Highlights 2018

2018 was a big year. For many of us, it wasn’t easy. But when the OPEN team sat down to review, what really stuck out were the stories of the amazing impact and the victories this network is achieving around the world. Sit back, make a cuppa and read all about the incredible impact we’re having around the world!

MoveOn – United States of America

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With Donald Trump in the White House, the pressure was on to deliver a “Blue Wave” midterm election that would limit his power – and MoveOn did just that. Using highly targeted homemade selfie videos, MoveOn members across the country were able to endorse local candidates and persuade their neighbours. The result? MoveOn helped flip 40 seats in the House of Representatives and the most diverse Congress the country has ever seen was elected.

But it didn’t stop there:

  • More than 80,000 MoveOn members signed petitions and lobbied their senators to stop American involvement in the war in Yemen. An estimated 22 million people within Yemen require humanitarian aid, making it the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. MoveOn members helped secure a resolution in the senate that stops the US from funding Saudi’s war against Yemen. Not only that, MoveOn members raised over a quarter of million dollars for Doctors Without Borders’ work in Yemen to support the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

  • Across 750 cities, along with allies and partners, MoveOn mobilised hundreds of thousands for the Families Belong Together march to oppose the Trump administration's family separation policy. The campaign was a reaction to the horrifying reports of thousands of parents and children kept in cages by Immigration and Customs officers as part of Trump's Muslim Ban] immigration enforcement agencies on the US-Mexico border. The huge mobilisation led to a radical change in the administration’s cruel policy and helped to spark an ongoing movement for justice at the southern US border.

Campact – Germany

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The far right is on the rise, but Campact spent 2018 setting the agenda to criminalise hate speech online. Campact launched a study, started two huge petitions and became a go-to expert for politicians on the subject, visiting various ministries.

When they weren’t tackling a global crisis, Campact campaigners kept busy:

  • 835,000 Campact members came together to save Hambach Forest from being cleared to make room for a new coal energy supply. 50,000 took part in a “tree trolls” demonstration in the forest. The forest is safe for now but with a lawsuit from coal company RWE still to be heard – this campaign will be keeping Campact busy in 2019

  • They were also part of the coalition that mobilised more than 200,000 people to march in Berlin the “indivisible" protest against the far right.

GetUp! – Australia

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In 2018, Getup kept to its name as an ambitious innovator, from supporting 15,000 incredible activist kids in a school strike against the government’s pro-coal policies, to launching an unprecedented progressive vision for the Australian economy, Future to Fight For.

  • With the 2019 election approaching, GetUp! members started early – kicking off the campaign to “Turf Tony” Abbott, Australia’s former right wing Prime Minister and critical ‘blocker’ for progressive politics. In the first meeting, in a community centre in Manly, more than 700 people gathered to work on a plan to kick Abbott out, and the campaign has made national headlines too. That race will be one to watch...

  • Years of strategic movement building by GetUp’s human rights team bore fruit in a huge campaign breakthrough this year. A critical mass of public support for people seeking asylum saw the first major crack in political consensus around offshore detention. 107 children seeking asylum and their families were brought from the Nauru camp to safety in Australia, and the legislative groundwork has been laid for 2019.

  • And GetUp’s dedicated racial justice platform, Colour Code, continues to go from strength to strength, fighting back against fear and division. Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and migrant communities are organising against racism in politics - and making an impact at the polls.

38 Degrees – UK

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As the UK’s National Health Service celebrated its 70th year, more than a quarter of a million 38 Degrees members came together to call for crucial extra funding. After sustained pressure that included commissioning economic forecasting, flooding Conservative party conference with adverts and members meeting more than 50 MPs, the government finally committed an extra £20 billion to the NHS budget!

  • Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch was blocked from taking over Sky News. Hundreds of thousands of 38 Degrees members campaigned tirelessly to make sure one man and his family won't be in charge of so much of what’s beamed into thousands of homes every day. The campaign against Murdoch has lasted for years and has involved huge numbers of members signing petitions, lobbying Government ministers and attending special meetings with the Competition and Markets Authority to make their case.

