Alright, so those of you who are Facebook friends of mine know I already threw up the Kony 2012 video, then took it down about five minutes later after someone posted a link to a blog listing a lot of criticisms regarding Invisible Children and their work as a Non-Profit. Of course, you may not have seen this at all, but I want to talk about this anyway. This isn’t necessarily a critique so much as it is me trying to be wise about what I support.
I hate oppression, especially when it happens to kids. When I first say the original Invisible Children film, I was heart broken that kids had to run into cities in the evening and hide in basements and sewers to avoid being kidnapped, raped, drugged, and forced into becoming soldiers in a war that has ravaged Sudan and Uganda for going on 30 years now.
I also hate blind activism, especially when I participate in it. I found myself provoking an argument yesterday on Facebook about the whole matter with someone who I thought was just being a jerk and trying to make himself look better than everyone by criticizing the Kony 2012 movement, and I wound up looking like the idiot in the end anyway. Funny how that works out, huh? Anyway, when we don’t know what a company does with our cash (which isn’t the case with IC), donating to them isn’t a good idea. There’s a lot of charities and ministries people donate to out there who really misuse the money they receive. Organizations like Ministry Watch and Charity Navigator exist to make sure we’re not being stupid with our money.
There’s also the method of the NPO to consider. Is what they’re doing really helping, or is it a way to make people feel better about themselves while not doing much to help at all? Worse yet, is it work with good intention that causes more harm than good? Are they making temporary solutions for problems more complex and difficult to fix, tied to a culture so different from our own that we don’t fully understand how to react to it?
I did not consider these things when I posted that video or when I got into that argument, so to those affected by my actions in those cases, I really am sorry. My words were uneducated and I did not consider the potential validity behind your stances. This was a very unwise move on my part, as my research has brought me to new conclusions about Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 video campaign. A lot of things IC has done I like and support, but recent research has led me to the point where I am not sure I can support this cause for several reasons.
- I am concerned about the proper use of funds within IC. They carry a relatively high overhead for their company, with an AFR (Administrative and Fundraising) around 40%, with travel and salary each getting 10% in that boat. That’s not nearly as bad as many other charities, but there’s a lot more of that money that could be poured back into Centra Africa Programs.
- I think they spend too much time on “awareness” and not enough time on action. It’s awesome that you can get a viral video out there and get P. Diddy and Rihanna talking about it, but being loud doesn’t mean you’re making a difference. Awareness is important, yes. People need to know what’s going on to do something about it, but is what you’re DOING backing up what you’re talking about? IC has some great, great things going on with helping to rebuild schools and bringing soldiers out of the LRA and home, but I want to see more going to action than to just videos, T-shirts and fliers in the US.
- Nonviolent intervention. Kony has done some awful, awful things, but pressure on governments to arrest him and put him to trial leaves me a litte bit concerned. This point is purely a matter of my personal views, but I don’t want to lend my support to something that going to turn into revenge against a man who, though having done awful things, is still human.
- This I need to look more into, but is IC at its roots working alongside a culture to come to a new peace, or is it doing the leading? In cases like this, redemption and reconciliation needs to come from the culture itself. Outsiders, like IC, can wind up doing more harm than good if they’re not careful, and need to let people within the country be the leaders to new horizons. The more in the background a charity acts, the better.
So is supporting IC and Kony 2012 a bad thing? Despite my objections, I’m not going to say yes. The points I’ve made are, to some extent, a matter of subjectivity. You might look at their finances and approve of how they’re used. You might love the methods IC uses in Sudanese and Ugandan culture. That’s OK. However, I find my money better used elsewhere (and not in my own pockets, mind you), and I know of charities with much smaller overheads and causes I am more inclined to support (Preemptive Love Coalition, for example).
If you’re going to support IC, or any NPO for that matter, I just ask you do your homework and know exactly what you’re doing. Be smart about your activism, and drive your passion with reason and discernment. If you can do that, then I will stand by you in your right to support whatever charity your little heart desires. I’m not distancing myself from IC completely, but as far as this Kony thing goes, I’m stepping back.
Tomorrow I’m going to talk about being a smart activist. See you then!