Some 80 million people worldwide are reportedly using the Change.org site to demand significant change from governments and companies.
At least three seminal societal change factors are in play here:
1.) Hyper-scale activist petitioning.
A recent Change.org campaign generated 130,000 signatures on a user-created petition for Ferguson police to wear body cameras. Another campaign, calling for large companies to “stop bullying sustainable food companies”, won over 100,000 supporters in less than a month. And a longer-term campaign this year to spare a Christian Sudanese woman from being executed had over a million supporters. Implications for next year’s proxy resolutions for corporate boards are not hard to imagine.
2.) Mission-aligned, wealthy investors with long-term horizons.
The new $25 million investment from the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Branson will enable Change.org to invest in mobile development and expand a tool that allows businesses and government officials who are the targets of petitions to engage with users. That expansion is consistent with the long-term philosophy of the new investors. One has called Change.org “a global platform that is giving people a stronger voice on how things operate. This is an incredible innovation, and we’re just at the tip of the iceberg.”
3.) Increased clout for the B (Benefit) corporation concept.
The motivations of companies espousing corporate social responsibility vary widely. At the center, profit and societal improvement are in balance. Yet some CSR commitments lean heavily in one direction or the other. The B (benefit) corporation is legally empowered to make decisions based on what is good for society, although it also seeks profitability. Change.org — with its formidable financial arsenal combined with powerful internet outreach and influence — appears to be today’s uber B corporation.
Although B corporations are still relatively few in number, Change.org’s momentum — coupled with the evolving values of the millennial generation — is well worth monitoring.