Over the last several weeks, our organization Invisible Children, has seen what is possible when you have the right idea at the right time…and have spent nine years unwittingly laying a foundation for it.
Our idea was to make Uganda's Joseph Kony, the notorious head of the Lord's Resistance Army famous—not as a celebrity—but as an international war criminal who has committed mass atrocities with impunity for 26 years.
We made a 29-minute documentary about what he had done and what policy experts and region leaders told us needed to happen if Kony was to be apprehended and his crimes permanently stopped.
We set an ambitious goal aiming to get 500,000 people to view the film before the end of 2012. Instead, it vastly exceeded our expectations. The film swept the globe and surged past 100 million views in a matter of days.
But beyond the exposure for Invisible Children, and much more importantly, the global reaction to our film started real conversations about international justice, development work, Joseph Kony, and whether there was any action—like a tweet—that was too small.
In the weeks since the film’s release we’ve been amazed by the responses from middle schoolers who are bringing up Joseph Kony in their social studies classes and equally amazed that U.S. Senators and Representatives are putting partisan politics aside for the sake of a conflict in one of the remotest parts of Central Africa.
Between the House and Senate, 107 Members of Congress have signed onto bipartisan resolutions that call for robust U.S. support for regional efforts to protect communities and help bring Joseph Kony to justice.
Many have expressed surprise at Invisible Children’s apparent overnight success.
But that is hardly the case. We have actually produced 12 documentaries and met more than three million people face-to-face during our 13 tours around the country where our representatives show our films at high schools and colleges and answer questions about the conflict.
When Invisible Children launches a new campaign, it’s not just the forty people in our San Diego office launching it, it's the millions we have met on the road.
There were many celebrities that shared KONY 2012 in the first hours and days after its release through social networks and other means. We are so grateful that they used their influence to share the story, but I do not believe that those celebrities would have heard about the film if our core supporters hadn’t rallied around the campaign in their own local communities and shared it in such great numbers using their personal networks.
The original goal of Cover the Night, as introduced in the KONY 2012 film, was to make Joseph Kony famous.
That happened in a matter of days thanks to millions of people around the world who shared the KONY 2012 films.
The event has expanded into a global day of action that actually started earlier this week with daily “missions” to engage our national and international leaders.
Tonight, Friday, April 20, 2012, we are earning the right to be heard globally by serving locally.
Everyone who wants to participate is encouraged to form a small team with friends, colleagues, or neighbors. Each team should volunteer in their own communities for a few hours (picking up trash, washing cars for free, donating blood, etc.) and then spend the evening promoting justice for Joseph Kony in creative ways (posters in the windows, sidewalk chalk, painting a mural, etc.)
What I’ve learned in the seven years that I’ve worked for Invisible Children is that a personal, human interaction is more valuable than a digital one.
Cover the Night in its simplest form is an event that acts out that truth. We’re taking the anonymous conversation about a viral video into the streets where the relationships are formed and the future is forged.
We always tell our supporters, “You are more powerful than you think you are.” When they begin to believe that about themselves, amazing things start to happen.
We’ve seen students wake up to their own power and begin organizing school-wide screenings of Invisible Children documentaries or donate $12 each month to our scholarship program. Other students call their senators and lead local lobby meetings.
There are thousands of these students out there –some of whom have grown up and become teachers or filmmakers in their own rights.
They are the ones who will be leading the way tonight.
They may be young, but they can earn the right to be heard online and around the globe by acting offline in their own communities.
We know that these stories will be rolling in for weeks and Invisible Children will do its best to share those stories and amplify the life change that will come as a result of trying to promote justice for Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, a man whom many people had never heard of just six weeks ago.
But rather than wait to hear the reports of life change, we encourage you to go out into your community tonight with your family or friends and experience it for yourself.
Noelle Jouglet is the Director of Communications at Invisible Children.