community but also indirectly contributing to the decline of the LRA and its widespread violence.
IC’s mission and model are clear – it is crucial to raise awareness and build support before anyone can go and create any sort of effective change. Simply put, you cannot solve a problem unless you know one exists. IC has been around since 2003 and has made significant strides in helping reduce the presence and strength of the LRA through all components of its mission. It has made the international community more aware of the pressing problem in Central Africa, set up a call to action that many have acted upon, lobbied for additional action through their advocacy attempts, and assisted in rebuilding LRA-affected communities in Central Africa.
Arguably, advocacy and awareness are Invisible Children’s most successful components. Without these parts there is little chance that the direct development programs in Central Africa would have had as much impact and support. More people are invested in the outcome and more people contribute to its eventual success. These ground-level programs require significant support and investment from the local communities and their leaders. Without such support, these programs would lack the necessary foundation to thrive. Like IC has stated, 95% of the ground staff in Uganda (where a majority of their development programs are since the LRA left the country in 2006) is Ugandan.
Invisible Children also set up the LRA Crisis Tracker, which is currently the best tool to map the progress of the LRA and got a divided Congress to pass the LRA Disarmament bill, the largest bill ever passed that’s been aimed towards Africa (with bipartisan support no less), among its notable achievements. Through its involvement with governments and the international community, it has indirectly helped reduce LRA forces to the weakest point in years. IC has served Africans directly by working with local LRA-affected communities to rehabilitate child soldiers, provide education and sustainable economic opportunities, among other things.
Keesey also addresses “slacktivism” concerns, stressing that this video was meant to be an introduction to those who did not know about the issue before and another way for viewers to start getting involved. The “Kony 2012” campaign mobilizes young people and causes them to engage in a social issue they can initially understand in the easiest terms. It is not that IC is dumbing down the issue or purposefully trying to make it seem one-dimensional; it’s trying to present the issue in the most appealing manner that will draw supporters and activists. Throwing excessive information and complicated material in an introductory video will only alienate viewers, not create supporters – something the amazing video producers at IC understand.
This video was never meant to be taken as a comprehensive view or analysis of the situation, but as an introduction to a larger issue that people can get involved in from anywhere – including their computers. It’s up to the viewers to do their own research and delve into the conflict further. Essentially, the video serves as a call to action. Now it’s up to the individual to take up that mantle and act in ways that will create meaningful change. This responsibility is not shared by Invisible Children alone but belongs to all of us.
Even after all this hoopla you may not agree with IC’s methods, which is fine, but you cannot cheapen their accomplishments and underlying mission. These efforts are not three rich white kids sweeping in trying to save Africa, as the three co-founders have been portrayed in many instances. . This movement is about humans helping humans no matter where they live, and that’s really it. It isn’t about where you live or what ethnicity or skin color you are – its about your beliefs and values as a person. Do you stand for social justice and basic human rights? If so, you stand with IC. It really is that simple.
Without IC, this issue would not receive the media, publicity, or action it’s been receiving now. The least you can do, regardless of your position towards IC, is acknowledge IC’s massive contribution to serving Africa and making this issue one of international concern that transcends political boundaries. IC has committed supporters trying to make meaningful change. So while you may criticize, which you should, make sure you also get out there and act on your words in your own way. Otherwise you fall prey to many of the same accusations you leveled at Invisible Children. Doing something is always better than doing nothing. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in this world.” If you don’t like what you see, try something else.
Photo Credit: Flickr