THE BLOG
09/05/2014 06:22 BST | Updated 08/07/2014 06:59 BST

#BringBackOurGirls: A Turbo-Charged Global Movement

Just over three weeks after 276 school girls were kidnapped in Nigeria, a global movement has come together to demand action. Remarkably this uncoordinated, unplanned global campaign has achieved its first significant result: US and UK support has been accepted by the Nigerian government. NGOs, media and world leaders should take note - this is modern organising at a global scale.

In the week immediately following the kidnapping editors commissioned more pieces on George Clooney's rumoured engagement than on the capture of a school full of girls. But it turns out we do care more about what happens to innocent girls in a different part of the world and individuals used what tools they had to speak out.

Campaigners in Abuja started tweeting using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. The Guardian's Anne Perkins wrote a piece "200 girls are missing in Nigeria - so why does nobody care?". A Nigerian student living in Germany started a petition on Change.org asking leaders to act.

These efforts, mostly uncoordinated, began to snowball. Anne Perkin's piece was shared over 40,000 times on Facebook and Twitter. #BringBackOurGirls began trending on Twitter, as people like you and me, in different parts of the world shared the message. The petition starter searching for a way to promote her petition saw the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag and adopted it too. Her petition has now been backed by over 500,000 people. Malala amplified the call - taking part in the #BringBackOurGirls meme she rallied her army of girls from around the world. A movement was born.

Media, politicians and NGOs who are used to leading from the front have instead joined the chorus. Leaders including UN Education Envoy Gordon Brown added credibility. This week will see protests in cities around the world, some powered by global networks like Girls Rising, some organised on Facebook, others just started by group of friends.

What is remarkable is that these efforts are not the result of a coordinated campaign by international NGOs or UN bodies, instead it was up to a new generation of young people who live their lives on social media and know how to get a message out. Just like the British school children who fought for Yashika, these citizens didn't need an organising committee to develop a slogan, a meme or chase down celebrity endorsement. They just needed Twitter, Facebook, Change.org and camera phones. You see creativity everywhere in ways they are spreading the message.

In the weeks it took some international charities to formulate a statement global citizens have built a movement of a million. For a new generation this is how campaigning now works, the rules are dictated by what is shared on social, from one peer to another, not from the top down. The web has made everyone an activist. The message is simple: "something must be done". The people roar and leaders are compelled to listen.

People power can't swoop in and free the girls but it has given politicians one of the most powerful mandates to act they could ever hope for: an organic call from their citizens. They must use it.