THE BLOG

Step One: Start A Petition - How Online Campaigns Win

02/02/2017 16:21
BEN STANSALL via Getty Images

We've all seen it by now - or at least heard about it. The petition to drop Donald Trump's state visit following his Executive Order to prevent entry to the United States from several Muslim countries. It's received well over 1.75 million signatures. Number 10 has confirmed that the visit would go ahead regardless of the mounting pressure inside and outside the building. Cue the usual suspects asking if petitions work - and cue hundreds of successful petition starters across the UK rolling their eyes.

I see hundreds of petitions started on Change.org every day - some will gain a handful of signatures, some will get just a few family and friends, but some will within hours get hundreds of thousands, even millions. But, it's not the size of the petition that really matters - not really - it's the people who start them and the community they create around them.

The parliamentary petition site has seen many petitions reach beyond the 100,000 trigger for a debate to little substantive effect as the New Statesman has pointed out. However, the petitions we see on Change.org can have a life changing impact for the petition starter and the causes they're campaigning for. What's the difference? For me it's that the experience doesn't end there but builds into something much more.

A few weeks ago, a young woman appeared on the BBC's Big Questions - but this woman wasn't there to discuss religion or moral issues but the positive effect that her Change.org petition had on her life and millions of other women. Her name is Laura Coryton and she led the campaign to end the tampon tax - anyone who watched George Osborne's budget last year will have seen her success.

Her petition received over 320,000 signatures before the government gave in, but that wasn't just clicktivism, it wasn't just signatures; it was the debate and action that the petition encouraged that won the day. Using Change.org's tools and advice, Laura created a whole campaign around her petition - social media, online forums, meeting MPs, speaking in the media - it spawned a global movement inspiring other women to take up the fight in their own countries.

Not only did Laura's campaign achieve its goal but it created an empowered, young campaigner who since starting her petition has started a career in campaigning, become a regular commentator on women's rights and recently got accepted to Oxford University to study a master's degree on the subject.

Laura's experience might not be the rule but is certainly not the exception either. Ultimately, what has made campaigns on Change.org more successful than say the Parliament petition site is that we encourage people to own their campaigns, and fight for them - not to settle for a holding answer from a minister or short debate in parliament but to build campaigns that can achieve all these things and so much more. We recognise a petition is just the first step and encourage campaigners to go beyond, build a movement and engage their supporters to take other actions, rather than limiting them to just a single click.

This is how all of the victories on Change.org have been achieved - not just through a click but though taking inspiration from each signature, encouraging signers to come on the journey with you and being part of the change they all want to see.

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