It is true that the internet fell short of the ideals it was expected to achieve in the last decade of the twentieth century. The egalitarian medium of uncensored and uninhibited transfer of knowledge never came to be. The emergence of social media platforms in the second half of the 2000s put an end to those dreams for good. The internet turned into a collection of fenced-off spaces where platform owners monopolized and monetized data at the expense of users' privacy.
It was not all doom and gloom, though. If nothing else, the internet connected people like it was never possible before. One area where it had a profound impact was social activism. The internet brought down the cost of activism by letting people organize and mobilize around common causes regardless of their location. In the past, affecting change in the system was impossibly difficult: You needed to bring together a critical mass of like-minded people, hold rallies, engage community leaders, try to win support from business people and celebrities, and make an effort to grab the attention of authorities who had the power to initiate change. Reaching out to politicians, providing evidence of popular support for your cause, and getting them to champion your initiative were no easy tasks. Regular citizens rarely enjoy such access, which most of the time is the privilege of a select group of wealthy, influential people.
Change.org is the most successful one among a plethora of online petition platforms. The secret sauce for Change.org's success was its simplicity. Ben Rattray, the CEO of Change.org, thinks the platform did what Twitter did so well—responding to a human need in the simplest way possible. "Simplicity is a feature, not a bug," he says. This formula helped Change.org reach out to sections of society lacking a voice, like minorities, young people, and people with disabilities. This kind of online social activism garnered a lot of criticism on the grounds that it required very little effort and commitment from the participants and was labeled as slacktivism. However, just like social media platforms proved their mettle as legitimate channels of information, online petition platforms delivered the results and earned the respect of the public. Here are a few striking examples showing the unlikely success Change.org campaigns achieved:
The “Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act" had been stalled in the U.S Congress due to the opposition of a single representative. Sydney Helfand, a high school student, decided to take action and launched a change.org campaign calling for the U.S. Congress to pass the bill. More than 850,000 people signed the petition, and the bill was finally signed into law by President Trump in 2019.
Pediatric oncology nurse Liliana Haas thought children battling various types of cancers needed a drug called Vincristine, whose production was announced to be discontinued by Teva Pharmaceuticals. After the launch of a Change.org campaign backed by more than 214,000 people, Teva Pharmaceuticals agreed to resume the production of the drug, verifying the impact of Change.org campaigns.
99-year-old veteran British army officer Tom Moore pledged to walk 100 lengths of his garden in a bid to raise £1,000 for the National Health Service in the United Kingdom before his 100th birthday on April 30, 2020. Moore ended up raising £32.79 million. Sonia Wilson started a campaign on Change.org calling for Moore to be awarded a knighthood and won support from more than 1 million people on Change.org. Thomas Moore was finally knighted by Queen Elizabeth II on July 17, 2020, less than seven months before his death.
Simple acts of leadership can affect meaningful change, as illustrated by the examples above. As part of our recent template blitz at Peaka, we have recently published a new online petition template that can get your petition campaign up and running in no time. The CivicRebel template is infinitely customizable: It lets you create a petition using dynamic forms, add explanations and visuals as you see fit, and put it up for people to sign. The CivicRebel also allows you to set a certain threshold of signatures to be achieved and share your petition on social media for it to go viral.
Just define your cause, create your page, and let the magic happen!