social change | May 23, 2013

Ben Rattray: How Leveraged Tech To Change Health Care

Health advocates have tried to remove "pink slime" (a controversial beef product) from school lunches for almost a decade. As Ben Rattray told VentureBeat in an interview, Texas mom Bettina Siegel successfully petitioned to have the USDA pull the product from lunches in a single week. With over 250,000 signatures, Siegel proved that the online petition platform was a powerful tool for solving pressing health concerns. And as Rattray ('s founder and CEO) explains in a keynote he recently gave for VentureBeat, he's seen over 7,000 petitions successfully promote health care policy changes so far.

While the website isn't specifically focused on health care, Rattray says it has become a valuable resource to make your voice heard in an industry that is typically inaccessible. "On a petition, you’re a member of a collective movement, and your voice is shared publicly for everyone to see," he explains. "Even if they want to, there’s no way a government official or company can ignore your comment – it’s like a highly visible time capsule of public sentiment." Campaigns on the site have ranged from petitioning the FDA to expedite the approval of certain drugs to urging medical insurance providers to offer extended and more specific coverage for those desperately in need. And the results of the campaigns have been successful more often than not. "The question of whether petitions can have an impact is by now clearly answered," Rattray says. "They can and do every day."

In his talks, Rattray explores the potential the technology can play in achieving small, localized, and specific goals. No matter what industry you are rallying against, Rattray says that building collective movements from the ground up—instead of trying to tackle massive worldwide problems—is an extremely effective way to make the world a better place. Not only does he discuss the lessons learned while starting, but he then applies those lessons to any industry looking to combine business and philanthropy. It is possible to change the world while still generating a profit, Rattray says— has proven that. And in his lectures, he shows audiences how to be successful in the world of social change.