Petitioning: more than the sum of its parts

We wanted to take a few minutes to talk about why the team here at A World at School uses online and offline petitions to create change.

We work closely with UN Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown. Throughout his career he has utilized petitions to bring the wishes of the many to those who are in a position to make that change. The power of a petition was recently demonstrated in Pakistan, where Gordon launched both online and offline petitions following the shooting of Malala Yousafzai. This petition brought about immediate legislative change in that country and now for the first time, all girls and boys can go to school.

Someone smart once said that if you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day, but if you teach him to fish, he’ll eat for life. The same basic principle applies to petitioning. If one man asks something, he might make a small change for a short while, but if he can convince millions of others to ask with him, something huge and long-lasting might happen.

Petitioning – getting people to add their name to a single ask – is one of the most powerful checks on power that we have. When a tiny number of powerful people are setting priorities, dictating spending and changing laws, sometimes they need to be reminded that the real power rests with the people. Particularly when they’re getting things wrong.

Take the fact that 57 million young people are not in school, for example – and the fact that governments aren’t doing enough about it. Lots of people might individually tell world leaders that this needs to change. Very powerful and influential individuals might even do so – including Malala herself, who has recently launched a petition with Gordon.

But the power and influence of politicians or campaigners pales in comparison to the power of the collective. Because when, along with Gordon and Malala, and the other education campaigners around the world, thousands, millions of others add their voice, the people making the decisions take notice.

So when you add your voice to the A World at School petition, you’ll become part of a global movement which started with one brave Pakistani teenager, grew into an outcry of millions, and now, much more than the sum of its parts, has the momentum to bring about real change.