Now, perhaps more than ever before, ordinary people are spearheading the way forward for social justice. The power to make a difference no longer lies exclusively in the hands of politicians and councilors- 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 and to create the change they wish to see in their own lives, and in the lives of others.
Petitions are one such tool that have enabled action of this kind. A petition is a form of written request, typically signed by many people, which appeals to a local or national authority to take action on a particular issue. This form of activism is an especially powerful means of mobilizing members of your locality to amplify their voices, while also being relatively straightforward to execute (particularly with the help of platforms such as Qomon who can guide you through the entire process!). 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. By following these, your petition can be a vehicle for meaningful change within your community, or even your entire country, thereby allowing you to be a driver of social justice and to make a significant difference in the lives of others.
STEP 1: Determining if a petition suits your cause
Before launching into the petition-writing process, it’s important to firstly decide whether a petition is the best way to support your cause and to obtain the change you are seeking. For this step of the process, a number of key 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.
- Make sure to do some research into 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.
- If you’re unsure about how deeply your community cares about your cause, it might be worth hosting a public meeting on the issue to gauge local interest levels.
STEP 2: Drafting your petition
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 that 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.
- 1-3 paragraphs in length is the ideal size in which to outline your issue.
STEP 3: 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- and here’s exactly how to guarantee that it does:
- Gather a team of volunteers who can distribute your petition in person.
- Share your petition on social media networks and with online groups that may have a particular interest in the petition- for example, if your petition is aiming to have a pedestrian crossing installed in your neighborhood, sharing your petition on your town’s Facebook page would be a good idea!
- Make a social media account specifically for the petition where you can share other news stories related to the issue your petition is tackling, thereby continuing to raise awareness more generally for the issue.
- 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- try to find a reporter or publication that might be interested in covering your story and invite them to interview you on the matter!
STEP 4: Submitting your petition
Now that you’ve gathered enough signatures, it’s time to share your petition with the public authority of your choosing. Before you do, keep these key tips in mind:
- When submitting your petition, timing is crucial- it’s important to 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, so if you’re unsure about this, don’t be afraid to reach out to the department directly and ask for clarity.
- It’s important to 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.
If you’re looking to make meaningful change within your community, city or even country, petitions are an excellent way to garner the support you need to see it come to fruition. By following the tips we’ve outlined for each stage of the process, your petition will have the greatest chance of being effective, and actually achieving the outcome you’re hoping to obtain. So whether it’s changing national legislation or investing in a better litter management system, with petitions, everyone can be a change-maker and meaningfully improve the quality of their own life, and the lives of those around them. Why not try one out yourself today and see the powerful differences you can make!