  • 38 Degrees member Geraint took on the nation’s favourite crisp company, Walkers, asking them to ditch their non-recyclable packaging. After months of delaying tactics, negotiations, stunts and more, 38 Degrees ramped up the campaign by asking members to use Walkers’ freepost address to send back crisp packets in protest leading to the company announcing a national recycling scheme!

LeadNow – Canada

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40,930 LeadNow members worked together with an Indigenous-led movement to stop PM Justin Trudeau’s plan to buy the Trans Mountain Pipeline. More than 100 rallies took place across the country, whilst members signed petitions and chipped in for both national adverts and a huge legal battle to stop the pipeline! All of that action led to Kinder Morgan abandoning the project, saving the land!

LeadNow members also:

  • Just fought an incredible campaign to secure Proportional Representation and make every vote count in British Columbia. Volunteers made over 324,000 phone calls, sent 50,000 texts, and chipped in for a powerful ad campaign that reached hundreds of thousands of BC voters. Sadly the referendum was lost, but the campaign built hugely impressive power, which will be useful for 2019 and beyond.

  • 21,000 members lobbied to stop trade rules that would allow huge multinational corporations to sue Canada over laws that would threaten their profits.

Jhatkaa – India

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In Bangalore, Jhatkaa have been making headlines with their air pollution campaign. Campaigners installed a pair of fake lungs with HEPA filters on a busy road. In just 6 days, these lungs turned completely black. Jhatkaa flooded the media with these images – a huge launch for a new campaign!

  • Jhatkaa mobilised members to strike down the archaic section 377 which criminalised homosexuality, Love wins! Jhatkaa teamed up with All Out to put giant billboards around New Delhi encouraging voters to support love. This victory  represents one of the largest human rights victories in the world, and will kick off other efforts to ensure equal rights for LGBTQ+ Indians.

  • And thousands of Jhatkaa members came together to stop lawmakers from tweaking legislation to allow them to chop down trees without public support. The proposed amendments to the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act would have meant 50 extra species of trees could be destroyed without public consultation.

Action Station – New Zealand

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This year ActionStation pivoted campaigns to work in a new political environment with a coalition government that is promising action on child poverty and climate change. Highlights include deeper collaborations with allies, with cut through in the national media, including: 

  • the launch of a community-powered and collaborative research report on indigenous Māori perspectives on the justice system - calling for big solutions to the justice crisis that prioritises prevention of harm, rehabilitation of people who cause harm and restoration of relationships over punishing people and locking them up in prisons;

  • Working with frontline groups in the sexual harm sector to change culture and laws so that they can prevent, treat and end sexual violence in Aotearoa New Zealand for good. This included coordinating an open letter signed by prominent women in response to the tragic death of Grace Millane as a way to channel the collective grief, sadness and anger calling for the government to adopt a comprehensive strategy to prevent and end violence against women for the men of New Zealand to help women change the reality that most violence towards women is enacted by men. The news story about the open letter was published on the front page of the Weekend Herald, a newspaper that has a readership of 515,000. 

  • After thousands of ActionStation members backed community campaigners Lauren and Ruby’s call for better sex and consent education, the Government pledged extra funding of $18 million to make sure its Mates and Dates sex education programme expands to reach 180,000 students, up from 37,000.

Amandla – South Africa

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Thousands of Amandla members convinced Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to remove value-added tax on sanitary pads and to provide free sanitary pads to girls in poor schools.

  • More than 40,000 Amandla members pressured mobile phone companies for more affordable data pricing, which led to the Communications Regulatory Authority instituting new regulations that would make data more cost-effective. The cell phone companies engaged in legal stalling tactics to prevent the implementation of the regulations, but in November a court settlement was reached, which means the new regulations will take effect from 28 February 2019.

