News + Media

Could this be the most influential Australian in the world? - The Liffman Provocations

August 21st, 2018

Who is the person recently described as 'possibly the most connected and influential Australian in the world today'? If we told you this person is speaking on both days of the National Conference 2018 would you know their name? Can't guess? If we tell you it's not Gina Rinehart, Chris Hemsworth or Cate Blanchett (nor even Rupert Murdoch) but the co-author of the newly released book New Power, will that help? Got it yet?

 

If not, it's Jeremy Heimans, the remarkable new-world innnovator who has been politically active since he was just eight years old.

Heimans is the co-founder of GetUp!, the massive social media-based social change organisation that, with a membership of one million, has more members than all of Australia's political parties combined, and is seen as the the epitome of the 'disruptive' forms of mass mobilisation that are transforming this century's political processes. He also co-founded avaaz.org - a global online political community - and is the co-founder and current CEO of Purpose, an organisation that builds and supports social movements for a more open, just, and habitable world.

In his recent book, New Power, Heimans and co-author Henry Timms explain the extraordinary growth and activism of GetUp by arguing that its participatory, crowd-sourced social media campaigns are a profound and positive challenge to the strict, formal approaches of the 'old power' institutions we have inherited. Many major successes have been attributed to GetUp, from bringing David Hicks home from Guantanamo, to securing an extra $88 million worth of funding for the ABC.

Few dispute the claims as to the impact of GetUp, and its global counterpart, Avaaz, of which Heimans is a director, although some - notably Senator Eric Abetz -  lament, rather than welcome that influence, regarding it a leftist political party in another guise.  That controversy, and Heimans' insistence that GetUp is disenchanted with the parties, and campaigns on issues, not politics, is presumably one which will be aired at the conference, and of course is of particular current relevance to the philanthropic sector given the debate on the Electoral Funding and Disclosure Bill. Beyond that, however, it would appear from his writing that Heimans himself sees the advent of New Power in a more complex and not always positive way. Somewhat startlingly, Heimans cites organisations and social movements that couldn't be more different from GetUp as successful instances of New Power. Isis is one. The National Rifle Association is another. He also acknowledges the capacity of social media to distract people from fundamental issues. These sobering insights should trigger some probing discussion in Heimans' conference session, and challenge any excessive complacency about the innovation GetUp represents.

Heimans will introduce day two at the National Conference and will also be a panel member of the Gender and Equality...Democracy in Action breakout session. For those interested in the future of philanthropy and social change, or just want to get selfie with Jeremy, this session alone should be worth the price of admission.

By Michael Liffman

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