Why are there so many e-petition platforms?

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:

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 or Causes.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:

  1. 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)
  2. Money: someone or some organisation spots a business opportunity to make some cash, and so pursues it
  3. 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.



e-Petitions: some headline figures

Just because I’m occasionally a miserable so-and-so, I thought I’d look to see what sorts of signature numbers e-Petitions attract. I should note straight up that I think e-Petitions are a superficial, trite and virtually pointless means by which people engage in the political process.

Overall, there are 14,382 completed e-petitions so far – all of which are listed here. This doesn’t include currently open e-petitions (of which there are 5,949) or rejected petitions (of which there are 17,525).

Of those 14,382 e-petitions which have been completed:

  • 16 have received more than 100,000 signatures (i.e. 0.1% of petitions completed so far)
  • 50 have received more than 10,000 signatures (0.3% of petitions completed)
  • 75 have received more than 5,000 signatures (0.5%). Or, put another way, 14,307 have received less than 5,000 signatures (95.5% of all completed petitions)
  • 239 have received more than 1,000 signatures (1.7%). Or 14,143 have received less than 1,000 signatures (98.3% of all completed petitions)
  • 368 have received more than 500 signatures (2.6%). Or 14,014 have received less than 500 signatures (97.4%).