Change.org: A Start-Up Igniting The Activist Spirit

Change.org tells TechWeek about its plans to change the world, following a handy £9.9 million investment boost

Sometimes when you’re on the inside of something, you can lose sight of its real impact. Listening to Stacy Stafford, a mum from Glasgow who used Change.org to save her son’s education, it puts what the site has achieved in its first year in the UK into context.

“I would never have considered myself to be campaigner or activist. I was just a mum with a problem and a laptop. Websites like Change.org have made it possible to get a campaign out there and reach a huge amount of people. I was blown away by how many people genuinely cared about what happened to my son,” she wrote in a piece to mark our first anniversary in the UK.

Brie Rogers 2Lots of start-ups talk about impact. Here at Change.org our social impact is at the very heart of what we’re about. That’s why we were thrilled that philanthropic investment company the Omidyar Network announced a $15 million(£9.9m) mission-driven investment in the company, which will go into upscaling the Change.org product – giving bigger, better, more powerful tools to millions of people who want to change their world, all for free.

Change.org, changing lives

It works too. On average, two Change.org users every week win their digitally-driven, people-powered campaigns in the UK; from 16 signers backing a local vicar’s call for the corner shop to drop lads mags from its shelves, to 65,000 backing Kester Brewin’s campaign for an insurance company to pay out to his best friend’s widow.

We’ve grown the UK site to a user base of over 2.5 million in less than a year, powered by a huge outpouring of user-generated campaigning. This means that for those organisations which choose to advertise on the site, there is an ever-growing pool of users, committed to causes, who we can match them to. The model is a successful, innovative and cost-effective way of letting cause-driven organisations finding new supporters.

When we launched in in the UK in May 2012 we had an idea that the site would take off. The UK has a proud history of campaigning and activism and organisations like Avaaz and 38 Degrees had shown there is an appetite for innovative use of technology in campaigning here. What we wanted to do was provide a platform where anyone, anywhere can campaign on the issues they care about.

Just this week a fan of Everton FC used Change.org to mobilse more than 20,000 behind a call to keep the club’s crest as it is. The club listened and there will be a review of the decision. Some may say this isn’t the most important issue of our time, but to the thousands that signed it means something and Change.org gave them a platform to speak their truth to power and see change happen as a result.

So what’s next? We want to make campaigning for change an everyday act. Just like you might share a Facebook status or put a video on YouTube, we want people, when confronted with what they see as injustice, to start a petition on Change.org. Some may think that people are powerless, but every day we see that the reverse is true: people have more power than ever and with sites like Change.org, they’re using it.

Brie Rogers Lowery is Change.org UK director

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