Edited Excerpts from an inteview.
What drove you to start this venture in Hindi considering that the netizens of today’s world use English for communication?
The lingua franca of about 47 percent of India’s internet population is a language other than English. The next spurt of internet growth is expected to come from local language content.
I believe change.org has strong relevance and a huge potential for change in India. But it cannot be achieved if local languages are ignored. Hindi is spoken by one-third of India — 400 million people — and so we decided to start with the most widely spoken language to maximise the potential for social change.
What was the backdrop to the introduction of change.org in India?
Change.org’s mission is to empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see in the world. India was one of the first few countries in which change. org was launched in 2012. As an open platform, we wanted India’s general population to be able to start a petition and create a country-wide change. Not just people who consider themselves activists, not just people of a single political persuasion, not just people who live in one region of India or another, but all Indians.
Is there any requirement that the petitions and petitioners have to meet?
We provide a platform for people to petition for a change. It is similar to Facebook providing tools for social networking to its users. Facebook does not decide the general criteria for what people post.
On change.org, it is the petition starter who drives the campaign forward. Our caveat is only that users do not use bullying tactics, hate speech, popular tactics used by petition starters.
The decisionmaker of a petition is automatically notified about it and the growing support through change.org. They are also provided with an option to respond and engage in dialogue with signatories to the petition.
How many petitions do you receive on average in a month and how many of these petitions can be termed successful?
On an average, around 1,200 petitions are started on change.org every month. They might garner just one signature or get more than three lakh signatures/ supporters. Of the 30 lakh users currently using the site, almost one-third of them have been part of at least one winning petition.
When is the decision to close a petition made?
Most petition starters declare victory on their campaigns when they have achieved their goal from a decisionmaker — i.e., when the required action has been taken. Petition starters can keep their petition open for as long as they want until they achieve their goals. They also have the option to ‘close’ their petitions if they don’t feel the need to continue them.
Have you ever met with opposition to a particular petition that you had earlier endorsed?
We are an open platform, we do not endorse petitions. On change.org, you’ll see petitions started by people trying to bring about change in their communities at a local, national and global level. There are petitions about political, social and economic issues, alongside petitions relating to entertainment, sports and popular culture. Change.org is a perpetual snapshot of how people are working hard to bring about change at any given moments. Sometimes there are opposing petitions on the same issue — and for me, that is an intrinsic part of democracy. We at change.org believe that such opposing views and the debate on them is extremely crucial in bringing about social change.