The aim of W-SHIFT project seminar series is to build business plans to change the world and use business as a mean to solve social issues with the motto “We shift, the World shifts”. For the second seminar, we invited Emmy Suzuki Harris, campaign director of “Change.org Japan”, the world’s largest petition platform used by more than 40 million people coming from 196 countries.
At age 24, Emmy Suzuki Harris was told by her doctor that she might never be able to walk again by herself due to her health problem caused by excessive work. She took it as a good opportunity to reassess her life up to that point, and to find out how she would live her life from then on. What will she do with her life? At the invitation of some friends, she took part in volunteering activities for the US presidential campaign and was truly amazed by which impact an efficient use of websites and SNS could have on people. At that moment, she became confident that social media will flatten the society.
The founder of Change.org is Benjamin Michael “Ben” Rattray from California and a graduate from Stanford University. In the beginning, he used to create websites, but when he learned about lesbians in South Africa being forced to suffer sexual assault, he left his job to set up a campaign website calling for governmental measures. As a result, thanks to the petition of 170 thousand people within 3 weeks, the government guaranteed the establishment of rescue teams to prevent such accidents to ever happen again. Ben then changed the model of his website to collect petitions from users all around the world, and set up the bases of what was going to become Change.org.
Currently, Change.org has 40 million users and the number is growing at the rate of one to two million per month. Their activities are available in 18 languages disseminating information not only in Europe but also in Asia. Although their business model is advertising business, they are willing to act as a social enterprise not just pursuing economic profit.
People at Change.org believe in the power of petitions to change the world. For example, there was a case of the internationally famous violinist Ms.Horigome who was ordered to pay the fine for her violin at customs in Germany. Thanks to a campaign on Change.org, five thousand signatures were gathered instantly and the violin returned to her safely.
Internet has the power to change the world. Some people might think “what could be done with petitions, anyway?”. But a single petition is the voice of several thousand individuals. One single voice may have limited power but will turn into something big when gathered with many more. Change.org hopes to contribute to the establishment of a better world by flattening the society using Internet.
Although Change.org is just a petition platform merely run by about 140 individuals, still, its campaigns do reach 40 million users from 196 countries. It only takes just one feeling of “change” about something, be it a trivial problem or a political issue having a nasty social impact.
Each voice gathering at Change becomes a steady step to change the world. Direct approaches have been taken in the existing business so far, but the new tide of business may be shown by Change.org which involves various stakeholders to foster a new society.
Host: City Planning Bureau, City of Osaka