Invisible Children is a non-profit that’s become incredibly powerful and popular among youth culture within the last 5 years based on unique ways of engaging today’s technically savvy youth culture marketplace and increasing awareness about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony who continues to abduct and create children soldiers, among many other monstrosities across Central Africa.
On Monday, March 5th Invisible Children posted a powerful YouTube video called Kony 2012 that outlines what Kony’s rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has done for years and how the organization hopes to end the incredibly brutal situation in Uganda. The video has gone viral fast, with close to 33 million views as of Thursday, March 8th and creating a Facebook phenomenon across the globe as well as a Twitter frenzy with re-tweets and #stopkony trending worldwide.
Invisible Children is yet another powerful example of how engaging young people especially via social media is changing the world. From Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube vids launching Arab Spring, to this latest international engagement against the LRA and Kony, there’s a new voice from the people that are making an enormous difference—much of which is stemming from youth culture—a generation that’s grown-up in a digital age.
But it’s not just the viral videos vignettes or usage of social media that’s sparked a movement from Invisible Children, it’s also how they’ve managed to provide tools to people to physically do something in their local area. This sort of volunteer engagement is crucial for growing a non-profit. As we’ve seen in our Summer Youth Culture Studies which focus on a series of humanitarian, eco, volunteer, and non-profit consumer insights, those that resonant the most tend to be those that can both engage via new media and provide a “project” for engagement on a local level.
On April 20th, Invisible Children is asking supporters of the cause to wheatpaste their hometowns in a street art fashion with posters to bring Kony to justice. The video features artists such as Shepard Fairey talking about the power of spreading the message one poster at a time. Tapping into the street art cred gives viability to more people especially a younger demographic that links street art to cause-related rebellion.
In addition, Invisible Children is engaging people to buy “action kits” complete with posters and supplies for spreading the message and an innovative bracelet. The bracelets are on a red string with a round metallic nameplate that says Kony stamped into it, along with a number which is one-of-a-kind. Members can log into the Invisible Children site and enter in the number which racks up the number of signed petitions to the campaign. It’s this number of signed petitions that supports the foundation’s ongoing campaign to recruit 20 cultural icons (i.e. Bono, Rihanna) and 20 politicians (i.e. John Kerry) to continue to make a difference on Capitol Hill.
So far, the political engagement has worked for Invisible Children, keeping the issue front and center, even resulting in President Obama sending in 100 troops last October into Uganda to help train Uganda forces against the LRA and to capture Kony.
It should also be noted that Invisible Children has a 3 out of 4 Charity Navigator Rating, which is no small feat. (Check-out their financials for more). This also acts to get the attention of Congress. The organization successfully lobbied and got passed the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act in 2010.
Invisible Children, which is based in San Diego, has also done a great job of making various brands in youth culture and action sports aware of its campaign. Billabong’s Design for Humanity in June of 2010 donated its fundraising efforts to Invisible Children, featuring them in their festival and showcasing the non-profit’s powerful black and white photo exhibition.
Invisible Children also made a huge impact as part of the non-profit festival area on the Vans Warped Tour last summer. Overall, not only is their mission incredibly worthy, but the way they’ve engaged people globally deserves a second look.
Check out the video for more.