By Roger Hanney
Brett Solomon will shortly be leaving the invigorated citizen’s lobby group GetUp! whose national membership has grown from barely 20,000 to nearly 300,000 in his three years as executive director.
The group’s impact on the outcome of last year’s federal election is undeniable. Campaigning last year on such key issues as workers’ rights, climate change, foreign policy, and even the nature of Australian democracy, GetUp! identified key mainstream concerns well before either major party.
Overwhelmed by the response and commitment of volunteers and supporters during his tenure, Solomon characterises the now-established organisation as ‘the antidote to apathy’.
But Solomon is now moving on, keen to embrace new challenges. He will soon join the New York office of global citizen’s action group, Avaaz.org.
‘I feel like the contribution I can make internationally is now greater than the contribution I can make in Australia,’ he said. ‘And there comes a time in the life of an organisation when it’s really important that you actually pass leadership over to somebody else and I think this is the right time in the life of GetUp.’
In barely half the time Solomon has been director of GetUp, Avaaz has established an international membership of more than 3.5 million people.
That is already a massive number of people to mobilise on any number of issues, and it is growing steadily.
Solomon sees the new challenge as particularly exciting. He considers a large part of his task as the need to address one rather large question: ‘How do you collectivise the views of the world” But it is perhaps this grand challenge that makes Solomon so enthusiastic to join the Avaaz global initiative in what he regards as its ‘nascent’ phase.
Just as he anticipated GetUp’s influence on Australian politics, he now foresees Avaaz becoming ‘one of the most important and powerful NGOs in the world’.
‘And that’s not because it dictates views but because it’s a synthesis of a common vision among races and religions and cultures,’ he said.
In his view over the last decade, through citizen action groups, rejection of dominant dialogues and burgeoning new communication technologies, ‘global popular opinion has become the new superpower’.
This is a claim made by many left-leaning filmmakers, but one that few NGOs ‘ or their executive directors ‘ can directly back up. Solomon certainly can. Under his guidance GetUp! has played a key role in Australian politics, redefining the formerly flaccid notion of public participation, and attacking flawed policies from billboards, new media, television and even the sky.
And Avaaz may well have already written the first line in the global revolution’s next chapter. Following the recent cyclone tragedy in Burma, the United States government pledged nearly $300,000 in aid. In less time than it took them to come to this decision, Avaaz had raised and donated $3M with more to follow.
Solomon now has a vast task to tackle and sculpt in the international arena, but if his success at GetUp is any indication, there are plenty more achievements to come.
See also GetUp.org.au and avaaz.org