social change | December 04, 2012

Ben Rattay: Ordinary People Can Do Extraordinary Things [VIDEO]

Social change speaker Ben Rattray—who was just named one of TIME's most influential people of the year—says that no matter who you are, you have the power to make a difference. "Everyday people can do extraordinary things," he said in a recent video interview. "We didn't think a 22-year-old nanny without a full time job could actually help to change the policy of one of the biggest companies in the country. But this happens all the time." The woman he is referring to was responsible for launching a petition that saw Bank of America (and a multitude of other national banks) drop their highly contested plan to charge users a $5 monthly charge to use debit cards. The petition got over 300,000 signatures and resulted in thousands of people pulling their money from the bank. It is cases like this, he says, that illustrate the power of an individual to spark massive change.

"What's exciting is we are certainly seeing people become more assertive, feel[ing] like they have the power in a way that they didn't before and wanting to stand up for their rights. It's a kind of campaign that…would bring lots of people together on basic issues that seem to be unjust," says Rattray. Users who come to are provided with a free online platform that allows them to start a petition and garner support online and through social media. Each time the petition gains a new supporter, the website sends an email to agencies affected by the petition to bring awareness not only those in favor of the petition—but to institutions that are capable of making changes. While people may be skeptical at first, he says that the campaigns bring moral support to ordinary people and motivate them to continue to make positive changes in the world.

Rattray is the founder and CEO of Today, he leads the company's strategic vision and product development. In the five years since its inception, the site has attracted over 10 million users and supported over 93,000 causes. As well as working with the site, he delivers public speeches on the important role that social media, digital technology, and individual participation can play in achieving social change.

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economics | December 03, 2012