September 25, 2011
You might be aware that I have a love-hate relationship with trendy activism/development. I’ve always been interested in development, but I’ve been slowly opening my eyes a little more to what actually works and what kinda works and what is actually detrimental. My first foray into what we’ll call “sexy development” was Invisible Children, as most of you know. It’s a pretty sizable tag over on the right, and I was a founding member of the Schools for Schools club at ASU. My relationship with IC has been a close one – it means a lot to me and I care about the crisis in central Africa a lot. To me, IC was the amazing development group that was doing things I had never heard of.
As I grew academically and otherwise, I learned more about what’s happening on the ground in places like Uganda. I realized that lending circles have been going on everywhere for years. I figured out the economics of why in-kind donations are detrimental. I stared the conflict mineral movement in the eye and realized what it’s really done in the DRC. Finally, I realized that IC here and IC in Gulu are very different. Here, it’s the trendy commercial non-profit with the big vans and the MTV-esque movies that started small and grew huge raising money to help people. In Uganda, IC was the small group of naive kids that tried to pioneer forth and finally did what everybody else was doing.
But something happened recently that I thought set IC apart from some of the other trendy activists, and that’s the LRA Crisis Tracker. Invisible Children and Resolve have been working for almost a year to set up radio towers throughout the DRC to establish warning systems and to better track LRA activity. Crisis mapping has become a pretty big field recently, and its use in this region has the potential to be of tremendous help. The information on the mapping tool comes from a variety of sources, including human rights NGOs and journalist reports, and is being updated constantly to give an accurate account of LRA activity and displacement migration. If you’re interested in the LRA or crisis-mapping you should check out the site and peruse the methodology book.