By Sarah Alexander ( main author ) and Harsh Thapar
Consciousness is a single force that connects us all. Our opinions and actions are largely shaped by our inter-connectedness, often without our awareness. Powerful social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, provide virtual platforms for these invisible inspirations that affect us in our personal, professional, political and public lives.
One noteworthy example of the power of influence through the world of online communications is Ricken Patel and his organisation Avaaz. Ricken Patel’s mission is to organise ‘citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want’, an idea that he had been cultivating since the age of 18. This world incorporates for all people peace, social justice and cohesion, human rights, an end to poverty, the rule of law and environmental sustainability. It is a democratic world achieved through love, hope and an awareness that generates profound transformation.
Based on that thinking, in 2007 at the age of 30, Ricken set up Avaaz (www.avaaz.org) meaning ‘voice’ in Persian. Avaaz is a not-for-profit global online network which encourages its 35 million members (at the time of writing in May 2014) to take action on issues globally that they most care about.
We hear that beneath his quiet, cool exterior, Oxford and Harvard educated Ricken holds many Higher aspirations. Evidently he has undergone an inner soul searching that has sprouted into his actions. In his address to the Commonwealth Foundation in 2013, he publically recognised the link between the quality of his leadership, his judgment and his effectiveness at bringing about change and his own inner journey to know himself. He acknowledges that when he comes to a place of total self-love and acceptance he is able to show compassion, patience and acceptance for others, regardless of their race, upbringing or religious orientation. And, he is able to act from a place of love and belief in himself. If we can connect with this place consciously, we can use is as a powerful force for good.
Through Avaaz and the global internet technology of the 21st century, Ricken is able to bring mass public attention to the issues that need to be exposed for their injustice, inequality and plain wrong doing. He mobilizes us, as members of Avaaz, and global online community to take action through online petitions to force governments to act with fairness and justice and by asking for donations to provide for the active work that Avaaz carries out. Email campaigns that I have joined recently have included petitioning the Jersey Government to stop Jersey being used as a tax haven for millionaires wanting to hide their wealth, tax free. Another was a petition to prevent the US government from passing a bill that would allow an oil pipeline, that will transport up to 830,000 barrels a day of the world’s dirtiest oil, from Canada across the US. If it wasn’t for Avaaz I would not know about these issues, let alone be able to join with others to speak out again them.
We recently received an email from Ricken about some of the many successes Avaaz has had as a result of online donations. It said: “Over 90,000 of us donated enough to give $1 million to conservation organisations like the Rainforest Trust who are buying land and connecting two vital preserves in Borneo that can keep the orangutans alive on this planet with us. I love this job :)” He also told us about another success story from our donations: “Yamama and her cousin Hayat are Syrian refugees, but they’re in school in part because our community raised $1 million …to save Syria from a lost generation of children without education. We just got word that governments have matched us over 100:1!!” The Avaaz community’s biggest success to date though has been on climate change with the Avaaz team working full time to pressurize governments worldwide to act now to halt climate change.
Ricken cites three reasons why Avaaz is so effective through its use of modern technology:
- “Our community calls the shots. We don’t accept any money (ever!) from governments, corporations, foundations, or large donors — making our community our only boss. Most of the non-profit sector is funded by very rich people, whose preferences deeply shape the work done.
- We’re super fast. Even for urgent problems, it can take months or even years to raise money from foundations and large donors — but we can raise over $1 million in hours!
- We’re political. Because our donations are not tax deductible, we have no government restrictions on calling out politicians, and politics is where many battles to save the world are won and lost.”
What I believe Ricken and Avaaz demonstrate through their conscious leadership is an acknowledgement of the intrinsic value and worth in all human beings; he uses his power of conscious influence to expose wrong doings and issues which require justice; he demonstrates and provides a common platform for global online community to empathise with the poor and those wronged by society and governments. Ricken effects change in world by collective influence, influence which is both transparent , democratic , ethical and he attempts to lead by example, for example the fully audited accounts of that always are available for public to see.
Ricken and Avaaz tap the power of our collective influence through use of new technology. I wish him well in his work and look forward to his Avaaz (voice) ringing loud for issues that affect our collective future.
About the Authors:
Sarah Alexander is a Spiritual Awareness Coach. For more details view : www.sarah-alexander.co.uk
Harsh Thapar is an Architect and Environmentalist. For more details view: http://www.linkedin.com/in/harshthapar