Wow. There is no other word that can describe the last 365 days. On the global scale, the last year has been heartbreaking and the ones to come will no doubt be difficult. But on the dawn of this new year, we have hope, and it’s thanks to you! A year exactly after the launch of NOW!, more than 10,000 people from over 120 countries came together to make the world truly one.
A spark of hope?
A new vision of the world?
A community of humans committed to working together for a better future?
You made NOW! all the above. From Tokyo to Buenos Aires, from San Francisco to Pretoria, volunteers, activists, and concerned citizens decided it was time to stand up and start collaborating for a brighter, fairer, and freer future. Looking beyond differences, whether of gender, skin colour, nationality, religion, or culture, they decided to move Forward, as One. In an age of division, continental tensions, and global challenges, our unity will become a massive force of change to steer the course of history.
First things first: let’s commemorate this great first year! Read about NOW!’s 2020 journey and how we plan to change the world in 2021!
I- 2020: A YEAR OF FIRST
At the end of 2019, the world looked very different. Climate change was on top of world leaders’ agendas, while a global pandemic did not seem plausible. The start of a new decade represented the perfect catalyst to start a people-powered movement that could push for unity so that we could finally solve those challenges that tormented the 2000s. Following a crowdfunding that gathered 40,000$ in small donations from hundreds of people worldwide, NOW! was born on January 1st, 2020. And so it began.
A. “The Climate Crisis needs to be treated like the crisis it is”
On January 1st, 2020, we also unveiled our first campaign, deciding not to shy away from the biggest challenge of our time: climate change. We realized that one alley to stop the climate crisis hadn’t yet been explored: getting the United Nations Security Council - the only body in the world able to declare emergencies that bind all countries to take action - to declare a Global Climate Emergency!
In the span of a few hours, NOW! grew from the original duo to a few hundred members: a movement was born. The first community meetings took place from Nairobi to San Josè, in remote communities just like in global hubs. Teams sprung up from Dallas to Frankfurt, from Palermo to Mexico City. People understood the power of a global movement pushing for the same vision and values, across oceans and continents.
These initial months were energizing: teams started to organize and use our tech infrastructure to mobilize those around them. They hit the streets to collect signatures to pressure their governments for our climate campaign! The British government acknowledged the value of the Global Climate Emergency campaign, and other members of the United Nations Security Council - like St. Vincent and the Grenadines - expressed interest in our work. We were off to a great start.
Following the launch of the global climate emergency, we quickly learned our first lesson: we needed to diversify the topics of our campaigns, fast! By focusing only on one topic for even a short period of time, we began to notice that some people had radically different values than our founding vision enshrined in the belief that all humans are equal, and that we are stronger by uniting across borders to support one another than alone. For example, we realized that some people who supported our climate work did not believe that women should have autonomy over their bodies, nor that we should work for everyone on this planet to have access to the same opportunities. As a progressive global movement, we needed to act.
B. “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”
As such, we quickly moved to launch a 2nd campaign to quickly shape people’s perception of the movement: the Run Like A Woman campaign was born to demand parity in political positions across the world!
In the very short time span between March 8th, 2020, and the time when most of the world fell under the cloak of the COVID-19 pandemic, members from all continents rallied to counter the biggest source of gender inequality in the world: the lack of women in power. On international women’s day, tens of politicians from around the world backed our campaign demand and pledged to work to pass legislation to achieve parity!
This campaign also had a very important side effect to balance our movement: by making feminism one of our badges of honour, we achieved parity within the movement very quickly, with many (if not most) of our local NOW! leaders being women.
C. "We need Vaccines Without Borders"
Two months after our launch, COVID-19 struck hard, and like many others, we felt it. Our model is based on grassroots, physical engagement (coupled with digital organizing), no longer possible in many corners of the world because of the virus. Connecting our members online and providing meaningful engagement became a priority: we launched series of virtual town halls to debate and find solutions to existential challenges; we started community chats led by members discussing everything global; and changed on the ground actions such as protests, to make them COVID compliant (see below the example of the freedom ribbon).
