Having many people “backing” and “sharing” your campaign gives it credibility and power can help you achieve an almost immediate result, or, it can be a great tool to back-up other activities you are planning.

There is an art to getting petitions right. Here are some tried and tested tips!

1. Get your Facts right

Make sure you know the issue inside out and have done your research. Your petition needs to ask for a specific action that will actually help, is possible, and that people can understand. Cross check all information before you launch your petition to the world.

Know and show facts about your petition e.g. when it needs to be signed by, how many people need to sign it, what will happen next.


good headline image

2. Get your Caption right

Captions (the headline of the petition) should be short, powerful, and inspirational to capture the support of busy people. Captions that say what’s going on in a few words are golddust.

In this example the caption shows clearly what change the petition is asking for with as few words as possible.


3. Get your petition text right 

Your petition needs to tell people the most important facts

1) What the problem is (mixing personal experiences and hard facts),

2) What needs to be done by who and when. Make it Urgent!

3) Who you are, why you care, who is supporting you already, and how people can help. This is a recipe for success.

Write your petition well and in a way everyone can understand. Be positive. Bullet points are better than long paragraphs. Get a few people to proof read your words before you “launch”.


4. Get your images right

Pictures can show the issue get people involved instantly - they are essential. Your picture has to help people understand the problem and want to read more.

malala picture example

5. Get your decision maker right

Make sure you “address” your petition to someone who can actually fix the problem. (tools from the “how the world works” worksheet will help you find the right person).


launching a petition

6. Get your promotion right

Talk to people wherever you can find them: online and in the community.

  • Using posters, email lists, social media, badges, stickers and local and national newspapers/radio will help you raise awareness and make a louder noise.

  • Always be polite - people don’t support people who are rude, and remember - they person you are “petitioning” is likely to read what is written

  • Plan updates for supporters but not so many you “turn them off”

  • Make a space where they can ask questions, find out what’s happening and see what other people are saying (this could be a blog, social media page etc)

  • Always carry the petition address / a professional paper copy with you

  • If you can get lots of people to sign at once it builds “momentum” and your petition might be featured on the site - this will help you get even more sign ups!


7. Use a petition platform

These are some of the most popular and easy to use petition sites:

  1. 38 Degrees - Campaigns By You
  2. Care2
  3. Change.org
  4. Avaaz

Search some of the “successful” petitions on these sites. Why do you think they were successful?

Search one of these petition sites for petitions being run on your issue. Look at the petitions and decide:

  • Is the aim of the petition clear and realistic?

  • Does the caption and picture grab your attention?

  • Are there any groups or people supporting their campaign that might help you?

There is lots of extra guidance on the petition sites and they “talk you through” the process. If you need some support with language or technology don’t be afraid to ask for help.

 

Making a change is easier with others. There are many people who can help you to succeed. 

Winning a result is more often about working with people who do care, and inspiring people “who don’t know they care yet” than battling with an enemy or someone who strongly disagrees with you.

There are lots of different people, groups and authorities in the community who may want to support you. 

Choosing wisely who you spend your time on will help you to succeed fast without getting “battle tired”. 

 
 
cover-uk-where-we-work-pic-for-website.jpg

People who are harmed by the problem and people who are already working hard on the issue.

There are people who have experience of the same problem as you, or who agree with you, and who are already working hard to make the same change. These could be people living with the problem, MPs, community groups or charities. They could be people you know, or people you are yet to meet

You can power your campaign by joining with other experienced people.

 

People who are affected, who care, but don’t know how to help

There are people who are “harmed” by the problem or agree with your campaign, but don’t know how to get involved. They have friends who can help too! These people and organisations can be found in your community, in the real world and online. 

Ask them to help! 

 

 

People who don’t know they care (Yet).

There are people who don’t know that they care yet - either because they haven’t themselves faced “the problem” or because they don’t know that other people are hurting. This could be anyone! 

Tell people why your campaign is important, how they can help, and that they are wanted and needed. They might support you.


