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How to Raise $500,000 from Middle Class White Kids (and Why the Red Cross Never Will)

I learned about this story from my 12 year old son.  He heard about it last week and has been passionately evangelizing this story since that point.  He is recruiting his friends, his extended family, his church youth group.  He wrote all the newspapers and TV stations in the area.  He convinced his junior high school to show a clip on their daily announcement period.  I have had no involvement in this to this point.  He is not alone.  Youth across America have caught on to this story and have been mobilized.  Why?

END A WAR - April 29, 2006Remarkable.  Seth Godin encourages us to make our product so noteworthy that people will remark about it and want to tell stories about it.  Chartruese tells us to not be blankity-blank "pedestrian", meaning don't be common or average.

Three 20-something kids with a video camera wind up in northern Uganda.  They see incredible horror and encounter heartbreaking suffering, most especially among children.

Instead of turning their backs, they can't stop thinking about it.  They decide to do something about it.

What can three white kids do to stop 20 years of horror and war?  They decide that alone they can't do much, but if they can mobilize enough other youth, they can influence the powerful.

They know their audience - other youth.  They use multimedia, they use rock music,  they use myspace, they make music videos, they portray things raw and gritty and honest and authentic.

They first tell their story of their experience in Northern Uganda about  the Night Commuters in a documentary:

They then recruit other youth to spend several months on the road in RVs, ala MTV Road Rules (but with a heart), showing this documentary across the United States in a National TourOver 1 million people wind up seeing the film.

They create a message that youth can make a difference:


They make their message viral and easy to share.  Buy a DVD of their documentary and they send you two - one to share with someone.

They brilliantly merge online content with offline activities, such as house parties and private screenings.  They provide materials to allow people to host their own house parties.

People who sign up online get regular updates on their Ipod to motivate and give them insider information.

They create a nationwide event where those who are moved by what they have seen, so they can participate and feel like they can make a difference:


They even make a music video to entertain while they try to touch a heart.  This is not pedestrian.  You do not see the Red Cross, or Feed the Children, or the United Way doing these things.  And that is why none of them have or will tap into the wealthy youth donor market of America (unless it is an extreme disaster).

They create enough buzz that the story is covered by CNN, by Oprah, by local and national press, so millions more are exposed to the story.

I asked my son why he is involved.  He said:

 I am participating in this because we in America have so much and have so few worries and I believe that we are responsible to help those that do have to worry about such things as war right next door and knowing friends or family members that have been abducted or killed.  I want these children to be invisible no more and I want the world to know about this so that this war can stop and these children can start to live a normal life.

Remarkable.  They have told their story so well and in the right manner that my 12 year old son was able to absorb and synthesize this message and create a motivation and a hope in him to try to make a difference. 

My son has convinced me to support the Global Night Commute on April 29, 2006 as we walk with hundreds of others in our town in solidarity with the children of Uganda. 

Care to come along?

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13 Comments/Trackbacks

» Invisible Children is Viral from LeaderNotes
I am passionate about the great message and work of Invisible Children. The guys from Invisible Children came to BY... [Read More]

» Something. Really. from MidMarketMaven
Tim's post on LeaderNotes about the Invisible Children got me thinking.  Macy's guest post there reinforced the message.  I've spent several hours today reading about and watching the videos prepared by the Invisible Children, Inc. I won't pr... [Read More]

Tim, what a remarkable story and this story could energize teens everywhere. I am especially interested in this story because I am working with other professionals to create a brain friendly environment for urban teens -- a place where they too will excel and feel productive. Your story is one I will share from time to time in our new enterprise -- thanks for writing this winner! There should be a "Golden Globe" for best blogs so this can win!

Ellen, I agree - this story is really remarkable and I am so impressed with what these kids have accomplished and the vision they have, and their belief that they need to and can do something about it.

Thank you for posting this blog. I think that it is so important for people to be aware of what is going on in northern Uganda. The things that are going on are horrible and the American people need to know about it! I have decided to take action by traveling to Uganda this summer. I will be doing humanitarian work and helping to promote peace throughout Uganda. Thank you for your efforts in helping to get this story out.

Allison >> that is great. please send us some photos and inspiring stories that we can post on leadernotes.

» The Invisible Children: Night Commuters of Uganda from thoughts
Sometimes the world sucks. I'm not often reminded of it in my comfortable North American lifestyle, but every now and then you remember that running out of Pepsi isn't such a bad thing. Today it started with an interesting marketing... [Read More]

» I've Got Soul, But I'm Not A Soldier from Know More Media
Viral. How do you craft a message so powerful that it takes on a life of its own, passing from person to person without any control or manipulation from the original source? My wife went stopped by the used bookstore... [Read More]

» Time Magazine’s 2006 List of Leaders from LeaderNotes
Time Magazine published its 2006 list of the most influential people. While there were leaders in perhaps all five categories, I was most interested in the categories of “Leaders & Revolutionaries” but also found leaders and exampl... [Read More]

» Global Night Commute Report from LeaderNotes
“On April 29th a nation closed their eyes to open the world’s….Hold On.” You may remember the great cause that we reported in April on Leadernotes called Invisible Children. It caught the attention of the likes of Seth God... [Read More]

I am ashamed to say this, but i just found out about this... In Europe this campaign is not so very well known, and i really think these videos have to be made public in every possible way to everyone in the world.
Ada tour

Let me tell you something: the conflicts that exist in Africa are controlled conflicts that 500,000$ will not change. Politics have some strong interests for conflicts in that area.

YOU GUYS ARE MISSING THE POINT! Invisible Children is a complete scam! It's a pyramid scheme. You people are posting the opposite of what the real goal of this article should do. ICC has failed to submit reports to the BBB.


ICC is being banned in states, provinces, and even some countries. What started out as a good charity has quickly switched over. 75 percent of the proceeds are going to these executives for their fancy cars. Hardly any help is going out. Your money is just helping them build more fancy commercials. The executives are now calling themselves "movie directors" The only thing that would help these children in Uganda is a new leader and a new government. Your money is just helping out people who don't need it.

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