In the midst of the panic at the start of the pandemic, we hesitated to launch a campaign on the topic: we were very new and didn’t want to divert attention from those with more maturity on the topic. However, quickly, members on the frontlines (as health workers) told us about their fears that their countries wouldn’t get a vaccine when it would become available, and that they would be left treating people without protection. They asked us to ask as a global movement. In history, wealthy nations hoarded vaccines.
We decided to push the WHO to ensure that at the very least all health workers across the world would get priority access to future COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of their nationalities. Backed by a global coalition of doctors and nurses, we demanded that countries put health workers first! In less than 10 days, our campaign peaked and hit the nail. Dr. Tedros, the Director-General of the WHO, supported our claim and pledged to do his best to achieve this result.
It must be said: this was a hell of an achievement. It reinvigorated us right when a new opportunity was read presenting itself in front of our eyes: the cause of Freedom.
D. "Together, united, we cannot be defeated"
It all started in an extremely simple (& lucky) way: two days after we launched NOW! Joshua Wong - the world-renowned Hong Kong pro-democracy activist - signed our climate petition. Back then, we could hardly believe it. A Nobel Peace Prize nominee was supporting our work, and kept on doing so! Joshua also joined our women’s rights campaign and continued to support our work throughout the first half of 2020. Inspired by his work and openness, we organized a Virtual Town Hall with him: the strength of his word, the passion that he awoke in our members & followers, and his almost desperate call for international support showed us the path ahead: it was high time for NOW! to join the struggle for freedom, starting from Hong Kong but with the ambition to join forces with pro-democracy movements worldwide.
We realized that what was missing the most was for democracies to support freedom fighters by uniting and coordinating their responses to authoritarian rulers. Given the great economic power that certain authoritarian states like China can exert on countries that dare to stand up to them, the creation of a League of Democracies tasked with protecting and innovating this beautiful thing called democracy became even more urgent! This is how the Wave of Freedom - and it’s key action, Fridays For Freedom - came to life.
Shortly from its launch on July 1st, which coincided with the implementation of a draconian National Security Law in Hong Kong, our Freedom campaign went viral. In the span of a few weeks, Fridays For Freedom protests spanned the whole globe, happening in more than 40 cities on the ground and 4 million people digitally during the summer. From BBC to the New York Times and Vice, outlets all over the world covered our work. Finally, politicians in Italy, the U.K., Taiwan and the U.S. started supporting our demands, promising to push it through in their respective parliaments.
And while NOW! members were hitting the streets demanding that their elected representatives do more for freedom in Hong Kong, Belarus, Thailand, Venezuela, and beyond, we decided it was time to raise the profile of the campaign and to organize NOW!’s first Freedom Marathon. On September 15th, 2020, on the International Day of Democracy, politicians, artists, activists, and members from all over the world joined a 14-hours long event to discuss how we can join forces to protect and advance democracies in these harsh times. As NOW!’s first international conference we could not be more delighted to see the Digital Minister of Taiwan Audrey Tang, the Opposition Leader of South Africa Mmusi Maimane, as well as artists such as Badiucao and Joe Tay, among many others joining interactives. The success was so great that we aim to make this a yearly recurring event, hopefully moving it to the physical world too!
As Fall came, many countries started experiencing 2nd or 3rd COVID-19 waves, making it once more challenging and dangerous to make our voice heard in the streets. But democracy cannot and will not wait. Fridays for Freedom protests thus either moved online - like in San Francisco, where our team organized Google Meet’s actions - or focused on symbolism - like in London, where we started the Freedom Ribbon campaign by tying orange ribbons in front of the Prime Minister’s office, to keep the flame of freedom and our demand alive. In short, creativity reigned!
E. "We’ve got a plan(t)!"
… and where to find creativity if not among resourceful members? Thanks to a coordinated push initiated by Laura, NOW!’s campaign manager, and led by great volunteers, the last piece of the 2020 puzzle fell into place: Green December, a month of individual actions aimed at fighting back against climate change and showing the power of global cooperation, came to life. Not only this campaign inspired thousands of people to take concrete action for the climate, such as taking on a vegetarian diet for a day/week or jumping into frozen lakes to raise awareness, and created wonderful partnerships with inspiring projects like The Happy Broadcast or the Climate Vulnerable Forum, but also laid out a solid framework for members-led initiatives at NOW! which will be further developed in 2021.
