Daily Archives: September 22, 2014

If a City can do it, can DC?

Posted by Peter MUIR

This news from The Story of Stuff about the plastic bottle ban in the city of San Francisco is a bit outdated.  Regardless, it highlights how advocacy can lead to change.  It also makes me think – if the city of that size can do, why can’t Discovery College? Or all ESF schools?

SF bottled water victory

The Issue: Bottled water is one of the biggest, least necessary, wastestreams that we currently create. San Francisco debated historic legislation that would ban the sale of bottled water on city property, and invest in public water resources.

Their Response: Hundreds of our Story Community members wrote in to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, voicing support for the water bottle ban, and helping to pass the legislation.

The Story: With our friends at Corporate Accountability International leading the way in pushing the issue, San Francisco became the biggest and most visible city to debate regulations on the sale of bottled water. The historic legislation would ban the sale of bottled water on city property, as well as make important investments in public water resources to ensure access to fresh, clean water. Bottled water companies knew the importance of the move: San Francisco was one of the first cities to regulate plastic bags, and passage of this bill could establish it as model legislation for other communities to follow. Hundreds of members of our Story Community wrote in to support the legislation, which passed in a tough vote to kick off the next fight over unnecessary waste.

San Francisco Examiner: SF becomes first major city to ban sale of plastic water bottles, March 4th 2014

The Power of Petitions Plus Active Advocacy

Posted by Peter MUIR

You may have seen them online, on Facebook or even been sent an email requesting that you sign a petition.  In fact I have posted about petitions that DC students could sign for issues right here in Hong Kong on this blog.  But do they work?  Yes – when well planned and a part of a campaign.  Here is a message from one of the biggest online petition organisations – Avaaz.org about their successes with petitions.

I often get asked by Avaazers, “what happens after I sign a petition?” And the truth is, a HECK of a lot! Every Avaaz campaign springs from a massive global mandate, and then zeroes in on the best way for our voices to win. Here’s just two of our victories from the last few months:

Recently 2 million of us came together to stop the flogging of a 15-year old rape victim in the Maldives. Her sentence has been quashed! Here’s what our team did to win:

Maldives ad

  1. Spoke for hours with the Maldivian Attorney-General and Ministers and emailed the President at his personal account.
  2. Commissioned opinion polls showing massive support for reforms to protect girls. And wrote an Op-Ed in a major national paper.
  3. Persuaded a top Islamic scholar to speak out against flogging.
  4. Threatened to run an ad (right) in tourism publications, affecting the country’s major industry.
  5. Visited the Maldives and the location where the girl was held, pressing officials directly.

Ahmed Shaheed, former Foreign Minister of the Maldives said “The Avaaz contribution was the spearhead of the campaign to overturn the flogging sentence; a petition signed by millions, a country visit, a public opinion survey, and persistent follow-up all proved irresistible.”

Another example: almost 2 million of us rallied to stop the Maasai tribe in Tanzania from being kicked off their land for a hunting reserve. In September, the Prime Minister announced they could stay! The petition provided a powerful basis for what the team did next:

Maasai

  1. Got CNN and the Guardian to visit the Maasai and break the wider story to the world.
  2. Advised Maasai elders on their campaigning strategy.
  3. Flooded Ministers and the President with messages — forcing debate in cabinet and Parliament.
  4. Ran a hard hitting newspaper ad in an influential paper which publicly shamed the government.
  5. Persuaded diplomats worldwide to raise the issue — embarrassing the government.
  6. Financially supported Maasai elders to travel to the capital where they gathered to ‘occupy’ land outside of the Prime Minister’s office for weeks, refusing to leave until he met them.

What is noticeable about these petitions is that they are much more than just a petition – the petition is part of a well-planned advocacy campaign.  What changes could you make through petition?  How could you use a petition as a tool in your advocacy campaign?