The Avaaz Way: How We Work
From technology, new nimbleness and flexibility
Previous international citizens‘ groups and social movements have had to build a constituency for each separate issue, year by year and country by country, in order to reach a scale that could make a difference.
Today, thanks to new technology and a rising ethic of global interdependence, that constraint no longer applies. Where other global civil society groups are composed of issue-specific networks of national chapters, each with its own staff, budget, and decision-making structure, Avaaz has a single, global team with a mandate to work on any issue of public concern–allowing campaigns of extraordinary nimbleness, flexibility, focus, and scale.
Avaaz’s online community can act like a megaphone to call attention to new issues; a lightning rod to channel broad public concern into a specific, targeted campaign; a fire truck to rush an effective response to a sudden, urgent emergency; and a stem cell that grows into whatever form of advocacy or work is best suited to meet an urgent need.
Avaaz’s priorities and power come from members
Each year, Avaaz sets overall priorities through all-member polls, and campaign ideas are polled and tested weekly to 10,000-member random samples—and only initiatives that find a strong response are taken to scale. Campaigns that do reach the full membership are then super-charged by, often, hundreds of thousands of Avaaz members taking part within days or even hours.
An ethic of servant leadership
Avaaz staff write email alerts to the Avaaz community the way that an aide briefs a president or prime minister: we have just a moment to convey the vital information the reader needs in order to decide whether to get involved, and the campaign hinges on that decision..
To make that moment of attention count, it’s the job of staff to find ways that a few minutes, multiplied across huge numbers of people, can make a genuine difference on something that matters. Staff work with partners and experts to develop effective, member-driven campaign strategies; summarize them through clear and compelling alerts; and, if the Avaaz membership chooses to proceed, makes sure that the campaign is carried through—delivering petitions and members‘ messages, arranging member-funded ad campaigns, or whatever else is required.
In other words, Avaaz staff don’t set an agenda and try to convince members to go along with it. It’s closer to the opposite: staff listen to members and suggest actions they can take in order to affect the broader world. Small wonder, then, that many of our most successful campaigns are suggested first by Avaaz members themselves. And leadership is a critical part of member service: it takes vision and skill to find and communicate a way to build a better world.
We focus on tipping-point moments of crisis and opportunity
In the life of an issue or a cause, a moment sometimes arises when a decision must be made, and a massive, public outcry can suddenly make all the difference. Getting to that point can take years of painstaking work, usually behind the scenes, by dedicated people focusing on nothing else. But when the moment does come, and the sunlight of public attention floods in, the most crucial decisions go one way or another depending on leaders‘ perceptions of the political consequences of each option. It is in these brief windows of tremendous crisis and opportunity that the Avaaz community often makes its mark.
In any country or on any issue, those moments might come only once or twice a year. But because Avaaz can work in all countries and on all issues, these moments can crop up several times in a week.
Our member-funded model keeps us independent and accountable
Because Avaaz is wholly member-funded, democratic accountability is in our DNA. No corporate sponsor or government backer can insist that Avaaz shift its priorities to suit some external agenda—we simply don’t accept funds from governments or corporations.
Movements, coalitions, and organizations often fracture over time into many smaller pieces—or spend more and more of their time trying to hold warring factions together. At Avaaz, we recognize that people of good will often disagree on specifics; instead of straining for consensus, each of us simply decides whether to participate in any particular campaign.
Instead of fragmenting, we grow—united by values
But underlying Avaaz campaigns is a set of values—the conviction that we are all human beings first, and privileged with responsibilities to each other, to future generations, and to the planet. The issues we work on are particular expressions of those commitments. And so, over and over, Avaaz finds the same thing: that people who join the community through a campaign on one issue go on to take action on another issue, and then another. This is a source of great hope: that our dreams rhyme, and that, together, we can build the bridge from the world we have to the world we all want.