People who generally disagree with you or who don’t care

There are people who will disagree with your campaign, or don’t have the same experience, but they don’t care enough to cause problems.

For now, it is probably easiest to “agree to disagree” and save energy. However, knowing what these people think can help your campaign. Use the internet to start finding out about other views.


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PEOPLE WHO DISAGREE WITH YOU AND WILL BLOCK YOUR CAMPAIGN.

Some people will disagree with you and argue against you strongly. They will not help you, and it could be  huge waste of time arguing with them, and worse still, by making them aware of your campaign, you could inspire them to act against you. 

Avoid combat with these people. This is an energy sucking group.


NEXT STEPS

Who do you think might be affected by the same problem as you? List the people that might already be living this problem, be affected by it, or care about it and any ideas you have about how you might contact them.

Make a list of things people could do to help. Keep it simple. People say YES when the request seems do-able. Keep your ideas safe for people who might be currently “stuck in” or “affected by” the problem.


Working with others is often a great way of winning your campaign. Starting a “partnership” or “joining forces” with another group will go more smoothly if you agree some critical things. Writing down what you agree helps other people see what has been agreed, and also helps you to be sure you are working well together.

 

Common ground: what do you care about? what change do you want to see?

It’s amazing how much difference there can be between groups campaigning on the same issue. Working with other groups is often essential for success, but if you are going to work together with others, it is important you work out if you have enough “common ground”.

For example: two groups might both be campaigning to get a change in the law to help young people who are self harming. Some might want websites which encourage young people to harm themselves to be banned, whereas another group might be more concerned with getting education about self harm in schools. In this example the groups could maybe work together to raise awareness of the problem of self harm, but their campaign is about two very different wins and it’s probably going to be very difficult for these groups to work together consistently.


What do you bring to the table?

It’s good to share what skills, resources, connections, experience and plans each of the groups has.

Once you know what each group can offer, you can make commitments to each other about what jobs and roles each team will be working on.


What are your red lines?

Some groups will be working towards the same aim but care very strongly about how it is done. 

For example some people will not want to work with authorities, some people will not want to talk at all about personal experience, some people will not compromise on certain outcomes no matter what. 

Set out your expectations: How will you speak about each other, do the work together, and what will be your red lines?


Who will take the credit?


Does it matter who gets the credit for a win?

If you can discuss honestly what really matters to you in terms of who is seen as the organisers and leaders, then you will more likely to stay strong and undivided even in the face of challenges.

Does it matter who gets the credit if the change happens?


How will you sort out things that go wrong? In campaigns things sometimes change fast, and many people are involved. If something is going wrong or a group you are working with disagrees with how something has been done, would that be the end?

If you plan ahead for how you will deal with conflict you can avoid the whole action falling apart. 

How will you resolve conflict?


Teaching and Sharing

Each group can teach the other based on their experience and knowledge. 

Each group can share their resources so both teams can do better in the campaign. 

If one group is more established and has a positive reputation they might also be willing to share their name.


Write down everything that has been agreed between different groups down on paper and get everyone to re-read it and sign. Though it seems formal, it helps all groups and people to know and remember what has been said. 

It’s so very easy to forget, or for people to have a different understanding of what was said - having a written shared agreement keeps things as simple as possible

Make a Written Agreement


Putting pressure on people in power

You can make change in different ways. There’s “official ways” and ways “to take matters into your own hands”. Here are some ideas of how you can apply pressure


vote and talk about your vote

If your problem is being caused by elected representatives, or if they are responsible for your issue, one way to get a change is to use your vote. Your vote can get people in power or people who want power to listen to you. 


Tell people and “parties” that you and many others will vote for them if they listen and make a change. Though politicians are meant to listen to everyone in their community, you may find their ears very open just before an election, and more open to groups they think will vote in big numbers. While voting is powerful, it doesn’t happen that often - so you might want to put pressure on your existing representatives to stick to their promises and responsibilities while you wait for an election.
 


use public information 

Everything representative say, do and plan to do is publicly available for you to see. You can look up what meetings, decisions, votes and plans have happened or are happening about your problem and how you can raise your problem at them.
 
