Learning from KONY 2012: Let our voices be heard

Whether you love it, hate it, or know nothing about it, the online phenomenon that is the “KONY2012” video offers many valuable lessons for us in communicating the work we do.

What is this KONY 2012 all about?

Never has a video – and certainly not one created by an NGO – generated such heated and conflicting responses, or achieved such immediate global reach. Fast approaching the 100-million-viewer mark, in the week following its launch, coverage of the KONY2012 video infiltrated every major news outlet in the world, and ignited a storm of commentary among Facebookers and Tweeters of all ages.

If you have not yet seen it, KONY2012 is a slick, expensive 30-minute film produced by a US-based NGO, Invisible Children, as part of an international campaign to arrest the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony. It gives a brief history of the LRA, and creates a sense of urgency about the fate of the children abducted into the LRA. Viewers are told that the solution lies in their hands, through passing on the video, contacting US government representatives and celebrities, and buying bracelets and posters to spread the message.

The video has attracted enormous support, but also enormous criticism. Detractors accuse it of being dangerously simplified, patronizing, inaccurate and manipulative. To learn more, I encourage you to read some of the truly excellent pieces of investigation, analysis, satire and reflection published on the issue, including a growing number of responses from Ugandans.

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