How to Organize a World-Changing Petition

Consider your target

It’s only natural that targets might be institutions. Try to address your petition to specific individuals who have the influence or decision-making power to respond to your request. Start with the institution and then think about exactly whose hands you want to put the petition into. The more specific you can be, the better chance your petition will be seen and taken seriously. Target the key decision-makers for maximum effect.
Consider the timing relative to your target as well. If your petition has a political target, time the delivery correctly so that it coincides with a good time in the legislative session and you’re not trying to deliver it when Congress is out of session!

Make your demand concrete

Resist the urge to ask your target to just plain solve the problem. If you want more research funding, be specific with exactly how much more you want and why. Give them a clear roadmap as far as what you want them to do. Is it voting for a specific bill, taking a meeting with a certain person or group, changing a law? Help them understand exactly what you’re asking for and there’s a better chance that the answer will be, “Yes!”.
Offer supporting facts. Don’t assume that your target is educated on the issue. Without being condescending or accusatory, make sure to take the opportunity to fully explain the problem and also why your demand is necessary and reasonable. This might be the first time that your target is learning about ME/CFS so it’s best not to assume prior knowledge or understanding of the situation.

Consider your supporters

Are your supporters likely to be patients, caregivers, doctors, researchers, other activists? Think through who you ideally want to be your supporters before you finalize your petition. “All of them” is not a good strategy, you should have at least some idea of why your petition should appeal to certain groups more than others. If not, jump on over to the Idea Center and we’ll help you brainstorm different approaches you could take to better target different groups.

Consider your wider audience

The audience for your petition can be broader than just your target and supporters. When engage a wider audience, the petition can become not just a form of direct pressure but an opportunity to educate others on the issue and to hold the target accountable for responding to the demands of the petition.
Delivery of a successful petition is only the first step. Too many petitions fall on deaf ears. Leveraging a wider audience can be a crucial part of insuring that your target is forced to listen.
Don’t be afraid to think beyond your current sphere of influence. If you can break outside the ME/CFS community you can increase the number of supporters significantly. Is this an issue for parents, civil rights, health equality, or any other broad human rights issue? Contact prominent players or organizations within that arena and ask them to partner with you and support your petition. Don’t water down your message or lose sight of your goal of course, but consider how you can reach out and gain support outside your current networks.

Make it a media moment

One way to help engage that wider audience is to make the delivery of your petition to the intended target a media moment.
Hold a press conference and invite local news organizations to witness the delivery of the signatures to your target.
Write and give interviews. Local media are always on the lookout for local human-interest stories. If you or one of your collaborators are comfortable speaking with the press or appearing on camera, reach out to all the local TV stations and Newspapers and ask if they will cover your story.
If you are stuck in bed and your plan is to deliver the petition by email, make a video to commemorate the event. Post the video on YouTube and consider sending it to local news stations in lieu of an interview.

Integrate petitions into larger efforts

Organize a march to deliver your petition. Form local groups to increase the on-the-ground reach of your petition as well. Don’t be afraid to aim big! The petition can be a great centralizing and galvanizing force for a larger movement. If a similar organization exists, get in contact to talk about partnering with them for your campaign. Capitalize on other events happening in the ME/CFS community or out there in the world.

Spread the word

Social media is your new best friend.
When you create your petition at #MEAction, we’ll jump in and start posting about your action on Facebook and Twitter. But please, don’t let us have all the fun!
Use your own account or the account of your organization to share updates and the link to the petition. You should definitely post asking friends/followers to share/re-tweet details about your project. But a personal touch is often even more effective. Reach out to close friends and family individually and ask them to share your petitions with their own networks.
New to Twitter? Hashtags rule the world. There like categories and an easy way to find content on a specific topic. We recommend using the #MECFS hashtag whenever you’re talking about ME/CFS to help your tweet get a wider audience. #MEAction is also another great one! If your petition has a mostly online audience, consider creating your own hashtag and asking others to tag their posts with it. Need inspiration? Consult the Idea Center and we’ll help you brainstorm a winner. Or, think about other hashtags used by the community like #ChilliMEchallenge or #MEawarenesshour.

Stay engaged

Keep in touch with your supporters. Send out email updates, post an Action Update to the News page, don’t miss out on valuable momentum by letting the campaign get stale. Aim to post new content somewhere a minimum of twice per week for short campaigns or a minimum of every two weeks for long-term campaigns. Don’t forget, pacing yourself is important too! It’s far better to post once a month for 6 months than to update 15 times in the first 2 weeks and never again. For maximum momentum, pick a schedule that makes sense for your project and do your best to stick with it.

But what about…?

This is by no means an exhaustive guide to creating a petition and building momentum. It’s simply a start. At any point in the brainstorming or growing process if you ever have a question or problem, the Idea Center is the place to be. Connect with fellow ME/CFS advocates to discuss strategy or find new collaborators for your project. Ask questions, share what has works (and what hasn’t!) for you, and offer support to the other activists in the Network.
If you have any specific or technical questions about using the Petitions feature or any other features on #MEAction, don’t hesitate to Contact Us.


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