I’ve been watching the KONY 2012 campaign by Invisible Children with interest over the last 24 hours.
Chances are you’ve seen *something* on your social media channels about it. KONY 2012 has consumed my both my Facebook and Twitter Feed.
You can check out the 27 minute video here. It’s powerful. It’s emotional. And one thing is for sure, Invisible Children know how to tell a story.
In short, the video gives you a VERY good reason to STOP Joseph Kony. Kony is a Ugandan warlord who is responsible for some serious crimes against humanity. Sexual slavery, rape, abduction and forcing children to become soldiers. Horrible stuff.
There has been a lot of ‘talk’ over twitter / facebook / blogs as to whether or not this campaign is a brilliant success or a dangerous failure.
There are some powerful (and sometimes ill-informed) arguments to both sides.
1. Invisible children waste their money on ‘pointless’ stuff like administration (Bullshit alert)
There has been a huge amount of talk around how Invisible Children spend the money that’s raised. The old ‘look at how much they spent on administration’ argument has come up again (doesn’t it always?)’
Every time an argument around administration costs comes up, a little part of me wants to scream.
Why? Sandra from Good Intents sums it up nicely :
“Imagine walking into McDonalds and insisting that you will only pay for whatever is actually on your hamburger. You’ll give them money for the cost of the bun, ketchup, hamburger patty, and pickles. But you refuse to pay for staff wages, building rental, electricity, the iconic golden arches, and certainly not a cent of your money should go to commercials. Imagine what would happen if McDonalds attempted to run their business using only volunteers and selling their hamburgers out of whatever space they could get donated to them.
We would never expect a business to be successful without spending money on overheads, yet we expect aid organizations to work under exactly those conditions. The damage this does to the efficiency, effectiveness and professionalism of an organisation is very real. In aid it’s the aid recipients that have to deal with the lousy service, bad location, or restrictive business hours because donors only want to pay for what’s on the burger.”
Choosing a charity based on administration costs is dumb.
Why? Because low administration costs doesn’t mean that the quality of the work is good. Sure, their admin costs are 10% – but is the work they’re doing making a difference? Or are they cutting corners to keep admin costs down? You can read more about why you shouldn’t choose a charity based on administration costs here.
2. Invisible children don’t do enough in Uganda. They spend too much money on filming, travel and marketing. (Rubbish)
If you look at Invisible Children’s mission – you’ll see that they don’t just exist to build schools and provide scholarships. They’re also an advocacy organisation – this means that a lot of the $$ they raise go towards raising awareness. Advocacy = filming, marketing, speaking, travel. KONY 2012 is an extraordinarily successful advocacy campaign. (Seriously, it makes me drool it’s so awesome).
On that note, I could rant about the scrutiny non-profits get over their financial statements. There is so much anger over the high cost of salaries and ‘perks’. The truth is that people running non-profit organisations are doing the hardest bloody work on this planet. They’re working their asses off to change lives. And by industry standards, they’re usually paid less than everyone else.
Why is it okay that people who are driven by profit-no-matter-what, are rewarded? It’s okay for a mining executive to be paid millions of dollars, but a CEO of a non-profit that’s changing lives? HOW ATROCIOUS! Seems a little backwards don’t you think?
Maybe I’m a little biased – but people who are out there saving our environment and changing lives should be paid MORE than anyone else on the planet. They’re doing work that matters. They should be rewarded for that.
3. The film has an simplified message that doesn’t show the complexity of the situation in Uganda / Congo / Central Africa
In response to these claims – the answer is yes. Yes it has simplified an extremely complex situation. The 27 minute short film doesn’t do a great job at explaining that the war in Uganda ended years ago. Or that Joseph Kony isn’t even in Uganda anymore. Nor does it explain what happens once Kony is ‘stopped’. Will it actually make a difference if Kony is captured or killed? Will one of his leaders rise up to take his place? Nobody knows.
Yes, it sucks that it’s a simplified message. BUT, it’s a simplified message because that’s what SELLS. If they gave you all the facts, you’d end up so goddamn confused you wouldn’t know whether or not to take action. Marketing has to be kept simple to be effective – and they’ve simplified it. As a result, millions of people are going to take action. Will the action make a difference? Who knows. Could this action make things WORSE rather than better? Yes, that’s a possibility too.
So that begs the question : Should we TRY to make a difference even if we might make a situation worse? Is it better to try and fail rather than do nothing? What if there are lives at stake?
4. KONY 2012 has a distinct ‘white man saving africa’ vibe
Thanks to 30 years of advertisements that show starving children, famine and disease – our view of Africa is pretty dim. There is a general consensus that we need to go to Africa to ‘save’ the people there. I promise you, in your first few days of visiting Africa, that ideal gets shattered – the people there don’t need saving anymore than you or I do.
It’s crap that the film has a ‘white man saves the day’ feel about it – but again, it’s done because that’s what SELLS. We relate to people who are like us. Hence, the narrator and the film makers are like us. We like them. We like the story. We want to take action.
5. KONY 2012 is AWESOME because it got people talking (even people who don’t usually care).
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to stick my head into a meat grinder because no matter what I DO / SAY / BE, I can’t make people care. Even some of my closest friends – I suck at making them care about the work we do. Inspiring people to take action is hard. Finding a story that people are going to relate too is hard. The biggest challenge we face at One Girl, is connecting YOU to the work we’re doing.
Invisible Children have created something that makes people care. I watched the 27 minute film – and I cared. Millions of people are now going to know about child soldiers, sexual slavery, rape, abduction – this stuff doesn’t just happen in Uganda – Joseph Kony of Uganda is like Charles Taylor of Sierra Leone. The children of Sierra Leone have been through it all too – and now because of KONY 2012, I’ll be able to speak about it and you’ll understand.
KONY 2012 has set a new standard for story telling for non-profits. They’ve shown it’s possible to make ANYONE care. A majority of the people posting KONY 2012 in my Facebook feed, are people that have never posted about a ’cause’. But they are posting KONY 2012.
I think that’s nothing short of extraordinary.
In an awesome display of transparency, Invisible Children have responded to every critique that’s come up in the last 48 hours. (Brownie points for that). Check out their critiques page.
What are YOUR thoughts on KONY 2012?
*UPDATE – FRI 9 MARCH*
Rosebell is a Ugandan blogger who specialises in conflict and development. She’s created a response to KONY 2012 – and she raises some more great points about why KONY 2012 sucks (and why it’s also important that Kony is stopped).
There is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ with regards to KONY 2012. Just lots of in betweens.