social change | December 18, 2012

Social Networks for Social Justice: Ben Rattray [VIDEO]

Despite attracting over 2 million new users each month,—the digital petition-signing platform developed by social change speaker Ben Rattray—didn't pick up steam right off the bat. What he describes as the turning point for the organization was when they narrowed their focus and specified their goals. As he explained during his talk at the Atlantic Meets The Pacific conference, became much more successful when it focused on creating petitions to advocate for small, local, incremental change. Rather than trying to tackle massive problems like global poverty, he instead decided to use the digital petition platform as a vessel to achieve more manageable goals.

Once Rattray focused the site on smaller-scale issues that see measurable results, he found he was able to tackle more problems and create more positive change in the world.  As straightforward as the concept is, the website is solving one of the most pressing problems in the field of social justice: mobilization. The Internet, he explains, "makes the cost of organizing trivial." The potential for mobilizing "people power" is tremendous thanks to the advent of social media and the Web, Rattray explains, because it is fast and cost efficient. Instead of having to spend copious amounts of money to connect with others who share a similar belief to you, that connection can be formed for free.

Further, and other social media outlets create a horizontal form of communication which allows the voices of more people to be heard amongst a wider audience. Instead of traditional top-down, vertical communication where the mainstream media and the most powerful members of society deliver content to the masses—people are now distributing content in and amongst themselves. Which is exactly what Rattray set out to do: create a platform where people could share their grievances and connect with others who also want to make a difference.

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education | December 17, 2012