Batman Saves the Congo: How Celebrities Disrupt the Politics of Development, Alexandra Cosima Budabin and Lisa Ann Richey
In 2010, Ben Affleck, the actor perhaps best known for his numerous portrayals as Batman in the never-ending movie franchise, founded the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) in an attempt to provide a better, more effective model for development, community engagement, and North-South relations. As Budabin and Richey point out in Batman Saves the Congo, Affleck and his ECI reflect a significant change in the role of the celebrity as political activist. Unlike other celebrity humanitarians who leverage their platform to bring intense but fleeting attention to a global issue, Affleck represented an approach better characterized as “celebrity strategic partnership.” The ECI connected traditional development actors (donor agencies) with nontraditional actors (corporations, capital asset management firms, and philanthropists) recruited by the celebrity to address a specific development issue. In the case of ECI, the goal was to revitalize the coffee sector in war-torn Democratic of Congo (DRC) through the coordinated efforts of US Agency for International Development (USAID), Catholic Relief Services, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and Starbucks, among others.
As Budabin and Richey assert, Affleck and his collaborators created the ECI explicitly as a “disruptor” to change how humanitarian and development work is done. While recognizing
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