Laren Poole came about his cause, Invisible Children, completely by accident. He and two friends were documenting the refugee situation in Sudan six years ago when they crossed the border into northern Uganda and came upon a completely different conflict they didn’t know about: kids who were being abducted by the thousands and forced to fight in the bush as child soldiers.
The makeshift filmmaking crew stayed for two months and released the documentary Invisible Children. From there, the movie evolved into a global movement and nonprofit organization that is using the transformative power of story to change lives.
In this short video interview, conducted at Social Capital Markets 2009 in San Francisco, Poole talks about the organization’s effort to get governments around the world to stop Joseph Kony, leader of the rebel movement in Uganda and “the world’s worst criminal,” in Poole’s words, from forcing thousands of children into armed conflict.
Toward that end, Invisible Children has held a series of large rallies nationwide, organized a march on Washington, DC, and raised funds to build 10 high schools in Uganda. Throughout it all, they’ve used the tools of the Internet and social media to rally attention to the cause. “We’ve unleashed this young generation on this problem and documented what they’ve done about it,” he says.
One highlight of the awareness campaign came this past spring when Invisible Children staged a weeklong series of rescue events in 100 cities around the world. The crowds of mostly young people included 80,000 people in Chicago who stayed until, at the end, 500 hard-core supporters managed to earn Oprah Winfrey’s attention by camping outside her office building. “We held Oprah hostage,” Poole says, tongue in cheek, until she finally put them on her show on May 1.