Nine ways signing that online petition makes a difference

Eliot Pryor
ActionStation Aotearoa
4 min readFeb 11, 2018


Have you wondered if signing that petition ever makes a difference? Depending on the campaign, it’s true clicking that ‘sign’ button may just be a way of ‘doing something’ and letting off steam, but I’m here to tell you how OurActionStation petitions do have very practical applications and can be very effective in creating change.

The purpose of petitions can be both practical and symbolic. They can be a catalyst for change on their own or one step in the campaign journey. The following are nine examples a petition you start for your campaign can work:


For a start, a petition is a great way to gather a support base of people who care about an issue strongly enough to take action, by signing their name to it. It means a group of like-minded people has got together who can then take action at crucial points on the campaign journey.


A petition can show decision-makers (the people who can make the change we want happen) the level of public support for an issue.

Petitions don’t always need a big number to make a big impact. Hemi-May Kelly needed just 100 signatures with postal addresses for Hamilton City Council to officially accept her petition for plastics recycling — she got over 1000 signatures, getting the chance to present it in person to the Council, which then initiated a review of the waste management system.


Petitions can be the basis to start conversations that change how people think. Getting signatures at your local market or on the street is an opportunity to get feedback on your campaign in real time, gauge the level of support out there and maybe plant the seeds of a new idea in people’s minds.

Aaron talking with a supporter on the street about funding our health system


Petitions can take the role of an informal poll — it can show a business that its customers want them to take action or do something different. Businesses especially are very sensitive to the conversations that people are having about their brand, and a petition and the campaign around it can be a way of having those conversations.

For example, When Tim Pate started his petition in July asking Countdown to ‘ban the bag’ and stop using single-use plastic bags they said ‘no’, despite their parent company, Woolworths Australia, having done so, and showing it was possible.

Tim’s was one of several voices asking our supermarkets to go plastic bag free and added to the consumer pressure on Countdown to declare an end to the use of single-use plastic bags, which it did in October. New World followed suit one week later!


Events organised around your petition can be the basis for a media story …

Erica organised a media event to deliver her petition to TVNZ


… and a chance to start a conversation with your local MP or councillor.

Eve talking with her MP Stuart Nash about the health funding situation in Hawkes Bay.


A petition delivery event can be very effective when you make a point of delivering it to your target in a personal, high-profile or creative way. The resulting photo and story can be shared to your supporters, to media, to the world, to tell the story of your campaign.

The Kiwi Bottle Drive campaigners deliver messages in bottles to Parliament


Petitions play an important role in our democracy — by handing in a petition officially to an MP at Parliament, it can go to a Select Committee for discussion by politicians and potentially lead to a change in the law.

James Crow speaking to his petition to end homelessness to the Housing Select Committee

WATCH: New MP Chloe Swarbrick (Greens) chats about the Select Committee process at Parliament and how you can participate using a petition.


As a final consideration, besides their function in your campaign, petitions can still be very powerful in their symbolic nature. It’s true, without some kind of purpose and plan many will not be noticed, but the way they are used within a campaign can define a moment and represent a groundswell of feeling that cannot be ignored.

Community in Action deliver an Open Letter to Parliament

And then sometimes it’s also just great to let off steam!

In 2017 New Zealanders used the community campaign platform OurActionStation to achieve wins for the causes important to them. Is there something you’d like to see change for the better in 2018?

What have you noticed that needs fixing in the world? Where do you see an opportunity for positive change? Did your friend just say “something should be done about that!” — ?

Start a campaign today at



Eliot Pryor
ActionStation Aotearoa

Community Campaign Manager @ActionStation / Funk soul brother, human animal, capoeira angoleiro.