Celebrating Armchair Activism

It was recent email from Avaaz.org that inspired today’s post.

For those you unfamiliar with Avaaz, they are an internet advocacy organization. Tackling issues from climate change to human rights, Avaaz targets some of the world’s biggest problems with a creative and democratic approach to advocacy. Following the speculation that factory farming may have been linked with the H1N1 virus, Avaaz brought a herd of 225 cardboard pigs to the World Health Organization to represent the 225, 000 signatures on a petition encouraging this research (Avaaz, 2011). They have created a three-mile long human chain of handshakes from the Dalai Lama to the front doors of the Chinese embassy requesting talks between the two parties (Bentley, 2011). During the 2008 Canadian elections, they contributed to preventing a conservative majority with the “You Have a Choice” campaign using a music video, uniting Canadian artists.

It was following their email sent out this week, that I was particularly struck by the magnitude of their impact. As per the Avaaz member update email titled “Look at this crazy, beautiful thing we’ve created together” (2012) see the following:

  • 17.2 million of us are getting this email today, and that number is skyrocketing — almost doubling in the last several months!
  • We’ve come together from all 194 nations, 1.7 million of us in Brazil, 1.6M in France, 773,000 in India.
  • We’ve taken more than 100 million actions, online and offline, and told over 250 million friends about important campaigns
  • Our voices have brought awareness to critical issues, with coverage in at least 15,000 news reports this year alone
  • 400,000 of us have donated, giving almost $7 million through Avaaz to other humanitarian and democracy organisations
  • 20,000 of us have already started, and started winning, campaigns using our new community petition tool

To truly visualize the scale of participation, take a look at their MAP showing all countries involved and member concentration.

The numbers are interesting too. Canada, current at 34.4 million has half a million members compared to the US, with a population of 311 million, with close to one million members; approximately 2% of Canadians support Avaaz versus less than half a percentage point of Americans. Well done Canada! What’s even more interesting is looking at other countries. Brazil, for example, has more members than Canada and the US combined at 1.7 million. With a population of close to 200 million however, this places engagement at approximately 1 percent of the population.

Avaaz is changing the world with a click and growing stronger. So how do they do it? Through member suggestion to member polls, Avaaz selects their initiatives on their user base. Regarding funding, according to Avaaz.org (2012)

“Our member funded model keeps us independent and accountable.”
(Avaaz, 2012)

Avaaz is wholly member-funded which grants them the freedom to stay true to the deeper underlying morals of humanitarianism and pursue their own objectives instead of those of others. When it comes to action, Avaaz takes action mainly through “signing petitions, funding media campaigns and direct actions, emailing, calling and lobbying governments, and organizing “offline” protests and events” (Avaaz, 2012).

As we approach the new year, and change is at the forefront of our minds, it is time to reflect on organizations that make change possible. Like the many occupations we support around the world, Avaaz is yet another organization that is doing great things and deserves promotion. If you’re looking for yet another avenue to feed your appetite to create change, or perhaps you’re a member already, Avaaz serves as an excellent outlet for doing so. Sometimes… change, can start with a signature.

To learn more about Avaaz, the issues they’re currently addressing, or to get involved – visit their website: http://www.avaaz.org/

Written by Jennie Phillips | @drchangelove