Tuesday, April 24, 2012

KONY 2012: a success? Actually...

So, April 20th has passed and when we all woke up the following morning, the world was not covered in posters of Kony, as predicted by the campaigners.

Just a couple of headlines to sum up the 'event': "Kony 2012 “Cover The Night” Event Is A Gigantic, Pathetic Flop", "Kony 2012's 'Cover the Night' continues despite controversy", "Kony 2012 Cover the Night fails to move from the internet to the streets".

Yet, for the organisers, it was a success.

Well,  the whole thing makes me now quite sad.

- Sad because even if it is not really clear how many people participated in the event worldwide, it looks like the move from digital to direct action has not happened. 
- Sad that the campaigners refuse to acknowledge that the results were not what they expected (see new video on what's next below).
- Sad that the criticisms of the campaign, of its founder, of its success - or lack thereof- might either be true or incredibly damaging if they are not.
- And sad because, I did watch the video, although admittedly did not pledge to participate, but still, I did not go out and started sticking posters everywhere.

But putting emotions aside for a minute: why have I not done so? And what are the key lessons to learn from this failure - or very limited success?

First, I don't want to believe that people simply do not care. I fear that the problem resides in what the supporters have been asked to do: there is too big a jump between 'watch the video', 'give your support', 'share on your Facebook page' and 'spend the night out and do something relatively dangerous, possibly illegal- even if you have done a good deed just before it!'. Maybe I am just lazy, but there has to be an in between step.

Second, the organisers should have not been scared in admitting a partial defeat: building an 'active support network' takes not only time but most importantly trust. And there lies, in my opinion the other main lesson: it is true that jealous criticism is almost in the DNA of big surprising successes; but if you see reports on the founder being arrested for allegedly masturbating in public, you hear rumours that Kony is actually dead already and that campaign funds have not been properly spent, then, even as an initially loyal supporter, you might want to get your facts right before being actively associated with this campaign and cover your city with posters.

If Kony 2012 had really nothing to hide, which I have no reason or evidence to doubt, it would have been a sensible thing to simply say 'ok, this was not great but we move on' instead of saying 'we have succeeded and we move on' that sounds really quite odd. Anyway, will keep you posted, because, no matter what,  I would really like to publish one day THE good news of Kony's arrest.

Monday, April 16, 2012

KONY 2012: what is right, not what is possible.

A new video on the Kony 2012 campaign has been recently released.

Fascinating. The original video has been viewed more than 100 million times (in just over a month). As with every big hit, it was also heavily criticised: too superficial, too white, too sentimental. Maybe, maybe and maybe but so what? Is the idea to try to do something about what we find wrong, or just to create a perfect product?

The second video tries to respond indirectly to some of the criticisms (more details, more blacks, more to the point) and highlights the impact so far. Actually, while the first had all the ingredients for virality, (a part from a key one, length: who would have imagined that a 30 minutes video would go viral? Will need to update my virality recipe!) this second one is, well... a second one, so, by definitition, it will not be as successful. But there is a bigger point to make at this stage: the campaign wants to move from being mainly 'digital' to 'physical'. Specifically, on the 20th of April they are asking their supporters to write to their local or national politician, and, when the sun sets, go out and carpet bomb with flyers their city - or do any other noticeable legal activity that will put pressure on their government and make Kony known and eventually tracked down.

If they manage to convince enough people to do it, it will be a big first, I think: from 'clicktivism'- very easy from the comfort of your desk - to real action. If then Kony is found and arrested, it will be an unbelievable
success. We will all need to think twice before coming up with the classical excuse for not doing something (i.e. 'It will never work. It's impossible'); but politicians, above all, will need to take notice and maybe, just maybe, start doing what is right on top of what is possible, what is realistically achieveable, never mind what is 'in our national interest'.

But what if they don't manage...will this whole campaign be remembered as a great stunt, great use of social media and worthwhile effort but ultimately a failed campaign?

I wait with anticipation and in the meanwhile...am drafting a couple of letters!