In January, the White House issued a Decision Maker response to the petition to pardon Steven Avery, the subject of Netflix’s Making a Murder who is serving a life sentence for the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach. It was the White House’s first official Decision Maker response on Change.org.
While the White House clarified that it couldn’t intervene -- the president can only pardon federal crimes -- the response opens a new channel of communication between the executive branch and American citizens. You can read the full White House response here.
As President Obama is named as the Decision Maker (DM) on more Change.org petitions than any other person or organization, this is a big step forward.
“Technology has made it easier than ever to raise one’s voice, but direct engagement between citizens and government through tools like Change.org's Decision Maker feature is a powerful reminder about the potential for the internet to improve democracy around the world,” said Tyler Rattray, US External Affairs at Change.org.
Having Decision Makers that respond to petitions is essential to making change. And the White House is just the latest in a group of government officials and corporations that are using petitions as a way to communicate with their constituents and consumers.
Facebook, Uber, Senator Cory Booker, and Arianna Huffington, among others, have all issued responses to petitions. And their responses fostered meaningful discussions and collaboration that lead to real solutions.
We’ve put together a list of some of those responses that have led to real change.
11 Decision Maker Responses that Show the Power of Petitions
1. Arianna Huffington: Add a Disability Voices Section to the Huffington Post
When a Sarah Blahovec, a Huffington Post blogger, petitioned the site to add a Disability Voices Section, Arianna Huffington, herself, responded:
At The Huffington Post, we recently launched our What's Working initiative to shine a spotlight on solutions happening in the world, and we'd love to include Accessibility as one of the key topics we cover. As you know, we are already covering this topic extensively on the site, but can do a better job at highlighting, packaging and promoting it. To that effect, we'd like to invite you to be an Editor-at-Large of a new Accessibility section which we will create as a response to this petition.
2. Facebook: Remove the "Feeling Fat" Emoticon Option
Catherine Weingarten and Endangered Bodies were upset when Facebook made “feeling fat” a status option, so they started a petition. After 16,000 signatures, Facebook responded:
We’ve heard from our community that listing “feeling fat” as an option for status updates could reinforce negative body image, particularly for people struggling with eating disorders. So we’re going to remove “feeling fat” from the list of options. We’ll continue to listen to feedback as we think about ways to help people express themselves on Facebook.
3. Senator Cory Booker: Tell Congress we will never forget 9/11 first responders and survivors
John Feal’s petition asking Congress to renew the Zadroga Act, which provides healthcare for 9/11 first responders, got this response from the bill’s sponsor, Senator Booker:
We have an obligation to brave first responders who sacrificed for our country on September 11th, 2001. Fourteen years after that tragic day, many of the thousands of first responders who were at the World Trade Center site are still battling serious health issues...4,800 first responders and 9/11 survivors are receiving treatment at the World Trade Center Health Program headquartered at Rutgers in my state. Across the country, thousands more responders and survivors are benefiting from the care and compensation they deserve as part of programs supported by the James Zadroga Act.
However, if nothing is done, these programs are set to expire tomorrow. We can’t allow that to happen.
The Act was reauthorized in December.
4. Uber: Mandate a 7 year background check for Uber drivers in India
After a woman was raped by an Uber driver in India, Alina Tiphagne petitioned the company to up their screening for drivers. This is part of Uber’s response, which also included the steps they were taking to make riding with Uber a safer experience:
Our teams have been working around the clock to develop new safety programs, implement global best practices and strengthen existing features and processes so the women of India have the reliable and safe transportation option they deserve and can rely on.
5. Senator Mitch McConnell: Pass the ABLE Act
Sara Wolff is a 31-year-old woman who has down syndrome. She called on Congress to pass the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which helps individuals with disabilities to save for their futures. Senator Mitch McConnell, a co-sponsor of the bill, responded to the petition:
I am proud to have co-sponsored the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2013. This bipartisan legislation would assist Kentuckians with disabilities and parents who have children with disabilities.
