When I used to tell my friends that I worked with an organization called Invisible Children, their response would usually be some variation of “Have you found the children?” One person even referred to my work as part of the “imaginary friends” club.

That was before “Kony 2012,” a half-hour-long film produced by the organization about the current conflict in Central Africa. The film has now been watched by 80 million people. Now when I tell people I work with Invisible Children, the first thing they say is, “Have you seen Kony?”

I have been involved with Invisible Children for four years now and helped start Georgetown’s chapter last year. I will not claim to make an unbiased analysis of the film. I am a passionate supporter of Invisible Children and its mission. But I am also a student here at Georgetown who has been thought to think critically about the way organizations work.

Contrary to what some may believe, “Kony 2012” does not encompass all that is Invisible Children. Invisible Children is a nonprofit that, according to its mission statement, “uses film, creativity and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore communities harmed by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa to peace and prosperity.” It was started by three college students who decided to make a documentary about the conflict to share what they had seen with others. From the start, the organization has maintained a strong student focus and support base.

Regardless of the criticism, for a group that was started by three young men, the success of the film is unprecedented. It has catapulted the name of Invisible Children into the realm of recognition that only non-governmental organizations like Amnesty International, the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders typically enjoy. And the intention of the film, to make Joseph Kony famous, has been achieved millions of times over. Whether or not you agree with the film, the fact that a noted war criminal indicted by the International Criminal Court has become a household name is remarkable. The loudest cries in support of Invisible Children’s cause have been matched by equally loud cries from critics who call the organization corrupt, pompous and deceptive. They say that the film is overly simplistic and misrepresentative of the conflict. The best way that I have found to respond to those criticisms is to tell people to consider the context.

No one denies that the film is a simplification of the conflict in Central Africa. The point of the film is to captivate audiences, inspiring people to get involved to end the war and rebuild the region.

Our generation has grown up with an overload of information. Getting people to voluntarily sit down to do nothing but watch a documentary for 30 minutes is next to impossible. But Invisible Children found a way to do that with this film, by conveying the facts about the conflict in Central Africa through the personal story of someone devoting his life to the cause. This style of storytelling made the film inspiring to those hardest to reach: young people aged 18-25. It has taken the issue from flying under the radar to being on the cover of Time magazine in under two weeks. That itself is a remarkable feat.

The last image of the “Kony 2012” film is a quote from Victor Hugo that reads, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time is now.”

The idea to stop a warlord who abducted children was crafted by three college students. Now it has become a social movement — bigger than Invisible Children’s founders or “Kony 2012” or Invisible Children — that is changing how ideas take shape in the world today. I first got involved with Invisible Children because I was passionate about their cause. Now I’m involved because I want to be a part of translating  the excitement caused by the film into action.

K.C. Harris is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and the co-president for Invisible Children at Georgetown.

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