The first petitions I ever signed were at the famous Wetlands Preverve club in New York City. A music venue (I saw the Rugburn, Ani DiFranco, and many others there) with an eco twist, it had a cool Volkswagen bus that was the centerpiece of the 'activist area,' a part of the space that was filled with information on environmental campaigns, as well as numerous paper petitions to sign. With a drink in one hand and 90's rock bouncing around in my skull, I would go through the petitions each time I attended as show and sign them for myself and on behalf of my grandmother. I never knew what happened to them, or what petitions were successful or not. It kind of felt like throwing a leaf into the stream and hoping it made it to the ocean.
Fast-forward to 2012, and Change.org has brought petitioning to the modern era - not only is it easier than ever to start your own (just sign up on their website and write something well-thought out and cohesive, then post it on Facebook and get friends to do the same), but petitions started there are making real, well, changes.
As Nicholas Kristof details in this Sunday's New York Times, Change.org petitions are responsible for the elimination of those $5 debit card fees Bank of America wanted to charge (which stopped that offensive policy in it's tracks and also kept other banks from doing the same thing), and other usurious fees, like that $2 online billpaying one from Verizon. Both of those campaigns were begun by a 22-year-old nanny. (Disclaimer: I signed both these petitions, even though I'm not a Bank of America or Verizon customer.)
And fourth graders in Brookline, Massachusetts recently got Universal Pictures to feature more environmental content on their interactive website for the new movie, The Lorax, which is based on the much-loved and tree-positive book by Dr. Seuss. The kids were dismayed to find not a bit of eco-oriented content on the site, and got the company to add it. They celebrated their victory against a giant corporation with their teacher at snacktime. (I signed this one too.)
Change.org isn't stopping now: “We’re growing more each month than the total we had in the first four years,” sBen Rattray, the founder, told the New York Times, adding that 10,000 petitions are started each month. "Change.org has grown from 20 employees a year ago to 100 now, in offices on four continents. By the end of this year, Rattray plans to have offices in 20 countries and to operate in several more languages, including Arabic and Chinese," according to the Times.
Now we can all start our own petitions, and see what happens to them too. Check out change.org and Kristof's column for more inspiring stories.