I have heard from parents across the Commonwealth and the nation who have children with disabilities and find it difficult to encourage their independence and save money for the future. I proudly support the ABLE Act on behalf of the Kentucky families, children, and individuals living with disabilities, and I look forward to working to help get this legislation through the Senate and enacted into law.
The Act was passed in December 2014.
6. GoDaddy: Remove the Super Bowl 2015 Commercial
When GoDaddy released a Super Bowl ad that made light of puppy mills, consumers were unhappy and responded with a petition. The company responded and took action immediately:
We previewed GoDaddy’s Super Bowl spot, featuring a puppy named Buddy, on a popular talk show and, shortly after, we heard from you on Change.org that you did not like the ad. As such, we decided to immediately pull the ad in question. Now that the Super Bowl is over, we wanted to make sure to let you, the signers of the Change.org petition, know about our action.
7. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: Justice for Military Sexual Trauma Victims: Pass the Military Justice Improvement Act
Teresa Youngs is a U.S. Navy Veteran and Military Sexual Trauma (MST) survivor who started a petition asking Congress to pass legislation that would put a specialized legal group in charge of investigating and prosecuting military sexual assault. Senator Gillibrand introduced the bill to Congress and had this to say:
Teresa, thank you for telling your story and for making your voice heard on behalf of so many survivors of sexual assault in the military who haven't had a voice. Your story unfortunately is all too common, but together, by passing the Military Justice Improvement Act and bringing real reform the military justice system, it's my hope that we can ensure no one goes through what you went through ever again.
And thanks to the over 100,000 signers of this petition. It really makes a difference that Americans all over the country of all political stripes are raising their voices to say, enough is enough.
The Act is still with Congress.
8. Oxford City Council: Don't make life harder for Oxford's rough sleepers
When the Oxford City Council proposed to ban “rough sleepers,” the organization On Your Doorstep started a petition asking the City Council to rethink its approach and not criminalize homelessness. After reading On Your Doorstep’s petition, Council Leader Bob Price responded saying:
We have discussed the proposal with our partners in dealing with homelessness and have concluded that there are more effective ways of tackling this problem; that section is not included in the current draft of the PSPO. Tackling homelessness is and will always remain a top priority for the council - this year alone we will spend almost £1.4m tackling the issue.
9. Representative Mike Honda: Pass the TEACH Act
Jamie Principado started a petition asking Congress to pass the Teach Act, which gives equal access to educational materials for students with disabilities. Representative Honda decided to cosponsor the bill after reading the petition:
Jamie, thank you for bringing attention to this issue. My heart goes out to you, and to every college student who’s been held back because of a lack of support for their disability. In the 21st century, when higher education has become increasingly important and technology exists that can overcome many obstacles, we must address this problem.
Your struggle moved me. Because of this petition, I am now a proud cosponsor of the TEACH Act.
The Act is still with Congress.
10. Taco Bell: Don’t let animals suffer. Go cage-free!
Compassion in World Farming petitioned Taco Bell to only serve cage-free eggs. The fast food giant announced that it would do just that in its response:
We’re thrilled to announce that Taco Bell will exclusively serve cage-free eggs in all of our U.S. restaurants by the end of 2016, making us one of the first quick service restaurants to fully implement this change. We’ve been working for years to do this right and fast, and approximately 500,000 hens each year will benefit as a result. We value your sentiment and thank you for your support.
11. Mayor Bill DeBlasio: Hold a Ticker-Tape Parade in NYC for US Women's National Soccer Team
Gale Brewer started a petition asking that New York City throw the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team a ticker tape parade, something that had never been done for a women’s team. Here was the mayor’s response:
Yes, I completely agree. Hope you will all join us for tomorrow's historic ticker tape parade to celebrate this incredible team.
Want to learn more about how to engage a Decision Maker? Check out our Petition Guide.
Inspired by these petition starters and Decision Makers?