Last week, amid the hubbub of the UN General Assembly and CGI, I received a kind invitation from Nothing But Nets to an event highlighting two worthwhile new endeavors.
Along with tasty treats, the main event was the launch of Exiled, a new show on MTV that is supported by the UN Foundation and Nothing but Nets. Fans of My Super Sweet 16 will find the format familiar, but this time the, what I’ll gently call “overly attended to,” rich kids spend some time with local families in the developing world. Here we saw Ava, who made her entrance into her sweet 16 party on a red chaise carried by shirtless Loyola polo players, visit a Karen village in Thailand (full episode). One of her tasks was cleaning up elephant dung. I think you can see where this is going.
There is humor in the disconnect, but also real value in the messaging. After seeing how the other half lives, the MTV audience is directed to ThinkMTV, where they can engage in discussion and help out directly (like by sending a $10 bed net to Africa).
Although MTV executive Dave Sirulnick noted that these kinds of shows are doing well in the ratings, kudos to MTV for continuing to take the “risk” of airing them. And kudos to the widely successful Nothing But Nets campaign for continuing to engage new grassroots constituencies in their critical work.The icing on the cake was a surprise appearance by Wyclef Jean to premiere a new video for “In My Name,” his new effort with Will.i.am, Oxfam, GCAP, Save the Children, and Comic Relief to draw attention to the MDGs.
It’s a cool concept with cool messaging (and a cool video). The idea is that in 2000 at the UN Millennium Summit, all world leaders signed a pact as representatives of their people to end extreme poverty by 2015 (embodied in the Millennium Development Campaign). “In My Name” is a grassroots effort to call in that commitment, made in the name of every citizen. They’re asking for submissions of user-made videos, which will be mashed-up and shown to “leaders at the UN.” Is this the easily digestible messaging that the MDGs have long-needed? It just might be.