KONY AND HIS INVISIBLE CHILDREN


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In a world where the next ice bucket challenge is a tweet away, how the organization handled the rush of cash, rode a wave of criticism, and dealt with the subsequent attention vacuum can be a lesson to every organization hoping for its own viral hit. In March , three young amateur documentary filmmakers from southern California—Russell, Laren Poole, and Bobby Bailey—went to Africa in search of a story.

The producers of Kony 2012 say they've learned their lesson, but critics aren't so sure

That story nearly killed them; while in Uganda, a truck bombed by the LRA exploded in front of their eyes. After their experience, the filmmakers spent a month living in northern Uganda, witnessing the children who lived in fear of abduction. In , their documentary, called Invisible Children: Rough Cut , was released.

KONY 2012

Over the next few years, the group started doing more work to engage policymakers around finding the LRA leader and rescuing the children he abducted. The cause started gaining traction. Global Night Commute , an Invisible Children event held in , saw approximately 80, people sleeping in their city centers to raise awareness of the thousands of Ugandan children abducted by Kony.

But Invisible Children was just getting started. Then came Kony Over million people viewed it within six days, and the money came pouring in. Oprah started tweeting about the film. So did Ryan Seacrest.


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That money was quickly used to expand its operations in Uganda, Congo, and the Central African Republic, where it set up a global staff to help with protection, defection, and rehab efforts for former LRA soldiers. It completely overwhelmed the organization, which was inundated with media requests including one from us, which went unanswered in the craziness and saw its website break under the pressure of the campaign.

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At Foreign Policy , Michael Wilkerson criticized the film for simplifying the conflict. Grant Oyston, the thenyear-old author of a popular Tumblr called Visible Children, wrote in an email to Co. But after the awareness aspect, the actual means they propose to employ becomes a bit cloudy. After the video went viral, Jason Russell—the director of Kony —had a mental breakdown in the nude on the streets of San Diego. The clip of this breakdown , while not as popular as Kony , garnered millions of views.


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This is at least partially because, in , Kony was forced out of Uganda and into the jungle, where he is rumored to still reside with his band of militant children. Every year we had to find a new way to reengage citizens and policymakers. In other words, the Kony campaign may have been just as important for the widespread awareness it raised and ostensibly the political pressure it created than for any part of its role in bringing down Kony. Grant Oyston, the thenyear-old author of a popular Tumblr called Visible Children, wrote in an email to Co.

But after the awareness aspect, the actual means they propose to employ becomes a bit cloudy.

Video Killed a Star Charity: The downfall of Invisible Children

After the video went viral, Jason Russell—the director of Kony —had a mental breakdown in the nude on the streets of San Diego. The clip of this breakdown , while not as popular as Kony , garnered millions of views. This is at least partially because, in , Kony was forced out of Uganda and into the jungle, where he is rumored to still reside with his band of militant children. Every year we had to find a new way to reengage citizens and policymakers.

Invisible Children, Group Behind 'Kony ,' Closing Because Of Funding Issues | HuffPost

In other words, the Kony campaign may have been just as important for the widespread awareness it raised and ostensibly the political pressure it created than for any part of its role in bringing down Kony. This is a relatively new predicament for nonprofits: what to do after a viral hit offers an unprecedented moment in the sun, accompanied by more cash than they know what to do with. The Invisible Children option—spending all the cash in one go—is an especially risky decision for organizations that have small budgets.

On the other hand, there is something to be said for holding onto money and saving it up for future campaigns, as the ALS Foundation is doing specifically directing a portion of money towards research over the next few years and deliberating on what to do with the rest. For nonprofits working on issues that will be around for the foreseeable future, this is probably the best option.

The organization is also trying to create a large volunteer network of activists that will hold leaders accountable on the LRA situation. For other organizations launching initiatives that they hope will turn viral, there a few lessons to take away from the Invisible Children experience: Be prepared. Make sure you can withstand criticism and large amounts of traffic.

Truth about Kony

Control the narrative. Come up with a clear path for how you want to spend money if you end up with more than you expected. Do you care about expanding? Then consider saving your cash. If not—if there is an immediate need in the world that your money can address—think about how spending it all at once will affect your long-term plans. And once all the dust has settled, deploy more initiatives to keep your name in the spotlight. Otherwise, you might just fade away.


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