This week, the international community witnessed what the Wall Street Journal has dubbed the fastest-growing viral video in the history of the Internet. Invisible Children, a nonprofit dedicated to arresting the international war criminal, Joseph Kony, aired a 30-minute video about Kony's atrocities in Uganda that pretty much rocked our worlds. You probably saw it too: to date, more than 50 million people have viewed the video on YouTube.
Yes, 50 million. For a single, three-day-old video made by a nonprofit, that number is staggering. But it reminds me of one very important truth that should give all of us a lot of hope: big movements start really small.
In the video, co-founder of Invisible Children Jason Russell says that his life changed after one conversation he had with a young boy he met in Uganda. That boy, Jacob Acaye, told Russell that he would rather die than continue to live in fear of Kony. This one conversation was the spark that ignited Russell's eight-year-long campaign to get Joseph Kony behind bars.
So, when I watched Kony 2012, this is what I saw: What began as an interview between two people is now a global discourse involving tens of millions of people. Although Invisible Children's effectiveness in actually changing the situation in Uganda is debatable, nobody can deny that the organization has succeeded amazingly in thrusting an obscure conflict into the mainstream consciousness. And this is where I find great hope. To me, Kony 2012 has meant that our individual efforts to change the world for the better may one day reach and touch more people than we ever imagined.
This video is a reminder that all around the world, in places you have never heard of, people you've never met are taking what steps they can to change their lives and their communities for the better. Because my nonprofit partners exclusively with indigenous communities, I've seen people in some of the remotest corners of the world working diligently for worthy causes in total obscurity. These communities oftentimes don't even have Internet access or any reliable way of reaching a large audience or sympathetic ears. However, as marginalized and underrepresented as these indigenous communities often are, their leaders continue on without any significant help or attention.
I think many of us working in the nonprofit sector can relate to this. We have days when we feel like nobody is listening, nobody cares, and the problems we're working so hard to solve will never get the attention they need. But on those days, it's comforting to think that a nonprofit made the world's fastest-growing viral video. What's more, that nonprofit made ten earlier documentaries, none of which garnered as much buzz as they sought. That's discouraging. But that didn't stop them. And now, eight years after the voice of one Ugandan boy moved one filmmaker to action, the whole world is talking about it.