Not all petition sites are created equal

At ActionStation we’re all about supporting individuals and communities to create the change we want to see in the world.

We’re not waiting for a hero to come and save us; we’re not looking to our politicians to fix everything. Given the multiple challenges facing our world, we all have a part to play in creating solutions.

That’s why ActionStation created its own community campaign platform, OurActionStation. OurActionStation puts the tools for change in your hands to help bring about a thriving Aotearoa. New Zealanders are using it to achieve wins for their causes and communities on the issues we all care about.

So we’re pleased to see the launch today of a new petition tool on the New Zealand Parliament website. In the last few years online petitions have become a more convenient way to get Parliament’s attention about important issues. This tool will make it easier to create a formal petition that will be accepted by Parliament.

There are now a range of websites where you can start a petition for your campaign. They each provide different services and will suit different people and campaigns. So we thought it was a good time to look at the options you have when starting your campaign.

Here’s a visual guide to the differences between the online petition platforms available to you:

The OurActionStation platform is not just a petition site. It’s a campaign toolkit with campaign coaching and support, funded by the ActionStation community, for people to use to advance the vision co-created by the ActionStation community.

In the lead up to the 2017 General Election the ActionStation community came together to co-create Te Ira Tāngata: People’s Agenda, a crowdsourced project to re-centre the political conversation around the values so many of us share. The result was a bold and cohesive vision of an alternative future for our country putting community, care and compassion first.

The ActionStation staff team are New Zealand-based, know the local context, and can give expert advice to help win your campaign. Like our friends at Toko (hosted by Greenpeace), we’ll be with you along the whole campaign journey. We’ll help build the support of a community to win your cause.

This makes us different from other sites, like Change.org. Change also allows you to create an online petition, but doesn’t have an existing community vision that your campaign needs to be aligned with. Change.org bills itself as being ‘values-neutral’.

Change.org is also not based in New Zealand. So if they do provide you with support, say, to improve the wording of your petition, they can’t help you with on-the-ground support to set up a meeting with an MP to deliver your petition, for example.

On the plus side, Change.org has grown a massive email list in New Zealand, so if your petition takes off, and is already growing fast, they may choose to share it with lots of other people.

Parliament’s new petition tool is a great way to make Parliament more accessible, and it shows they want to encourage public engagement. But they won’t be able to promote your petition, and can’t provide support or advice on your wider campaign goals.

Because a petition isn’t a campaign. A petition can be one tool of your campaign toolbox, along with a range of other tactics.

These could be organising public meetings, social media promotions, media releases, or creative actions. You can ask the supporters of your cause to take various actions, such as send emails to the campaign target. What you use from your campaign toolbox will depend on what you need at the time.

OurActionStation is designed to support you throughout the life of your campaign and to help you reach new audiences, whereas the Parliamentary petition tool is built for people who just want a petition. This could suit you best, for example, if you already have all the expertise, community support and promotion you need for your campaign, and just want a simple petition.

Your campaign is the kete (basket) that holds all these together. The choice of tactics you’ll use will depend on the answers to a few initial questions: What am I aiming for? What is needed to achieve that? Who can make the change? How we will get their attention and put the pressure on?

The answers to these questions form your campaign plan. It’s your strategy for getting what you want to see done.

Once you have ideas for a campaign to create the change you want to see, you may want to set up a petition to kick-start it. A petition is a great way to build a supporter base around your cause. OurActionStation may be the best place for you to do that, but depending on the issues, the audience, the target or the level of support you need, it may not be either.

So, if you are ready to start a petition for your campaign, and wondering whether to start it on Change.org, the Parliamentary petition site, Toko or OurActionStation, we hope this guide helps you decide which is right for you.

For more information on the OurActionStation community campaign platform go to our.actionstation.org.nz or contact the Community Campaign Manager at eliot@actionstation.org.nz.

We work together to create a society where people and planet are more important than profit and Te Tiriti o Waitangi is honoured.