  • And finally, Koketso Moeti, has been recognised for her incredible campaigning. She was selected as an Obama Foundation Fellow, receiving hands-on training and support from experts around the world!

Skiftet – Sweden

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Skiftet members launched a petition to ban “organised racism”. Skiftet commissioned a poll which found that 62% of Swedes agreed to the ban, and plastered it all over the media. Eventually the Government caught up and agreed to a commission to discuss the ban!

When they weren’t fighting Nazis with poo emojis, Skiftet was busy:

  • Securing election promise from the Labour Government for free dental care for all. Skiftet members identified dental care being covered within regular health insurance as an electoral issue. The Skiftet team collected hundreds of member stories and created a report for all parties to read. Thanks to the campaign, Labour made dental reform an election pledge and a draft proposal is to be implemented by 2020.

  • When the Swedish Democrats wanted to introduce “refusal of care” – preventing doctors from performing abortions or providing contraception – Skiftet sprung to action. Members took part in actions, including leaving coat hangers outside 40 municipal parliaments and demonstrating outside the Swedish Democrats party conference, drumming up pressure on their outdated views. The protests brought abortion rights right to the centre of the election debate. The Swedish Democrats even admitted that their lacklustre performance in the polls was down to abortion rights campaigners!

Uplift – Ireland

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In May, Irish people voted to repeal the constitutional ban on abortion care in Ireland. This historic victory was made possible through people power. Women shared their stories through powerful conversations and in public channels and organised and mobilised in local communities.

  • Uplift also stopped the last Magdalene Laundry in Ireland from being sold to a hotel chain. Magdalene Laundry is a mother and baby home, and is considered a site of remembrance for the institutional abuse faced by families in Ireland by clerics. Uplift member, Gary,  launched a petition and lobbied key members of the Dublin City Council to stop the sale.

Akcja Demokracja – Poland

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This year, Akcja Demokracja was busy defending democracy. They convinced no less than the European Commission that punitive measures would be much more effective to push the right-wing PiS government to do what’s right rather than triggering Art. 7 and so isolate Poland. Coupled with Akcja petitions, this strategy ensured powerful moments and victories:

  • President Duda signed an amendment allowing most judges of the Supreme Court to be able to continue to rule rather than being forced into ‘early retirement’, as had been the initial PiS plan. This happened after thousands of Akcja members rallied at the Supreme Court in July, to defend the supreme court’s president whose term of office was among the first to be cut to zero.

  • As we write these lines, 15.000 Akcja members signed a petition addressing judges and courts throughout Poland to defend judges such as Igor Tuleya, who stepped up to defend the Constitution. As the PiS government didn’t succeed in undermining the supreme court, they are now moving to demolish the National Council of the Judiciary, the public body responsible for nominating judges.

Declic – Romania

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This year, Declic did something different. They campaigned to stop people from voting! Romania held a “Referendum for the Family” – a proposal to alter the constitution to restrict the definition of a family to one based on the marriage between a man and woman. Declic, knowing that their members would be divided on the issue made a bold choice, and launched the #Stauacasa or a stay home boycott  which stopped the proposal!

When riot police brutally beat up people part of the hundreds of thousands at the anti-corruption protests on 10 August, Declic launched a petition addressing Geneva-based UNHCR. It was signed by 81,000 Romanians who also funded a huge billboard in Geneva’s best airport location. Just now in early 2019, the UN body announced that it is investigating the abuses committed by the riot police in view sanctioning them.

#aufstehn – Austria

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Working with organisations from across Europe, Aufstehn members worked to tackle the massive issue of plastic waste. They collected over 700,000 signatures, hung huge posters in Brussels and met with the vice-president of the European Commission. After some tough negotiations, the law was passed by a large majority, and the EU has agreed to ban disposable plastic.

