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Changemaking 101: The Power of Effective Petitions

Written by Marsha Rakestraw | Published on March 6, 2014 | Filed under Humane Connection
The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Humane Education website at http://humaneeducation.org/blog/2014/03/06/changemaking-101-power-effective-petitions/
hands typing at laptop keyboard(Our Thursday blog posts are now reflecting monthly themes. For March, in honor of Words Matter Week (March 2-8), we’re posting about the power of language. Let us know what you think by commenting.)


Online petitions are a popular digital advocacy tool. With such sites as Change.org, SignOn, Care2 and Avaaz, nearly anyone can use the power of a keyboard to launch a petition for a favorite cause.

However, despite initiators’ earnest passion and concern, many petitions succumb to pitfalls that prevent them from gaining traction.

Long-time changemaker and senior campaigner at Change.org Pulin Modi recently wrote a blog post on OurHenHouse.org about using petitions properly to make a significant difference. He says, “The fact is that petitions and other online platforms allow advocates for social change to organize faster and more effectively than ever before.”

Pulin highlights the components of an effective petition: “… effective petitions have a compelling story, a clear decision maker or makers, a logical timeline, and a clearly thought-out path to victory.”  He also offers these specific tips:

  • Do use your petition to tell an authentic story of why an issue is important to you, on a personal level.
  • Do research the best decision maker(s), goals and timeline.
  • Do politely and professionally keep the media up to date about your progress.
  • Do think of ways to keep your petition signers involved with follow-up actions.
  • Do not start a petition unless you have already tried to engage in a dialogue with the key decision makers.
  • Do not petition the President of the United States unless that truly is the only person who can make the decision you’re seeking.
  • Do not think an online petition will solve all the world’s problems. There’s no single best solution.
  • Do not give up. Social movements take time.

Read the complete post.

One of IHE’s M.Ed. graduates, Jessie Huart, successfully led a petition campaign in 2012 to encourage United Airlines to remove its “breed ban” policy against nine breeds of dogs. Jessie’s petition garnered nearly 46,000 signatures and an eventual change in the airline’s policy.

In our globalized, interconnected world, the potential for positive change continues to grow. Creating meaningful, effective, actionable petition campaigns is one strategy you can use in working toward a better world for all.