This post by Rich Watts originally appeared on his blog Arbitrary Constant.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve noted what I think are pretty interesting examples of markets developing in the public services space – one in social care comparison sites, another in crowdfunding platforms.
To these two examples there’s a third to add: platforms for e-petitions. A traipse through the tweets of the Generally Annoyed of Twitter quickly reveals the different petition platforms that people use, as follows:
- The government’s own e-petition site, which, as far as I understand, is the only one that potentially leads to an issue being debated in the House of Commons*
- 38 degrees
- Petition buzz
- Go Petition
- Live Petitions
- The Petition
I’ve been pretty selective in what e-petition sites are included above. For example, they don’t include US petition sites (such as MoveOn.org orCauses.com); nor does the list include businesses that offer petition platforms for public bodies, or the dedicated petition sites that local councils and others themselves have.
Of course, I haven’t just discovered that such “competition” exists, but I do find it fascinating there are so many e-petition platforms.
When it comes to an e-petition, I’d have thought the point would be to (a) get as many signatures as possible; and (b) have something happen as a result of the amount of support. To increase the number of e-petition platforms people can use is to potentially divide the number of signatures any one e-petition could get by the number of platforms. And to not use the e-petition platform which guarantees debate by elected politicians if an e-petition does get the required number of signatures seems bizarre.
So why are there so many e-petition platforms? Here are 3 reasons to start the discussion:
- Ego: someone or some organisation sets up a new e-petition platform because they think they can do it better (see also the amount of duplication generally in the voluntary and community sector)
- Money: someone or some organisation spots a business opportunity to make some cash, and so pursues it
- Conspiracy: why would any government promote their e-petition platform when people do such a good job and dividing and conquering themselves?
*This post isn’t intended to worry about the effectiveness of online petitions. I modestly direct you to some recent analysis on this to draw your own conclusion.