Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

AVAAZ: A brilliant one-stop multi-purpose global campaign

If you’re worried about Climate change and the world food crisis, disgusted by the new rise of torture, in despair over the Middle East or the Amazon or want to support persecuted oppositionists such Burma’s Aung Sang Suu Kyi, you can now make one organisation your first port of call.

Avaaz means “Voice” in many languages. has indeed given voice to “a simple democratic mission: to close the gap between the world we have, and the world most people everywhere want”.

Avaaz is a world-wide non-party grassroots campaigning organisation that seems able to hit the right spot time and again with a well thought out, sharp and simple, yet broad-based campaign: for a ceasefire, or the bottom line for a Summit decision, or the release of a key prisoner.

They start from the premise that “most people want stronger protection for the environment and greater respect for human rights” and do not want poverty, corruption and war.

In order to give more power to “the views and values of the world’s people” rather than political elites and corporations, Avaaz has used email and the internet to gather and focus millions of activists and supporters “to bring people-powered politics to international decision-making”.

The Huffington Post has just nominated Avaaz co-founder Ricken Patel as a top “game-changer”. How has Avaaz reached this position in less than three years? There’s a simple answer and a more complex one.

The simple answer is “by email”: so a huge mass of small responses (a click on a petition, a few pounds donated) add up to provide fast support and funds to mount effective responses and urgent lobbying during rapidly changing events and emergencies. In a recent example, on 6th November they swamped the G20 Finance ministers with emails to demand that Climate Change be put on the agenda of the next day’s summit meeting.

But this isn’t just a matter of technique or mechanics. The issues they address are carefully chosen, well informed, expertly worded, timed and placed, broad enough to gather mass support yet very finely targeted and focused. Complicated situations are clearly explained as well as being distilled into clear and justifiable demands and resolutions.

And the messages are delivered in powerful, witty and eye-catching ways: phone-blitzes, flash-mobs and strip-mobs, whole-page adverts, message-walls and billboards, air-borne banners, clever publicity stunts and funds channeled to the right protesters on the ground.

Any funds given are spent on the specific campaign they are donated for, so supporters can choose their own priorities.

They don’t stop at campaigning: they even succeeded in getting humanitarian aid into Burma when the junta there blocked help from NGOs after half the country was flooded, and helped the Iranian opposition to break the regime’s internet blockade.

In a remarkably successful two-way process, Avaaz can take a message backed by a million voices and deliver it to one point such as a crucial conference or meeting of world leaders; and it can also send such a message out to thousands of places via a growing network of local activists.

In September 09 they mobilised more than 2,600 events in 135 countries in a wake-up call on Climate Change. No-one can disagree with their conclusion that “the breadth and creativity of events is breathtaking… We showed that in just a few days we can flood the streets and crash phone lines from Mexico City to Mumbai.” Not for the first time, their message broke through to world leaders and international media.

Avaaz now has 3.6 million members. Its message goes out in 14 languages. It was co-founded by a group of social entrepreneurs from six countries. It has a core campaign team of around 20 spread around several countries, staff based in Rio de Janeiro, Geneva, New York, London and Washington, other teams of expert advisers and now millions of eyes and ears on the ground to bring detailed knowledge from the grassroots to the global seats of power.

For the full story, go to The September Wake Up call participants uploaded over 10,000 pictures and 600 videos within 24 hours. To see a selection, go to:

Posted 21:39 Wednesday, Dec 16, 2009 In: Campaigns

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