Avaaz, Spurring Online Activism

Avaaz is a civic organization that is one the most powerful and largest activist networks in the world. It based in the US and was founded in January 2007 by Ricken Patel. Ricken is a British-Canadian activist who is an Oxford University and Harvard Alumnus. He worked and lived Sudan, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Afghanistan and Liberia as a consultant for various NGOs such as the International Crisis Group. He founded Avaaz with the aim of promoting global activism on issues such as poverty, conflict, corruption, climate change, animal rights and human rights. The word Avaaz comes from the Persian word for voice.

Avaaz is funded entirely by individual members. It does not accept money from corporations from foundations. It also does not accept payments that exceed $5000. The organization has raised over $20 million from individuals who support Avaaz’s cause. The global campaigns that Avaaz champions are managed by campaigners from 30 different countries including Brazil, Lebanon, the UK and India. The campaigners communicate with the members via videos and emails. In some special cases Avaaz utilizes advertisements and uses lawyers who advise on the best way move a campaign forward. Some notable Avaaz campaigns include making a 5 km human chain from the Dalai Lama to China’s Embassy in London and taking a herd of cardboard pigs to the WHO to demand an enquiry into the link between commercial pig farms and swine flu.

Campaigns usually start with suggestions from the organization’s members. The members are guided by specialists who ensure the proposed campaign is legal and will be impactful. Once the proposal is deemed to have potential, 10000 Avaaz members are polled via email. If enough members respond the campaign is opened to all members. This technique is useful for bringing together members who have diverse backgrounds and may not be aware of certain issues.