Sunday, 1 May 2011

Avaaz changes the world in a click

Over the months, I have posted several entries about the online activist network Avaaz’ various campaigns, and asked you to support some of them and sign their petitions - and I have done so myself. But I have often wondered if activism by merely clicking a button was enough and if these petitions made any significant changes.

Well, it seems that the answer is a resounding YES.  Avaaz, which means voice in Farsi and several other languages, now counts an astonishing 8.2 million members and is growing by 1000,000 people a week, according to the organization.  Working in 14 languages, it is the world’s largest online activist community with members in all 192 UN countries, including Iran and China, where the site is illegal.

An annual poll of 10,000 members help decide which issues they should focus on - and the range is enormous. Some of their demands are simple, such as  closing Guantánamo, or  very broad, such as fighting climate change.

Avaaz was founded only four years ago by 34-year-old Canadian Ricken Patel to “close the gap between the world we have and the world most people want.”  He and his team are doing so by galvanising public opinion online and using it to influence those with the power to implement change.  They work by collating monumental petitions and dropping them into the inboxes of their targets.  If more convincing is needed, they stage sit-ins, rallies, phone-ins and media stunts. And at the last resort, they launch hard-hitting advertising campaigns in the media and on billboards.

Avaaz' sheer numbers make them a force impossible to ignore. Two weeks ago, 650,000 Indians joined the group’s campaign for a powerful new anti-corruption bill, and they won.  Their recent causes include fighting political corruption in Italy, media-corruption in the UK and Canada, environmental destruction in Brazil and more. And across the Middle East,  democracy activists are getting vital equipment and communications support funded by donations from almost 30,000 of its members.

And the press is taking notice. The Times (London) called Avaaz:  'One of the most important new voices on the global stage' and hundreds of stories have been written about their work.

So keep signing Avaaz' petitions and join in their actions….

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