WeAct – A new tool for user-driven petitions
On Nov 15th, 2014 Campact launched the new “WeAct” tool for user-driven petitions (www.weact.de or: weact.campact.de), open to all citizens and activists at all political levels from local to national Level, and prospectively also at the European level. Susanne Jacoby from Campact says: “We cannot take care of every issue and we want to give citizens the freedom to choose their own issue”. Until now, Campact, like Avaaz, had decided for itself on which topics petitions will be allowed. Another reason for opening this new campaigning site is related to the general observation that online petition platforms which offer user-driven campaigns – such as OpenPetition.de and Change.org – attract the highest numbers of new users.
How can one use WeAct?
WeAct is different from existing platforms like Change.org and OpenPetition. First of all, it is a community platform which is not neutral. Issues must correspond with the general values of Campact to be approved. That means they must be “progressive”, which refers to a general “pro-environmental, social and democratic” agenda. Petitions which contradict these values – for example conservative or xenophobic petitions – will be removed ex-post by a Campact moderator.
Campact is also available as a partner and offers advice on how to successfully campaign and run a petition. The organizers stress that data protection and security play an important role; no functions involving servers in the US are included.
Like all other petition-websites, using WeAct is free of charge. The platform is cross-funded from Campact’s budget. Petition organisers can neither generate funds through the platform nor gain any strategic advantage (like highlighting or recommending their petition) by paying for it – in contrast for example to Change.org, which allows for the possibility, of sponsored petitions.
What can we learn from WeAct for the ECI instrument?
Currently ECI campaigns making use of the official online collection system (OCS) are denied the ability to collect the contact data of their supporters within the ECI support form. This means that any follow-up communication is blocked, massively limiting the ECI’s ability to mobilise Europeans and facilitate transnational debate.
This is the big difference to existing petition platforms: the WeAct instrument allows the petition-organizers to re-contact their supporters as often as the organizers want to. This happens through the platform in an anonymized way – meaning that organizers are not given the email addresses, but they can at least get in contact with their signatories.
The ideal solution for the ECI is to allow email addresses to be collected via an optional click-box within the main ECI support form. However, the WeAct approach could also be an inspiration and would already massively improve the status-quo of the ECI in terms of usability.