I launched a website to help anyone take part in politics – now 10 million people have had their say

Politics should never be reserved for those with the time and inclination to be tribalists or hobbyists

 

Campaigners on subjects from human rights to welfare cuts have used Change.org to have their say Getty Images

Growing up in London in the noughties I was passionate about issues like feminism and the environment. But back then – like now – party politics didn’t really appeal to me, as it seemed more about proving a commitment to rigid ideologies rather than inspiring ideas. With political party members making up just over one per cent of the population, but hundreds of petitions started every day on Change.org it seems there’s huge appetite to tackle issues large and small, but not using the traditional methods.

Politics should never be reserved just for people with the time and inclination to be tribalists or hobbyists, and Westminster has got to become more comfortable about people engaging quickly and loudly with issues on a scale that suits them. When Simon Andree started a campaign on Change.org to spare his father from being lashed in a Saudi jail, he did it because the internet combined with media coverage is now the most effective way to quickly kick traditional politics into taking action. And on issues as diverse as the weight of catwalk models, the refugee crisis and the taxation of tampons, 2015 has been a year where MPs have been inspired by campaigns led by people, rather than the other way around.

The problems of the world can often seem intractably large and complex. Climate change, terrorism or injustice cannot always be understood, much less solved, with a magic wand or a single click. But personal stories like the ones which spark the most powerful petitions on our site do help to bring these issues to life and making people feel they can be participants in social change rather than spectators.

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Take Lindsey Garrett, who fought to keep her home – and the homes of 93 others – on the New Era estate in north London. She took her views straight to Number 10, won and inspired other communities around the capital to use the internet to try and change the debate on housing. It was her personal story that helped people understand and take action on a major issue. This is not always an easy form of politics for Westminster to grasp. It is independent, noisy and cuts across party lines. But these unplanned, open, online movements are a megaphone through which ordinary people’s voices can be loudly heard in the corridors of power.

In the four years since I launched Change.org in the UK – this week welcoming its 10 millionth user – we’ve started to see the incredible potential the web offers to decentralise power from political elites to citizens. The barriers to entry for political protest are being flattened, while sites like ours are proving that anyone with a laptop and a story to tell can start, run and win a campaign on whatever issue matters to them. In the UK, Change.org users now win 50 campaigns a month. Globally, they win a victory every hour. We’ve barely started to tap the internet’s power as a campaign tool, but it’s already pushing political power down and out to where it belongs – in the hands of ordinary people.

When Change.org launched in the UK we did so with the belief that by giving anyone the campaigning tools that big organisations have, people could change politics on their own terms. Petitions are an old form of technology but they also reveal a glimpse of the future: individuals creating big campaigns online that create even bigger changes in the real world.

Brie Rogers Lowery runs Change.org UK

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