Today, change-makers can be found at every level of society, and increasingly so at the level of local community members and organizations. One of the key driving factors behind this has been the development of new tools which empower local communities to make their voices heard.
Petitions are one such tool that have enabled this. A petition is a form of written request which appeals to a local or national authority to take action on a particular issue. This form of activism is a powerful way to mobilize a community. It's also relatively straightforward to execute (particularly with the help of a petition platform like Qomon!). In this article, we’ll be giving you our top tips for each step of the petition journey, from the drafting process to delivering it to your local council- let's act!
STEP 1: Determining if a petition suits your cause
It’s important to firstly decide if a petition is the best way to support your cause and to obtain the change you're seeking. For this step, a number of considerations are worth reflecting upon:
- Petitions are powerful only if they can demonstrate that a lot of people care about a particular issue. If your cause is more niche or relevant to only a small number of people, a petition may not be the best form of activism for you.
- For example, a petition which calls for a new stop sign to be placed in your housing estate is unlikely to amass large numbers of signatures. As this issue only affects those within a very particular neighborhood, few people beyond your housing estate will be interested in signing the petition. Without enough signatures, this petition will struggle to be successful.
- A petition calling for a stop sign to be placed outside a local school, however, affects all the children attending this school and their families. More broadly-speaking, the safety of school children is a topic that people are generally willing to support, even if they are not directly affected by the issue. This means that the petition is of interest to a much larger pool of people, and resultantly, is far more likely to gain the adequate number of signatures necessary for success.
- Research the petition requirements for your country or locality. For example, in the UK, 10,000 signatures are required to get a response from the Government. Consider whether you’re likely to meet these requirements before starting your petition. This research will help you to determine if a petition is the best form of activism for your cause.
- If you’re unsure about how deeply your community cares about your cause, host a public meeting on the issue to gauge local interest levels.
STEP 2: Determining the goals of your petition
It's important to build your petition's strategy based on the goals you're trying to achieve. With this in mind, remember that:
- A petition is not just a way to alleviate a local issue. It’s also an important way to gain potential donors, supporters or even voters (if your efforts are part of a wider political plan).
- Make sure to factor this into your petition strategy by including a space for signatories to include their contact details on the petition form.
- You should also provide signatories with the resources they need to learn more about your cause, candidacy or organization. This will allow them to support your cause again in future.
And with Qomon: you will have to establish from the beginning a clear goal for the petition, you have to transmit to your supporters why this petition matters and why they should join your fight.
Select different categories for your petition, depending on the field of action where you are trying to accomplish something, set a number of signatures you would like to achieve.
Make sure to collect all the relevant information about your supporters so you can later remain in touch with them and communicate about your campaign or cause.
STEP 3: Drafting your petition so it matches your goals
So you’ve decided to go with a petition to mobilize change- well done for making this decision! Now it’s time to draft your petition. In order to do this, keep in mind that:
- Your petition must clearly state exactly what it is hoping to accomplish. To do this, use short and simplistic language which concisely outlines the problem, and the proposed solution.
- When describing your proposed solution, be realistic about what can be achieved. A petition that is overly ambitious risks being unworkable in practice, and will consequently not be taken seriously.
- Make sure that your petition is aimed at the correct public authority. For example, your local council can’t influence a national policy, so there’s no point in asking them to make the change!
- When deciding who to target as your chosen public authority, it’s better to identify one specific individual or department who must address the problem, rather than vaguely calling upon the entire council or Government to rectify the issue.
- Provide a space in which your signatories can include their contact details so that you can direct them to future opportunities to support your cause/campaign/organization’s efforts as they arise.
- 1-3 paragraphs is the ideal length in which to outline your issue.
And with Qomon: the most important part of the process when creating your petition is making sure you are transmitting a clear and strong message. Your supporters need to know what they are signing and what could be accomplished with that.
Create a comprehensive message and, in addition, give to the petition the colors of your brand, make it look as you as possible!
STEP 4: Ensuring your petition gains traction
You’ve drafted your petition and unleashed it upon the world- amazing! Now you must make sure it reaches as many people as possible:
- If you haven't found one, look for a petition software to help you share your petition far and wide, like Qomon!
- Gather a team of volunteers who can distribute your petition in person. Door-to-door canvassing is one of the most effective ways of garnering support for your petition (canvassing apps are very helpful with this!)
- Organize phone-banking actions in which your volunteers can pick up the phone and start convincing people in your area to sign your petition. For this, you should use a Citizen-Activists Relationship Manager.
- Encourage your volunteer team, social media followers and friends to share the petition within their own circle of family and friends. This is called the network effect.
- Create an online hashtag for the petition.
- Traditional press is important too. Find a reporter or publication that might be interested in covering your story and invite them to interview you on the matter!
And with Qomon: you have created the perfect petition, now it is time to get some signatures. You have two options with Qomon, sharing a URL with contacts, on social media or through the peer-to-peer action (link) or embedding it directly into your website.
STEP 5: Submitting your petition
Now that you’ve gathered enough signatures, it’s time to share your petition with the public authority of your choosing:
- When submitting your petition, timing is crucial. Choose a submission date that most easily facilitates the change you are asking for. For example, if you are petitioning against a new building development, try to submit your petition before the building plans have been approved. It’ll be much harder for your petition to succeed if building work has already begun.
- Make sure you’re submitting to the right place. Most government agencies, for example, have their own specific system for receiving petitions. If you’re unsure about this, don’t be afraid to reach out to the department directly and ask for clarity.
- Formulate a clear roadmap of what next steps you’ll take if the petition fails. This will ensure that your efforts do not go to waste, and that you can make the most of the contact database you’ve built during your time gaining signatures.
Whether it’s changing national legislation or investing in a better litter management system, with petitions, everyone can be a change-maker. Why not try one out yourself today and see the powerful differences you can make!