11. Jeremy Heimans

Founder of Purpose, How To Engage Citizens

11. Jeremy Heimans
Jeremy Heimans Illustration by Alison Cowles


His consultancy launches social-minded campaigns, teams up with existing organizations, and occasionally incubates companies

How can small changes drive results?

“You need to change long-term attitudes and reduce barriers to taking action. For example, to change the behavior of big banks, we want to build demand for credit unions and local banks. So we need to make it more attractive for people to switch, like encouraging local banks to add more features.”

In what way can you humanize politics?

“If you’re trying to build a 21st-century movement, you really need amazing narrative storytelling to popularize the issue. Then you also need great user-experience design–a navigable website, an easy-to-share video–to help ensure that your work goes viral.”

How can tech be better leveraged in politics?

“Tech is unlocking in people a sense of their own power. We released a video for a gay-marriage campaign in Australia a week before the governing party voted on whether to include gay marriage in its platform, and encouraged people to donate to get the video on TV before the vote. It worked.”


Click here to see head-to-head responses to these questions from Heimans, plus Voto Latino founders Rosario Dawson and Maria Teresa Kumar, and Popvox founder Marci Harris, Nos. 12 and 13 on our Most Creative People list.


  • 1986

    Writes Cold War-era song “Rainbow of Peace” at age 8 in native Australia; meets with Australian prime minster and foreign minister to discuss potential solutions for third-world debt and malnutrition

  • 1991

    Organizes a fax campaign against the first Iraq War; blasts faxes to hotel where James Baker and Tariq Aziz have their final meeting before going to war

  • 1999

    Interns for the United Nations; falls in love with New York; falls out of love with the UN

  • 2001

    Takes gap year from Harvard Kennedy School to live in Paris

  • 2004

    Ditches beginnings of an Oxford PhD to work on the U.S. presidential elections

  • 2005

    Starts political activist site with David Madden back in Australia; GetUp eventually gains more members than all of Australia’s political parties combined

  • 2007

    Cofounds in attempt to build a global citizens’ movement that organizes online; eventually grows Avaaz to 14 million members

  • 2009

    Hires first Purpose team member Andre Banks