Phill Wills is an ordinary dad with an extraordinary story. His son Josh was born with autism and in 2012 was uprooted from his family home in Cornwall and moved to a specialist unit in Birmingham. Phill was faced with the prospect of a 500 mile trip just to hug his son - so he did what around 70 people do every day in the UK and started a petition on Change.org to get Josh his specialist treatment much closer to home.
After months of campaigning and thousands of signatures, Phill won his campaign and this summer Josh is coming home to his family. But Phill's campaign is just the beginning of this story - because it directly inspired other people who were in the same situation to make their voices heard. Catherine Dyer for her daughter Claire, Leo Andrade for her son Stephen, Nina Ni for her son Tianze and Lynne for her son Chris; each family fighting for children with autism not to be sent away. They found each other on Change.org and began supporting each other, trading tips on how to win their campaigns.
Josh was promised a new home, then Claire returned to her family and Stephen moved to a better hospital. Every single victory made the calls for reform stronger and together these petitions demonstrated that national policy needed to change. Former Care Minister Norman Lamb MP picked up the cause with Mencap and a Green Paper is being put to Parliament to propose reforms that could benefit scores more families.
And Phill's story is one of many. A month ago, Luke Henry started a petition because his 9 year-old daughter Bethany has a rare life-threatening illness but has been denied funding for a drug that could save her life. A week later Andy Longfellow also started a petition for his daughter, Abi. Abi also has a life-threatening rare disease but didn't qualify for treatment either. Now another family have started a petition too, for their son Luis. These families live miles apart but have found each other on Change.org and supporting each other on their campaigns.
A winning petition to stop Oxford City Council criminalising rough sleepers started by student Freya Turner led to Zahria Patel starting and winning a similar campaign in Hackney. Both won their local petitions and are now working together to take their campaign to a national level.
And while the political parties get on with governing or struggle through months of leadership contests, these unplanned, open, online movements are emerging to make sure everyone's voice can be heard at every level of the political process, with each victorious petition starter passing the baton of their success onto the next.
When Change.org launched in the UK, we did so with the belief that by giving anyone the campaigning tools that big organisations have, people would win change on their own terms. But we've also learnt that when small campaigns come together they are greater than the sum of their parts. Single petitions are inspiring others and creating communities of people who are affected by the same issue, who band together to create micro-movements that achieve massive outcomes.
It is a new way to think about campaigning that is flexible, responsive and open-sourced. But best of all, it's led by people like Phill - ordinary citizens who have an extraordinary story to tell.
Update: Leo's son Stephen was moved from a hospital in Northampton to a new hospital in Essex, where his family were promised he would get better, more appropriate care. But in two recent visits Leo noticed serious bruising on Stephen. The injuries have been reported and an investigation in underway. Leo is still fighting for her son to get the care and support he needs at home. Leo's petition is at: change.org/bringstephenhome