If you can’t find the information you need, you could make a “freedom of information request” to get it. 

Knowledge is power: Your experience plus “insider information” = dynamite for change
 


do it yourself!

People often start to deal with the problem by contacting the person or people with power to point out the problem, say what harm is being caused, and to let them know what needs to change.  Often people don’t listen or act, or try to make it impossible for you to make progress

Maybe they are happy with what they are doing, don’t care, or think they can get away with it.

You can raise the pressure, and act outside of the system by finding a “DIY” way to force a change


Make your voice heard

If no-one else will fix your problem you can often ignore the authorities and fix it yourself. (e.g. you can stop kids being injured by cars by blocking the road, you can stop people being lied to about a service by going with them and taking notes)

If you do really need someone in a position of power to do something, then you can publicly “call them out”  disrupt their power, disrupt their profit or disrupt their comfort. 

greenham
  • Stage a protest
  • Make noise in the Media  
  • Make it impossible for people to ignore you
  • Shut down, block, embarrass or boycott
  • Show change is possible
  • Stop people doing harm (direct action)
  • Take legal action
  • Show the support
  • Show the alternative
  • Get someone well known involved
  • Work with a Trade Union
  • Create a visually exciting stunt

Protestors blocked Westminster Bridge to protest the selling off of the NHS to private companies

Protestors blocked Westminster Bridge to protest the selling off of the NHS to private companies

How to organise a stunt

Sometimes you need to get a lot of people, or just some of the right people to hear your problem and to act, especially when you need an urgent result.

One of the best ways to achieve this is to pull off a stunt!

A stunt can get your problems in the minds of the public or people in power, in a way they can’t ignore. 

A stunt can help you show the human face of your issue, bring in others having the same experience and show people in power the support you have. It can also help people get excited about the solution.


If you want to run a stunt it needs to be Simple, Engaging, Well Timed, Planned, and it needs to Make Sense to the people that see it!

1. Take time to find something that REALLY WORKS. It’s got to show your issue and the solution in a way people can connect with - if you are not sure it’s the right thing to do - keep working until you are all confident you have the X Factor.

2. Use images, words, and stories people can connect with and understand easily.

3. Be cheeky, brave, shocking, funny, or powerful - but be strong in your message.


Greenpeace drew attention to Shell's drilling in the arctic by creating a huge polar bear sculpture outside their HQ in London

Greenpeace drew attention to Shell's drilling in the arctic by creating a huge polar bear sculpture outside their HQ in London

4. Make sure the stunt shows people what they can do to help, how they can join in.

5. Ask yourself what could go wrong. Is it safe? Do you have the right equipment? Will the weather affect it? Is anything else happening in that place on that day? Ask people who know nothing about your campaign if they get it, and what their questions would be.

6. Make sure you have checked your facts - and have more information ready for people who want to help you or ask questions


Sisters Uncut held a funeral themed march through London to commemorate and draw attention to the women killed by partners and the high number of support services cut since 2010.

Sisters Uncut held a funeral themed march through London to commemorate and draw attention to the women killed by partners and the high number of support services cut since 2010.

7. Plan it and rehearse it. A great stunt in the wrong place or at the wrong time is not a great stunt. The right people have to be there to experience / notice it, and the timing has to be right for the stunt to work. Also, you have to be sure you pull it off well, so it’s super sleek on the day.

8. Create a buzz - put up posters, send out press releases, use social media and talk to people. Let people know something is going to happen and inspire people to join in, but, don’t give away all your secrets if there is a “wow” factor involved. Maybe there is a local artist, band, filmmaker, photographer, or a celebrity, or other groups who can help you make your stunt sparkle.

9. The issue might be shocking and it might play on people’s emotions. Think about how different groups might react and consider if it could cause harm (bringing negative attention to you) and think about how you might respond to people who are “heckling”, causing an interruption, or trying to argue with you.

10. Be positive. To pull this off, all your team need to know the plan, agree with the plan, and be clear on and committed to their roles.