Tool Chest: Petition site

tool chestBoosting more than 100 million users in 196 countries, seems ubiquitous in online campaigning, but the New York Times still has to ask in reference to online petitions: Are they effective?

At TEDxBrum, Kat Sladden, a senior campaigner at — the largest platform for creating petitions online — shares her tips on how to make a online petition take off: 1. Tell your story, 2. Build community, and 3. Focus on the “little big thing” which she explains means identifying a winnable ask. “Successful petitions always ask for something small,” said Sladden, citing the examples of a father with a sick son and (UK) petition for a woman on a bank note. “Focus on a small thing then multiple it,” she said and advises campaigners to identify a series of small victories instead of aiming for one big thing. logo

“No president is going to do an about-face on a major policy because of 20,000 signatures,” he wrote. “But coupling that petition with other tactics like protests, rallies, phone calls, face-to-face lobbying, a well-organized media plan and community outreach creates an environment in which the goals of the signatories can become reality,” according to Jason Del Gandio, a professor of communications and social movements at Temple University.

This is consistent with what Gail Ablow characterizes as a “theory of change” (Sign Here to Save the World: Online Petitions Explained) which is compared to short-term “feel-good” “theory of awesomeness” which makes you feel good, but has no sustained campaign elements and could be characterized as slacktivism.