The world watched the KONY 2012 video erupt this week. Millions (27,614,955 to be exact) of people watch Invisible Children’s half hour viral campaign to stop Joseph Kony. The video includes scenes of the atrocities that Joseph Kony has committed, a back-story of one of the founders of Invisible Children’s son, and short cameos of Jacob, a former child soldier survivor. The video talks about what you can do — make Kony famous through the use of social media to drive governmental intervention — and — buy a bracelet to help the cause.
My 11-year old cousin was completely consumed. This was the first time in her life that she had to face the reality that things like this were really happening in her perfect, optimistic world. It was shattering to see, but I could see the wheels of social justice rotating in her head. “Mommy, we have to buy this action box!”
With the viral spread of this campaign, came the viral spread of the debate towards the effectiveness and validity of the NGO. Articles that discuss the Kony Campaign say that “By making it an end in and of itself, awareness stands in for, and maybe even displaces, specific solutions to these very complicated problems. Campaigns that focus on bracelets and social media absorb resources that could go toward more effective advocacy, and take up rhetorical space that could be used to develop more effective advocacy.” I am not here to discuss whether Invisible Children’s approach is right or wrong — what needs to be address is now that millions have been informed, what are we going to do about it.
This campaign continuously internalizes for me that awareness is not enough. “That’s great, but what will you DO about this now that you are aware?” is the question I pose to people. The emphasis here is on ACTION. We at Not For Sale believe in changing culture. We in North America have to do that as well. If our attitudes towards change is that “we are aware”, we have to change culture to that “we are taking action.” That is the goal behind Not For Sale’s mission.
Being able to be behind the change of economic infrastructure is the focus of many of Not For Sale’s campaigns. That’s where change will lie. We focus on working upstream, creating futures by providing alternative, sustainable and meaningful employment. There are other ways to create change than intervention. When a society is empowered, that’s when justice will occur. We bring the concept of what you can do back home – let your purchase be your advocacy, let education be your advocacy. Act and seek justice.
With all the debate, scrutiny, and slacktivism that has come out of this campaign, the one thing that the Kony campaign has created is an entry-point for action. Take this and question what is next and how you can make that action happen. When my cousin came to me to get my thoughts on what she should do next (since she had already shared the link – Invisible Children’s concept of action), I told her about the social venture projects that we are working on at Not For Sale. She now wants to talk to her teacher at school, to give a presentation to her class, form a club with her classmates, and raise funds to directly support survivors abroad. She doesn’t feel as though she needs the $30 Kony bracelet anymore.
If the only goal of this campaign was to raise awareness, spark conversation, and create an entry point for people to begin seeking justice in this world, then this campaign has achieved it. I full-heartedly appreciate this campaign as it has spread the reach of people now aware that human-trafficking still exists. Whether people realize that this is a global issue, and not an isolated case in one country, is a different blog in itself, but for now let’s move forward. Ask yourself, what can I DO next? Take action. Make action your goal for 2012.