In May 2010, Shannon Sedgwick Davis flew to South Africa to meet with the Elders, a nonprofit founded by Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, and Jimmy Carter to bring peace to places of violence. She had been asked to join the Elders’ advisory board in 2007—an offer you don’t turn down, Davis said.
As she walked beside one of her heroes, she asked whether or not she should pursue Joseph Kony. The Ugandan warlord has, in the past two decades, abducted tens of thousands of children, forced them to slaughter their own families and friends, and then enlisted them in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), his rebel army of child soldiers.
“Shannon, this one is clear,” her mentor said without pausing. “This one is black and white.”
For Davis, 39, the fight against Kony has long been a matter of passion and principle. Back in 2000, at the start of her legal career, Davis was drawn to social justice advocacy. That year, she began working for International Justice Mission (IJM), arguably the most acclaimed Christian human-rights organization today. At IJM, she did everything from fundraising to assisting victims to spearheading the Emmy-winning “Children for Sale” segment that aired on Dateline NBC.
Next, she worked for two foundations that funded groups like IJM: first as vice president of Geneva Global, now as CEO of the Bridgeway Foundation, the charitable arm of investment firm Bridgeway Capital Management (which has $4 billion under management). Based in Houston, the foundation gives half its after-tax profits to organizations working to protect human rights and stop genocide.
Davis first learned about Kony when Invisible Children, a nonprofit founded expressly to end LRA atrocities, sought Bridgeway funding for its 2006 short film. Invisible Children: Rough Cut tells the story of three Americans who travel to northern Uganda and witness firsthand the destruction caused by Kony and his followers.
“Our mission statement has in it ‘a world without genocide,’ ” Davis said. After meeting the founders of Invisible Children, “I realized we weren’t doing that. We were doing a lot of amazing things, but we weren’t stopping war—we were just picking up the pieces. I went to the board and said, ‘We need to mean what we say in our mission statement or change our mission statement.’ ”
In December, Invisible Children (best known for its viral anti-LRA campaign Kony 2012) announced that it was downsizing its efforts and would likely shutter most activities by the end of 2015. CEO Ben Keesey told GOOD magazine and The New York Times that the organization would stop producing short films, and operate in the United States only, lobbying Congress to support anti-LRA initiatives.
At least one reason, it’s safe to say, that Invisible Children is shuttering operations is that its goal is nearly completed: the LRA’s deadly force has been removed root and branch. And fewer people are to applaud for that removal than Davis.
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