Cover Story: Giving Voice
Many or one?
Recently, the issue of climate change stuck out above all others requiring the organization's attention, especially with the United Nations Summit on Climate Change in New York on Sept. 22, 2009, and the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009 on the horizon. Ordinarily, Avaaz.org focuses on multiple urgent and relatively short campaigns that span no more than a week or so each. For the issue of climate, however, the organization wanted to run a longer, more widespread campaign starting at the end of August 2009 and culminating in rallies on Sept. 21 and then in December.
Avaaz.org knew from previous member polling that climate change was the No. 1 issue for its membership, but to really get a mandate from its entire membership, empower supporters to feel their voices matter and get them fired up to take action, the organization polled its whole e-mail file to see if there was enough support to sustain the longer climate-change campaign it hoped to do.
"We recognized the importance of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference happening in December, and we knew that if we wanted to really, as a movement, have an impact on it, we would need to dedicate time to that," Solomon says. "So really, climate change and the upcoming Copenhagen conference [was] the key priority issue for us. So it wasn't an A or B; it was an A or just not.
"We just believe in buy-in," he adds. "We believe that if you ask people what they think, and they are part of and have an active say in what the outcome is, then they're much more likely to participate in any ongoing action. And so whilst we could have done a smaller sample and gotten a similar result, we wouldn't have gotten the same kind of collective, movementwide buy-in, and that's really important when you want to help maximize the impact of a movement."