Zazim – Israel

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Zazim have had a big year. In April, after an incredible fight by tens of thousands of Israeli citizens and refugees against the forced deportation of African refugees to countries where their lives will be in danger, the Israeli government cancelled the deportation. The community worked tirelessly in the fight against the deportation – they convinced Israeli pilots to refuse to fly refugees to their deaths, they sent thousands of letters to the Ugandan government calling them not to cooperate with the forced deportations, called on Israel’s largest union to accept refugees to their ranks, and joined residents of South Tel Aviv and refugees in massive protests against the cruel plan.

Another highlight from 2018 was in November over 10,000 Zazim members called on key Knesset Members to vote against the anti-democratic “loyalty in arts” bill. The bill would strip funds from any cultural institutions that didn’t meet the far-right “loyalty” test. On the day of the final vote on the bill, they organized a protest outside of the Knesset chamber together with hundreds of artists, art students, dance troops, and others from across the country. Thanks to the incredible public pressure – and just hours before the final vote, the bill was pulled and vote postponed indefinitely!

Campax – Switzerland

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12,000 Campax members came together to ask the government not to allow weapon exports into civil war countries. This became such a hot topic that numerous NGOs joined in a so-called ‘Correction Initiative’ and launched a referendum asking for decision-making over weapon exports rules to be passed from the government to parliament. After only 4 weeks 70k signatures of 100k needed have already come together - unprecedented for Switzerland.

  • Campax members also campaigned against a referendum which if successful would have meant that the European Convention of Human Rights would no longer apply to Swiss citizens. Campax co-ordinated a 7 day hike across Switzerland to spread the message to the public. The referendum was defeated by an overwhelming majority!

  • And finally, in 2018 Campax launched SwissLeaks for sensitive subjects to be able to become Campax campaigns. As part of one such leak, Campax launched a petition over sexual harassment at Ernst & Young Switzerland. Thanks to the wide member engagement, the senior executive was suspended and an independent investigation has now been launched. Watch this space...

DeGoedeZaak – The Netherlands

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This year saw DeGoedeZaak grow into a national campaigning force to be reckoned with. In just one year 209,632 people have taken action!

The big stand out campaign of 2018 was “Ze zijn al thuis” (“They are Already Home”) the campaign to stop the deportation of 400 children, many of whom were born in the Netherlands. The first petition, to change the law to protect the 400 kids, was signed by 75,000 people in 40 days. Within months, 165 people around the country had volunteered to lead local campaigns targeting local chapters of the Dutch governing parties – soon, over 30 municipalities had split from the national line. And to build on the moment, the DeGoedeZaak team facilitated targeted media, centreing the people and the stories that cut through the political spin and spoke to a wide range of the public, bringing them on side. The community managed to stop the high profile deportation of two children Lili and Howick. The broader campaign hasn’t been won yet. The law still needs to change, to protect the rest of these kids. But fundamental cracks have appeared in the Dutch government’s power – including 65 key municipalities now calling for action.

Le Mouvement – France

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When Le Mouvement members heard that far-right group Generation Identitaire  (GI) were physically blocking asylum seekers crossing the Alps into France, they leapt into action! They launched a huge petition asking Prime Minister Philippe to dissolve the group once and for all. Meanwhile, they used people-power to call out across Europe for support and to put pressure on Stripe and other donation platforms to drop GI as a client.

Ahang – Hungary

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In March 2018 aHang (the Voice) went live. Their environment couldn’t have been more difficult: they were faced with Viktor Orban, the re-elected authoritarian leader punishing and banishing most things progressive, and they were faced with a great number of citizens very discouraged to be able to achieve change for better in such environment.

Only seven months on, aHang delivered hope in the form of a huge victory for home carers securing a whopping 200% increase in income for such families. The campaign was centered around the personal stories of aHang members who care for their spouses, parents and relatives. The campaign quickly exploded with 50 organisations signing up to the call and tens of thousands of people signing the petition. Thousands marched on Parliament during budget discussions with spontaneous storytelling sessions and all of that pressure meant the Hungarian government promising to raise the income for home carers.

Becky Jarvis