Don't petition the White House, Use Change.org

Don’t petition the White House, Use Change.org

Nov 18, 2012 Aaron Krager No Comments
Secessionists. I first want to say thank you for finally learning something from history. The last time so many desired to rid themselves of a tyrannical president they declared war on the Union. Thus, your use of a peaceful means through petitions on the White House’s site is commendable. Furthermore, each state now finds themselves represented by a petition and signatures from people possibly wanting to secede from the United States. Texas leads the way with more than 100,000 people asking the White House to address the issue. This is the same state governed by Rick Perry who drummed up his base of supporters with calls for seceding prior to his Republican bid for President. The irony seemed lost on him. Governor Perry is obviously not a viable option to lead the cause. He hardly put up a fight against a weak group seeking his party’s nomination. I also question...
The Country Moved to the Left Last Night

The Country Moved to the Left Last Night

The whole campaign season did not just depend upon the presidential race that finally came to an end last night. Yes, the country voted clearly to give Barack Obama another four years in the White House. He received more than 50 percent of the vote and won handily in the electoral college. Yet, it is what happened down the ballot that shows the nation’s move toward progressive values. It appears that Democrats will pick up a couple seats in the lower chamber but the real change happened on the senatorial level. Voters said no way to Republicans Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock after they attempted to scapegoat women and downplay the trauma of rape and sexual abuse. Furthermore, women won in Massachusetts, North Dakota, Hawaii, and Wisconsin for their first terms. All four of them will be more progressive legislators than their predecessors. In Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin will be the...
Republicans, Rape, Life, and Control of Women

Republicans, Rape, Life, and Control of Women

Oct 24, 2012 Aaron Krager No Comments
During last night’s Indiana Senate debate the Republican candidate, Richard Mourdock, did more than stick his foot in his mouth. I believe life begins at conception. The only exception I have for to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with myself for a long time but I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. It is something that God intended to happen. Mourdock joined a club made exclusively of Republicans but a club that seems to be growing as the November election nears. Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh made a reprehensible comment about exceptions for the life of the mother following his debate. “There is no such exception. With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance.” Complete crap as this woman explains. Of course who can forget Missouri...

Change.org Denies Wrongdoing Despite Teacher Petition

Jun 18, 2012 Aaron Krager 13 Comments

More than 2,700 people, the overwhelming majority coming from Chicago, signed a petition demanding that Change.org stop supporting corporate education advocacy organizations. Well, Change.org decided to respond and it should not come as a surprise that the social justice oriented site cannot see its own wrongdoing.

A full response can be seen at the end of this post but I want to dissect some of the more egregious parts. Change.org’s Director of Communications, Benjamin Joffe-Walt, acknowledges, in a personal way, that Stand for Children opposes the Chicago Teachers Union’s strike authorization vote and links it to the disgusting tactic of crossing a picket line. So, we’ve set the stage here well. Union busting is truly disgusting. It’s is just one of the results corporate education organizations want to see. There’s more.

We’re an impact-maximizing company, not a profit-maximizing company. And we believe openness maximizes our mission. So our client policy allows sponsored petitions from any organization–even groups that our staff doesn’t agree with, and our campaigns staff would never work to support–so long as they don’t advance discrimination or private corporate benefit.

This is the first false claim in regards to allowing Stand for Children (along with Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst organization) to buy progressives emails under false and misleading petitions. The corporate education agenda is one dedicated to private corporate benefit. We will get back to this.

Most judgments about whether organizations pass our client policy are clear. For example, groups that discriminate against LGBT and immigrant populations clearly don’t pass the client policy. Private industry groups advocating for policy with no clear public benefit also don’t pass the test – and indeed we reject industry groups that offer us lots of money on a regular basis.

Private charter schools do not serve the public benefit. Charter schools use taxpayer money but do not fall under the taxpayer’s purview. In Chicago the charter schools do not necessarily need to follow Chicago Public Schools’ guidelines. They can also dismiss students for reasons that a public school cannot.

Yet there are also judgments that are difficult, and Stand for Children is one of those. Their stated mission is to help kids succeed in school. And clearly they fight, hard, against teachers unions. But our judgement is that they fit within our current client policy.

Another acknowledgement of Stand for Children’s anti-union stance. Labor unions, frankly, are to the benefit of the public. With strong unions come better wages and benefits. Through the decades of weakening and breaking of unions, corporations have been able to pay people less and reap the rewards for high level executives. A little bit of a digression but still important.

The video below highlights the fraudulent mission statement of Stand for Children. It is not the greatest video but gets into the details of the organization. Pay attention closely to the 3:20 mark when they begin to talk about Illinois.

Back to the corporate for-profit aspect. Many of these organizations have millionaires and billionaires on their boards. Nothing too new about that with non-profits but in this case these board members stand to profit from their involvement. Their investment into the organization serves as a charitable dedication. Stand for Children’s mission mutated into something else than a grassroots organization. It now wants to promote test-driven education policy, union-busting, charter school promotion. All of which allow the corporate investors to profit off of failed education policies that the organization wants to instill on the public.

