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ECPR 50th Anniversary Fund

‘Campaign Entrepreneurs’ in Collective Action Online: GetUp and Political Leadership in Australia

Ariadne Vromen
University of Sydney
Ariadne Vromen
University of Sydney

In recent years online campaigning organisations have used electoral and political spaces to mobilise citizens on, mostly, progressive policy issues. For example, MoveOn in the United States is a renowned leader in mobilising citizen activism and support for the Democrats. Similar organizations now exist in the UK, Canada, and at the transnational level. In Australia, GetUp!, with over 600,000 members, has become part of mainstream political debate, while also bringing a disruptive social movement frame to online citizen mobilisation. In an era where citizen engagement in traditional political institutions is in decline, the emergence of collective action online is distinctive. I have focused on how these online campaigning organisations: develop hybrid online political repertoires; use persuasive storytelling techniques; and foster the emergence of a new generation of well-networked, professional activists. The role of leadership is underexplored in understanding how these organisations discursively construct their actions and successes. Using the concept of ‘campaign entrepreneurs’, and focusing on three high-profile GetUp! leaders, this paper analyses the diffusion of new political repertoires and discursive techniques between the USA and Australia. It argues that these forms of online collective action are increasingly blurring the line between ideology, politics and the market.
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