Ricken Patel was born on January 8, 1977 in the Canadian city of Edmonton. After graduating from Balliol College at Oxford University — where he studied politics, philosophy, and economics — he went on to earn a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard. Over the years, Patel has worked as a consultant for such entities as CARE International, the Gates Foundation, the International Center for Transitional Justice, the International Crisis Group, the Rockefeller Foundation, Harvard University, Oxford University, and the United Nations. He also served a stint alongside MoveOn.org founder Eli Pariser on the advisory council of J Street.
Patel first became cognizant of the massive potential of online organizing when he served as an usher at a MoveOn.org event promoting that organization’s 2003-04 “Bush in 30 seconds” contest for homemade political ads critical of President George W. Bush. When Patel saw how effectively MoveOn was able to raise massive sums of money via Internet-based activities, he thought: “[W]ow! This is the tool.”
In 2003, Patel and other activists — most notably former Virginia congressman Tom Perriello — formed the nonprofit organization Res Publica, for which Patel served as nominal executive director). Under the stewardship of Patel and Perriello, Res Publica concentrated its early efforts on promoting left-wing activism in the American faith community.
The following year, Patel and Perriello worked with the National Council of Churches to establish Faithful America, an online movement-building initiative designed to be “a religious version of MoveOn.org.” Faithful America was later taken over by Faith in Public Life, where Patel served as a member of the board.
In 2006, Patel and Perriello initiated Avaaz.org, as a global “e-advocacy” project of Res Publica. When Avaaz subsequently became an independent nonprofit in 2007, Patel became the organization’s executive director.
As exponents of radical environmentalism, Patel and Avaaz have promoted numerous initiatives that characterize global warming as an imminent threat to humanity — one that must be solved through international regulation and wealth redistribution. In 2009, Patel joined Bill McKibben of the organization 350.org in hosting a promotional vigil to generate publicity and public support for the international Climate Change Conference which was famously held that year in Copenhagen.
In a September 2014 article titled “Why Climate Change Is an ‘Everybody Issue’ Now,” Patel wrote:
“The world is rushing towards a series of potentially catastrophic feedback loops and tipping points in the climate system, which could see the support system of life itself irrecoverably disrupted…. [T]he continued warming of our planet is the greatest challenge our species has faced…. We can’t afford to underestimate the massive footprint that humans have on this planet. One quarter of the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere came from our industries…. We are stretching the limits of this world…. Getting to 100% clean will require a massive battle against the oil and coal industry and their pocket politicians whose subsidies, profits and influence are all at stake.”
By no means has climate change been the only major issue on Patel’s radar. For instance, he was a signatory to the “Global Zero” nuclear-arms-reduction petition of 2008. Other notable signers included Sandy Berger, Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, and Mary Robinson. Dedicated ultimately to the worldwide elimination of “all nuclear weapons,” the Global Zero coalition strongly supported the New START nuclear-arms-reduction treaty which was signed in 2010 by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama.
In 2010 as well, Patel and Avaaz.org launched a crusade against conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s proposed the creation of a Canadian news station called Sun TV, which, according to Patel, would amount to nothing more than a “radical-right propaganda network.” Patel also claimed that another Murdoch enterprise, the Fox News Channel, had “spawned the radical right Tea Party group and provided a platform for hate and racism.” Moreover, Patel went on to accuse “media barons” such as Murdoch of “poison[ing] people’s hearts and polariz[ing] our world.”
Outspoken also on Middle East affairs, Patel has lent his name to a number of statements that paint a distorted picture of the Arab-Israel conflict. In 2009, for instance, he and Avaaz.org asserted that “[t]he people of Gaza are being squeezed to death” by Israel, like inmates “locked up in the biggest prison on earth.” Shortly after the 2009-10 war known as Operation Cast Lead — where Israel responded militarily to an intense escalation of rocket fire from Hamas terrorists based in Gaza — Patel and Avaaz.org lamented that too many Palestinians were being needlessly “beaten or killed” by Israel’s “crushing” occupation.
Patel’s influence as an activist has been widely recognized. In 2009 the Huffington Post dubbed him as the “Ultimate Gamechanger in Politics,” and the Davos World Economic Forum lauded him as a “Young Global Leader.” In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine listed Patel among the “100 Top Global Thinkers.” And in 2013 The Guardian referred to him as “the global leader of online protest.”
Further Reading: “Can Avaaz [and Ricken Patel] Change the World in a Click?” (The Times, 2-9-2011); “Ricken Patel” (TheSimonsFoundation.ca, CarnegieCouncil.org, HuffPost.com); “Avaaz: The Lobbyist that Masquerades as Online Activism” (GlobalResearch.ca); “The Man Behind Avaaz” (1843 Magazine, May/June 2013); “Why Climate Change Is an ‘Everybody Issue’ Now” (by Ricken Patel, CNN, 9-21-2014); “Urgent: Media-Mogul [Rupert Murdoch] Attacks Avaaz!” (by Ricken Patel, et al., 9-16-2010); “The Misrepresentation of J Street” (American Thinker, 8-16-2009, re: Gazans being “being squeezed to death”); “Avaaz.org Calls for ‘Balanced Media’ over Conflict in Gaza” (Indymedia, 2010, re: Palestinians being “beaten or killed”); “Ricken Patel: The Global Leader of Online Protest” (The Guardian, 3-16-2013).