Change.org can hide behind Stand for Children’s focus group tested mission statement all it wants. It doesn’t stop the truth from existing. Stand for Children wants to privatize education, pick and choose the students who receive it, take away the rights of the people working in the schools, and allow corporate funders to dictate education policy. It simply does not fall in line with Change.org’s own policies. Saying so denies the truth and merely aligns Change with the one percent that already benefit at our expense.

The full letter.

Hi folks,

This is Benjamin Joffe-Walt (aka “BJW), global comms director for Change.org. My friends and colleagues call me ‘BJW’, given the proliferation of Bens in organizing. I’ve been with Change.org for about two years now. Prior to that I was a journalist for about eight years, based mostly in Africa and the Middle East, and I grew up in Philly.

I apologize for the delay in responding to this thread, and others on the same topic–I wanted to take the time to write a thoughtful response and get feedback from our leadership team before sending. This is an important discussion–I really appreciate everyone’s engagement on it, and particularly its constructive spirit.

A lot of great questions have come up about Change.org–including some, frankly, that we’re still thinking through as an organization. In the last two years, we’ve gone from being a 10-person cause-based blogging network to a 140-person global social change platform, and we’re in the middle of a months-long company-wide conversation about what exactly that means for a number of the issues raised here. So I can’t definitively address everything. But I’d like to talk about both this specific Chicago campaign, and our overall strategy and identity.

I completely understand the concern and anger about Stand for Children’s sponsored petition opposing the Chicago teachers’ strike. One of my earliest memories is of my mom framing the crossing of a picket line as among the most egregious human acts, I grew up at union marches and protests, and I want Chicago’s to win–so it’s painful to me, and many of our staff who have dedicated their lives to labor organizing, to see Stand for Children’s campaign on our site.

But the fact is, it doesn’t violate our client policy. We as an organization are committed to an open platform as a means of maximizing our overall impact, and part of this includes a client policy that doesn’t reject clients just because many staff members strongly disagree with them.

To understand why, I want to first outline our overarching goal and strategy, and then return to the client policy and Stand or Children.

First, our goal and strategy:

Change.org’s purpose is making the world a better place at as big a scale as possible. Our core strategy for doing that is empowerment. Of everyone. In a world where corporations and elites have disproportionate power relative to citizens, we think this strategy holds massive disruptive potential as a force for positive change.

This is predicated on a bet: that the net positive impact on the world will be much, much greater if we’re an open platform, where anyone can post any petition, than if we’re an advocacy group ourselves–even if that means some people use the platform to do things that many on our team strongly disagree with. This openness matters because it’s the basis of the personal credibility of petition starters, enabling their human stories to rise above partisan framing. Openness is particularly important internationally, as we work to earn the trust of local activists around the world–which we would certainly not be able to do if they felt we were pushing a top-down, US-centric agenda.

Overall, we think openness is working — that the benefits of openness are dwarfing the drawbacks.

There are three core parts of the company, and you can see the model’s success in each:
The tech platform itself. About 15,000 petitions are started each month, leading to multiple victories a day. A few recent ones come to mind: Safeway gave an employee his job back after he was let go for stopping an in-store domestic assault, Key Bank relieved a family of their dead child’s student loan, Wells Fargo stopped the foreclosure on the home of two girls battling a rare autoimmune disease, and Boy Scouts of America is reconsidering its ban on gay and lesbian den leaders.
The campaigns team. By far the largest group of our staff is campaigners, who work to help people win their (free) campaigns all over the world, connect users to campaigns they’d like to join, and work to inspire others to start campaigns for positive change. To be clear, the campaign team doesn’t work on sponsored (paid) petitions from clients. They’re separated like editorial and advertising at a newspaper. Their work, on campaigns like the ones above, is extraordinary–and is made possible by the authenticity of the petition starters’ personal narratives.
The business side. Sponsored petitions are essentially cost-per-acquisition advertising. Of our hundreds of clients, an overwhelming majority would be enthusiastically endorsed by most those on this list (and many are on this list). While there are some difficult cases (see below), the net impact is extremely positive, and we’re proud to have a business model that supports civil society groups while supporting Change.org and enabling us to build better free tools and hire amazing campaigning staff around the world. (One of the things we’ve been working on is making our business model more transparent, and it’s something we’ll be doing more work on soon.)

Now about our client policy, and Stand for Children:

We’re an impact-maximizing company, not a profit-maximizing company. And we believe openness maximizes our mission. So our client policy allows sponsored petitions from any organization–even groups that our staff doesn’t agree with, and our campaigns staff would never work to support–so long as they don’t advance discrimination or private corporate benefit.

Most judgments about whether organizations pass our client policy are clear. For example, groups that discriminate against LGBT and immigrant populations clearly don’t pass the client policy. Private industry groups advocating for policy with no clear public benefit also don’t pass the test – and indeed we reject industry groups that offer us lots of money on a regular basis.

Yet there are also judgments that are difficult, and Stand for Children is one of those. Their stated mission is to help kids succeed in school. And clearly they fight, hard, against teachers unions. But our judgement is that they fit within our current client policy.

The point here isn’t to defend Stand for Children. At the edge, figuring out where the client policy applies can be particularly challenging for many of us on staff who frankly oppose the work of some organizations who sponsor petitions on the site. But even if every one of us were on the opposite side of a sponsored petition, that doesn’t dictate whether we should remove it.

You might argue that the client policy should change. The truth is, it’s under review, as are additional aspects of our strategy and identity, as part of the company-wide deliberation I mentioned earlier. It’s going to take a few more months, and we’ll choose the policy we think will maximize our positive impact in the world.

Thanks for your direct feedback and engagement on this. I don’t pretend to think that you will all agree with everything above, but I hope you will understand that it comes from a place of deeply held values not far from your own.

Change.org is, in many ways, still a very young organization and we’ve worked closely with many of you throughout our development. We try to have big ears as we go–so, again, thank you.

  • http://www.thefrustratedteacher.com tft

    You took it apart perfectly. They are deluded.

  • Spolos

    change.org is part of the establishment now. so sad. 

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  • Judyjo2011

    I sure hope you rethink allowing organizations that are anti-public education, antip-union to use you.  When I got the petition from Rhee’s “studentsfirst” group I went ballistic. I could not figure out how I could ever get on that anti teacher vile group.  I taught for over 40 years in public education.  I (and most of my colleagues) could teach circles around that idiot Rhee yet she is given a seat at the table on education reform, a woman who duct taped the mouths of second grade students??  How the hell can you people support this sick person, this anti public good person.  I was LIVID and obviously still am.  No way, no how, can any organization selling itself as promoting the common good allow pro corporate, anti children, anti the public interest support these organizations and be respected.

  • http://www.aaronkrager.com AaronKrager

    Agreed Judy. Thanks for your years of public service. I just would refrain from calling Rhee an idiot. She must be pretty damn smart to get where she is today. Sadly, her intelligence does not include what she claims as her expertise.

  • mamazboy

    That’s it. No more automatic signing of petitions with change.org. Time to do due diligence. I will look for an organization that backs ONLY progressive causes, not the bullshit that change.org is promoting.

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  • djjreading

    Change.org, your rationale is faulty. The conservatives have many financial resources due to the Citizens United ruling, bought by such libertarians as the Koch brothers, to criticize unions and other progressive organizations that help many Americans.  So for your organization to say that you want to be fair and balanced in a large field of right wing slanted mainstream media and other organizations, which are working against most Americans is very unfortunate. Your relevance to the majority of the people will go down unless you revise your policies. 

  • Ilene carson

    we must Support our teachers and Children By not letting Change.org do any union Busting.Shame on them

  • Judyjo2011

     Sorry Aaron.  There are many idiots who get to the “top” of things and leave me scratching my head.  Dan Quayle, W and a few others.  Of course they had monied families.  I still do not get how people can believe Rhee is some kind of gifted education leader.  She freaking put duct tape on the mouths of seven year olds because she could not maintain classroom control.  Her rise to the top has more to do with the backing of corporations who want to privatize public education.   As well, many inner city minority families are frustrated by the lack of interest from government in investing in their communities, resulting in poor schools,  because those of us who wanted to stay in those schools, try different things, who actually succeeded in many ways that cannot be validated by standardized testing, were undermined and are still being undermined by the media and even  by some in the Obama administration.    The corporations  see dollar signs on the heads of children and Rhee is their front person, using teacher/union bashing memes of the right to convince people (including progressives) the buy into the “public schools are failing our students”.   It makes sense.  She’s Asian and there’s that whole “tiger mom, Asians succeed while other minorities don’t” meme the media has pushed.  I would love to see that discussion and why that meme is pushed and what part of that meme is ignored.
      Anytime you want to discuss education with experts, I know plenty of teachers including myself who actually put in the time on the front lines, and know first hand what it takes to be a good teacher. HINT: it does not include bully tactics from adults, like silencing small children with tape.

  • Pingback: Change.org's Support for Stand For Children Should (And Did) Not Stand: When Liberals Push An ALEC Education Agenda | K-12 News Network

  • Audrey Lively

    Hmm, I guess freedom and free speech is only okay if you agree with a group. Fail. Stop attacking change.org and let your ideas rise and fail on their own merits. Plenty of teachers are not in favor of unions: those who care more about kids than their own paycheck, and also teachers who have no trouble articulating and negotiating with employers own their own behalf. The times of union mafia type bullying went out with child labor and the industrial revolution. Grow up and take responsibility for your own destiny. Everybody does not need to be in a special guild or club to work. Teachers who only care about money: get a different job.

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