Exuberantly optimistic founder Ben Rattray stopped by Re/code HQ recently to talk about the latest $25 million investment into Change.org and his goal to make it the Amazon of social change.
“The psychological effect we want to have,” Rattray said, “is when someone walks outside right now and says, ‘I want to rent an apartment, where do I go?’ Craigslist. To buy a book? Amazon. To address child slavery or climate change or stop the closure of the local park next to me? Change.org.”
Change.org is an online petition site. It is utilized to do everything from asking Jamba Juice to use compostable cups to getting body cameras on police (success stories).
Founded in 2007, with 80 million users in 196 countries and 200 employees in 18 countries, Change.org is beginning to enter the mainstream. It has become enormous, and has been influential in a number of recent high-profile cases. As for success rates: 30 million petitioners have been successful, and the likelihood of winning has increased threefold in the last year (the percentage of petitions that succeed, though, is still low).
Today the company (a B-corporation) announced $25 million in funding from investors including Arianna Huffington, Ashton Kutcher, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and the Knight Foundation.
“Elected officials are treating these campaigns much more seriously,” Rattray said. “If you’re a politician, you used to largely ignore voices online. You just don’t believe they’re real people. But that’s changing — not because they want to be hip — but because they’re realizing those are actual constituents.”
I pointed out that when I have to interact with the government, the biggest obstacle is that I own neither letters nor stamps.
“Exactly,” Rattray said.
Underlying the investment is an optimism that mass online movements will create change for the good.
Rattray, 34, from Santa Barbara, Calif., talked about calling out companies “to be their best selves,” and said that “companies will increasingly have an incentive to protect the public good.”
“Part of the perversity is there are good people in business who can actually act right now. Historically, businesses can make money in the short term by doing ill for their customers and the world,” he said. “But as you have things increasingly transparent, you liberate people in businesses to be able to do the right thing.”
As for politicians, he said, all they need is a nudge and a sign that voters want something.
“They’ll say: ‘Give me the political space to do what I know is right,'” Rattray said. “A petition gives that.”
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.