Sometimes as a full-time, 12 credit hour, college student with a full time, 40-hour a week, job I feel like I am unable to make an impact on my community and my world that is consistent with my beliefs. So I started look for alternatives that I could participate in. The internet has been a major source of my ability to interact with multiple organizations and programs, without giving up my precious study time. It’s not the same as being able to support an organization with “boots on the ground” or with any direct monetary support, but it is still an extremely effective way of supporting causes, organizations, and movements I believe in.
One "movement" that I had joined this past year was Change.org. Change.org is mostly a online petition program and it has had some successes in altering manufacturing practices and even labeling of businesses. From an interview with NPR on March 12, 2012, founder and CEO Ben Rattray explained why he started Change.org in college, "When I was at Stanford, there was this combined interest both in entrepreneurship and in political-social change, and it was the one way I could identify combining the two and mobilizing people to advance the causes they care about". Much like most recent movements, generation X, Y, and Z, has sought to break down the normal walls of the hierarchy of effecting change and taking their requests for change to the masses. This is the true effect of social media at its height and many, like Change.org, are using this ability to effect change with a minimal budget or oversight from various organizations; just one person asking
There are some pros and cons to their system. One major component to the pro and the con list is that anybody, ANYBODY, can create a petition about anything. This is a pro and even local or regional petitions can get national press, but it also means that there is no filtering for if these petitions are valid or even for a proper cause and therefore you might get inundated with petitions that might not be relevant to you in your inbox. However, this also means YOU can make a petition about anything.
Another pro is that your petition can be shared through other social media outlets and it only requires an electronic signature.
Some successes under Change.org's belt include a petition to combat's Bank of America's plan to charge members $5.00 a month debit card fee. According to the NPR report, "…within a month, 300,000 people had electronically signed the petition against the charges. The bank decided to drop its proposed new fee". Others also include Sallie Mae changing their forbearance fee policy, as they are a major private student-loan provider, "The Lorax Project" which asked people to sign a petition for Universal Studios to include more of an "environmental message" in the new movie. On January 26, 2012, the studio changed its verbiage on the website and ultimately its message in the movie. Most of these stories are from last year alone, and Change.org has only gained momentum in 2013.
Ultimately, Change.org is a tool for communities and individuals to relate to one another and let the powers at be know what they need, nay demand, to be changed about the world we live in. One person can do so much, even if it is only signing their name in support, to influence the changes we wish to see.
For more information on Change.org, to join the community, or create your own petition, check out the following links: