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All Change Is Local
As a platform, Change.org, finds its greatest effectiveness is helping people focus tightly and think big, founder Ben Rattray explained Monday at The Atlantic Meets the Pacific forum in La Jolla, Calif.
"Small, incremental, local change is spreading like wildfire," said Rattray. "If you look at the trajectory of most social movements that are very important, they start small. It aggregates across the country -- the way you win nationally is you win locally."
Change.org is a petition site -- where people answer three questions: What do you want to change? Why do you want it to change? Who do you want to reach with this? Then it's up to the petitioner to get it out on social media.
As an example, Rattray mentioned the three 16-year-old girls in Montclair, New Jersey, who, when they discover there hasn't been a female moderator in a presidential debate in the past 20 years, collected more than 170,000 signatures and garnered national media coverage. Later this month, CNN's Candy Crowley will moderate one of the debates.
"That kind of campaign in the media would cost millions of dollars," Rattray said.
The key is individual stories, he said. The tragic death of two young women who died because their rental car wasn't up-to-date on recall repairs -- a story that netted more than 100,000 petition signatures -- drove the car company to honor the recalls and may push Congress to close the rental car loophole.
It's "the aggregation of those kinds of stories that drive a change that speaks to a larger issue," Rattray said. "At a local level, you know the problems, you know the issues ... There tends to be greater solidarity and empathy on a local level."
With 150 employees worldwide, Change.org earns money when large nonprofits like the Sierra Club advertise their petitions.
"The number of people we should be able to organize is exponentially better because the number of people we can reach on the Internet has gone up exponentially," Rattray said.
The future of advertised political content is limited as it becomes less effective, while convincing people to share a message with their friends becomes ever more valuable, he believes.
"The value of peer-to-peer communication is going to be much more valuable than the advertising dollars," Rattray said.