With so many progressive causes around the world, and so many forces working against them, it can be easy for ordinary citizens around the world to feel voiceless. Avaaz steps into that global vacuum, offering a streamlined way for everyday people to become involved and feel they are making a difference.
Their name, Avaaz, comes from a transliteration of the Persian word for voice or song. It has cognates across many other languages, including the English word “voice.” It was co-founded by organizations such as Res Publica, MoveOn.org, several individuals and entrepreneurs around the world. Avaaz is led by their founding president and executive director Ricken Patel, a Canadian-British who studied at Oxford and Harvard.
In addition to the higher leadership board, Avaaz has a team of campaigners from over 30 countries including Brazil, India, Lebanon, and the United States. They communicate with members and come up with appropriate tactics for each campaign. Those campaigns can be as quick as an “email your leadership” mass emailing to public stunts like placing a herd of cardboard pigs in front of the World Health Organization so they can be encouraged to investigate the links between swine flu and large pig farms.
They are very grassroots oriented. Any Avaaz member can suggest a cause or course of action, which is measured for its potential and test emailed to 10,000 members. If the email campaign is successful, it is forwarded to all the membership. Since 2009, when they stopped accepting start-up donations, their funding has come exclusively from membership donations. They do not accept any donations above 5,000 dollars, and still the members have raised over 20 million dollars.
While Avaaz tends to support very progressive causes, its leadership sees it as a pragmatic, idealist organization that can unite like-minded thinkers around the world.
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