II- 2020: KEY ACHIEVEMENTS
As you can see, NOW!’s first year was eventful. In just a short year of operations, NOW! has outperformed its initial targets. To provide a brief overview, NOW! has:
- Reached more than 4 million people on social media,
- Recruited +10,000 supporters and volunteers in more than 100 countries
- Opened 160 local teams of volunteers actively working on our campaigns across Europe, Africa, Central and South America, Asia, and North America
- Organized hundreds of events & actions across the world, including in Berlin (Germany), Dallas (USA), London (UK), Nairobi (Kenya), Paris (France), San Josè (Costa Rica), Tunis (Tunisia), and beyond
- Built a coalition of leading politicians from 4 continents, and involved leading influencers including Joshua Wong, Vanessa Nakate, the EU Commissioner for Environment, and the Chief Scientist of the WHO,
- Created partnerships with leading organizations at the global level, such as Global Citizen, and national/local level, such as Proyecto 85 in Puerto Rico.
- Appeared in leading publications such as The New York Times, BBC, Vice, The Economist, Al Jazeera, The Independent, Euronews, Hong Kong Free Press, tv stations and gave a TED talk, which supported the further growth of the movement,
- Expanded its full-time team and worked with volunteers from all over the world to support the development of the campaigns
III- 2021: FROM A GLIMPSE OF HOPE TO A WAY FORWARD
With a huge deal of energy and passion for what we have built so far, 2021 is set to be a decisive year. Will NOW! become a global progressive force for good? Will it leave a mark on history?
We are ready to do everything possible to make this happen, and we have a real plan. We know how to move from an innovative, growing movement of people to a force of change to advance a new vision of society, a new philosophy for the 21st century, a new hope for humankind: a way Forward, for us all.
We used our first year of existence as a ‘test year’: we explored topics, methodologies, and strategies to change the world. Year 2 will have a different focus: Growth. Yes, in 2021, we want to ensure that NOW! becomes at least 40,000 people strong! The reason is simple: people have a huge power from the moment they mobilize and unite beyond borders, and the more people do so, the more feasible it becomes to affect systematic global change! In addition, the more we become, the more representative we can be of humanity’s hopes and needs!
With this goal in mind, we will focus our capacity in 2021 on advancing the following 5 priorities:
- Philosophy: in 2021, we will strengthen the philosophy that drives our vision of a more united world, that stands behind our campaigns and actions. A new vision of the world of tomorrow is needed, one where borders don’t determine one’s opportunities or life, but where collaboration is the driving force! As such, we will be working with members and forming partnerships to deep-dive into this new philosophy, looking forward!
- Community: 2021 will be the year of the NOW! Community! Our on the ground community took a hit due to COVID-19, but we will focus a lot of our capacity in reviving it and ensuring that our work is rooted in local realities. We will create and train local teams in all continents, with new tech tools and improved structures and processes to constitute and coordinate local teams. NOW!’s members will have the chance to both tailor-made our message to the needs of their communities and grow NOW!’s influence in the territory.
- Campaigns: In 2021, we will do everything to bring home a win for the Wave of Freedom campaign. We will continue to work with politicians and government officials to ensure that our motion to create a League of Democracies is tabled at the upcoming G7 meeting. In addition, the spring will see the launch of at least one new, global campaign focused on Economic Inequalities: after a global crisis, a voice is needed to ensure that society takes the right path ahead.
- Crowdfunding: last but not least, in the second half of January we will organize a massive crowdfunding effort to ensure that NOW! becomes financially sustainable in the long term. Keep an eye out for it and if you can, please participate!
In addition, we are very excited to announce that this January a new, truly talented individual will join NOW!’s full-time team, taking over very important tasks on the communication side. Because of security reasons, we will only disclose their identity later in the month but trust us: it’s going to be a blast! In addition and depending on fundraising, an additional team member might be hired in the 2nd half of 2021.
We truly believe that this way we will be able to not only solve some global challenges but to create a new power structure for the world to systematically address those issues that concern us all. Together, united, we cannot be defeated!