Has Covid-19 Made More People Activists?

Change.org, the world’s largest platform for citizen driven social change, announced today the findings from its Global Civic Engagement Index. Based on data from the civic engagement platform, the global report shows how since January, coinciding with the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been a steep increase in people using online tools on Change.org to voice their concerns, influence policy and persuade decision makers to make changes on political, societal and cultural issues.

The Index, built by the Change.org Foundation based on people’s engagement on its platform, reveals that there has been a significant increase in the way citizens are starting, joining and winning campaigns around the world. COVID-19 related petitions and issues are surprisingly only a part of this growth. The data, analysed for the top 25 countries with highest engagement on Change.org from January 2020 to July 2020, compares its data against the same period last year.

Global Key Findings

In 22 of the 25 top countries, Change.org Foundation saw a huge increase in support of petitions compared to 2019, with a global average increase of 81% in signatures (signatures equals to people joining or supporting a petition).

  • In 23 out of the 25 countries, the number of petitions created increased dramatically, with a global average increase of 80%
  • In 10 of the 25 countries, the number of petitions created in the past seven months doubled compared to the last year
  • User growth on Change.org has increased across all 25 countries, at an average of nearly 33%
  • The top ten countries with the highest civic engagement index are South Africa, Japan, Canada, United States, Peru, United Kingdom, Malaysia, South Korea, Philippines and New Zealand
  • Of the top ten countries online civic engagement in South Africa, Peru, Malaysia, and Philippines grew significantly during the pandemic, compared to 2019 and the four countries emerged as new adopters of civic engagement and online activism. South Africa, in particular, had the highest increase in engagement with the platform
  • South Africa is the leading emerging country in a new era of digital activism

Of the 25 countries analysed over the past seven months, South Africa emerged as the clear leader in adopting online activism, accelerated by the pandemic. Traditionally, the country has had lower engagement on the Change.org platform. However, since the start of the pandemic four million users in South Africa signed up to use the platform – this is six times higher than the user growth rate compared to 2019. Petition creation increased by 227%, and people supporting campaigns also increased by 1060% during this time period.

This level of increase in engagement is a record high and reveals that people in the country were using online tools to their advantage to take a stand on issues such as  safety of women and girls, protecting nurses on the frontline, ensuring people could return to work and protecting students.

The report also highlights insightful country specific analysis found over the past seven months around the world, and is outlined in the report:

  1. In Latin America, Change.org recorded nearly three million signatures this year in Peru, 2.5 times increase since 2019. In Argentina, Change.org was used to ensure people in power were held accountable and online platforms were used for debates to ensure democratic “digital accountability”. In 100 days petitions received 67 responses from Argentinian decision makers, including the Chief of Staff for the City of Buenos Aires, the Argentine Ombudsman, the head of the opposition party in the National Congress and members of the legislature
  2. In Japan, there has been a huge increase in the number of young people engaging with petitions to raise challenges faced by students during lockdown. Globally in July 2019, 12% of all the people visiting the Change.org platform were youth aged between 18-24-years. By July 2020, the global traffic of young users doubled to 24%
  3. In India, women fought gender inequality issues including domestic abuse and unpaid care work, and in Indonesia women changemakers leveraged digital tools to continue to demonstrate, virtually
  4. In Thailand, people with disabilities increasingly used Change.org to advocate for their rights, leading to a massive victory when the Government approved a project to grant compensation to two million registered persons with disabilities
  5. In Spain, where one of the most restrictive lockdowns took place, petitions calling on the Government to provide clarity on the lockdown closures and related rules got a response from the Government within a day
  6. In France, decision makers are paying more attention to online petitions. During the pandemic, six French government ministers responded to petitions related to the COVID-19 health crisis

The Future of Civic Engagement

Preethi Herman, Global Executive Director at Change.org Foundation said: “This report highlights not just the trends and index but many of the social, cultural and political challenges faced by millions around the world. We are hearing from people around the world about not just their problems, but the solutions they deserve, and witnessing Governments and decision makers recognising the need to respond to them online. The last few months have revealed that this world has entered a new era of civic engagement and digital activism and there are a number of non-traditional players who are leading the way to create a new wave of positive, people driven change.”