Avaaz – which means voice in several languages – has indeed become one of the most vocal online political participation platforms in the world.
Called as the world’s largest and most powerful web movement, Avaaz provides the possibility for anyone to start a petition or donation campaign, and the greater the attention it receives from other members of the Avaaz community, the greater is the campaign the organization helps to set up for promoting the issue. The initiatives that Avaaz members bring to public spotlight are different: they range from specifically national questions like petitioning for the government of Germany to close all nuclear facilities, complex political conflicts as the call to recognize Palestine’s statehood to global and cross-cutting issues like the climate change. Here the recent highlight by Avaaz, one that also underscores the link between online and real-life activism, was co-organizing the massive global march on making the world leaders act on the climate change that gathered around 400 000 people in New York and hundreds of thousands across the world.
Creating the scope and publicity is really in the heart of what Avaaz aims to do, and the actual size of the issue may not be so relevant. Their self-described strong side is the ability to draw resources from their (at the moment forty) millions wide community and make the issues, on which small activist groups have possibly worked for years, reach the ‘tipping point’ by transforming them into the campaigns with global reach that receive attention in the highest political level and by the major media outlets.
Avaaz is not a very typical non-governmental organization: the permanent staff is constituted by around one hundred people that are located in various countries yet much of the work is also relied on the broad network of community members. It declares itself as completely independent and as fully financed by its members. The initiatives that receive campaign funding and attention by the Avaaz are ‘upvoted’ by members themselves (every new call for petition is sent out in the Avaaz network); organization itself calls it a ‘’servant leadership’’ strategy where the main agenda is set by members themselves while the staff works on realizing it into major events.
As the organization that has elevated the online organized activism to such a massive scale, Avaaz has also faced the accusations about lack of real impact of their initiatives. It reflects the broader criticism of the online activism that describes it as ‘clicktivism’, giving the satisfaction for its members in doing the good deed but changing little in the reality. Signing petitions and sharing information in the social media may indeed not be difficult, however, many of these initiatives have acquired significant attention because of the activities as, for example, distributing campaign posters, organizing media events and protest marches that Avaaz has carried on the ground. The online and traditional activism forms thus are combined and this along with the millions of members globally makes Avaaz a very intriguing and trail-blazing case of today’s political activism in the web.
The publication was performed in the framework of the project “PROVIDUS – a partner of state in policy planning and policy making process“.
Project is financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway in framework of NGO Activity Support Measure.
NGO Activity Support Measure is financed with financial support from EEA Financial Mechanism and Republic of Latvia.