President Donald Trump has quickly made controversial decisions related to reproductive rights, the federal workforce, immigration, oil pipelines, and international trade. He has also faced the largest day of action against an American president in history, while his team circulated sometimes erroneous information about illegal voting and inaugural attendance, creating a distracting and polarizing political climate. Meanwhile, more than 6 million people are petitioning President Trump on Change.org.
One point of contention came when the very first We the People petition to the Trump administration quickly reached the 100,000 signature threshold needed to warrant a response from the White House. The petition asks for President Trump to release his tax returns, and was so popular that it exceeded its goal in less than 24 hours. The day after the Inauguration, White House chief adviser Kellyanne Conway told ABC’s This Week that President Trump is “not going to release his tax returns.” The following day she adjusted to “POTUS is under audit and will not release until that is completed.”
In this unique political climate where many widely-respected media outlets have a tough time getting through to the Trump administration, how do we know if petitions will do any good? While we don’t have all the answers, it is a good time to remind the public about some key differences between the White House petition platform, We the People, compared to what we offer here at Change.org.
Here are 5 ways Change.org is different than the We the People petition platform created by the White House.
- Change.org is intended for anyone to create petitions about any issue. Sure you, your organization, or your company can petition the President on a political issue, but you can also build support around issues where Congress, a local school board, or companies are the decision makers. We the People was created specifically for individuals to petition the President and the current administration.
- Change.org is an international platform. Anyone, anywhere can sign on to support your petition. We the People is primarily for a US audience, since those are the constituents who the President and the administration are ultimately beholden to while in office.
- Change.org puts you in control of timelines or goals before you can get a response from the appropriate decision maker. The White House says any petition with 100,000 signatures within 30 days will receive a response on We the People. On Change.org, petitions may win and achieve their result by engaging a decision maker with just a handful of supporters signing, or they could go on for months and gain hundreds of thousand of signatures before any resolution is made.
- You’re organizing and building a community with each petition signature on Change.org. While Change.org’s platform allows you to send updates to your supporters, escalation tactics, news articles, and download a list of signatures to present to the decision makers, these functions are not available on We the People.
- Change.org is a B Corporation. We are a special kind of company that uses technology to power social change. We the People is a site created by the government to better engage with citizens.
As the outgoing Obama team reminded us in its look back at We the People, Americans have a Constitutional right to petition the government for the changes we wish to see. I believe American elected officials will respond to constituents just as corporations will feel obliged to listen to consumers. The key is to be strategic, persistent, and sincere.
Our goal at Change.org is to give all people a voice to organize for the peaceful and prosperous world in which they want to live and raise their families,, and we hope you’ll use all the tools available to you to organize for a better future.
Pulin Modi is a Senior Campaigner at Change.org