Ben Rattray’s lifelong plan was to be an investment banker. That is until 2007, when his brother came out of the closet and he decided to change the world.
“The idea was to build every possible tool for nonprofits, social fundraising, skills based volunteerism, a blog network…really big, unobtainable objectives,” said Rattray who, at 22-years-old, founded Change.org. “We failed.”
Rather than giving up, he pivoted. Instead of attempting to provide every technological service to anyone trying to make an impact, the business narrowed its focus, developing on online platform for concerned citizens to start petitions. And he started to see real changes.
The company’s staff ballooned from 2 to 140. It opened eight worldwide offices, with staff that would work with users to help them run social movements. Membership climbed by about 2 million a month to 15 million.
More importantly, the 15,000 petitions initiated monthly started creating social changes. Bank of America dropped its $5 debit card fee after more than 300,000 people signed a petition started by a 22-year-old Molly Katchpole. The Sanford neighborhood watchman who allegedly shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was arrested and charged after his parents gathered more than 2 million signatures. South Africa convened a task force to address rapes meant to turn lesbians straight after citizens organized to protest and collected 171,000 signatures.
Every week, dozens of petitions lead to these types of victories. And none of them would have been created without the pivot that changed the world.