A flag bearer for the power of digital activism and engaging with civil society, Change.org has become the go – to vehicle for petitions on issues that affect society at large and smaller communities in particular, by engaging with organisations,decision makers and the media . And it’s driven by a highly motivated team that is harnessing the power of digital media for social good. Nida Hasan who is Campaigns Director at Change.org India (and a former journalist) talks about her journey with the organisation and why she’s chosen the path of a Changemaker.
You were a journalist in your previous avatar, how did the switch to the Not for Profit sector happen ?
I was a journalist for almost a decade, my last job was with France 2 TV as their South Asia reporter. I used to travel 2 weeks in a month, going from one country to the next, one story to the next without having any time to reflect on my work. As a journalist, I can only count a handful of stories that created impact. I wanted to be a part of something that led to real, on-ground impact. But I didn’t know how exactly to do that. In 2014, social media and technology were exploding and I wondered if technology could be leveraged for social good.So when I got the opportunity to work for a mission driven technology company like Change.org, it was the perfect switch.
What’s the most satisfying part of being with an organisation like Change.org ?
One of the core guiding principles at Change.org is valuing people and investing in them. We work with regular citizens who are fighting for issues that they care about. Creating social change has become an everyday affair in India. It can happen everyday and it can happen because of anyone. Empowering ordinary citizens to become leaders and establishing connections amongst these leaders so that the community itself becomes a source of support and strength has been the most satisfying part of working with Change.org.
We have a running program called ‘She Creates Change’, where we are attempting to bring together women changemakers and see if we can build a support system where they feel empowered, choose what kind of change they want to create, share ideas, collaborate and most importantly, know that they have community that they can depend on. We believe that when enough people get a sense of support and purpose in their own lives, when they feel a sense of belonging, meet people who face the same challenges and have the same aspirations that’s when they will really create large scale impact.
Amongst the changemakers from ‘She Creates Change’, there are women like Subarna Ghosh who wants to make hospitals accountable and is leading a campaign to urge hospitals to declare the number of Caesarean sections.
Another Changemaker, Priyanka Gupta started a petition asking the government to change the passport application rules to make it easier for single parents. Her campaign got the support of over a 100,000 people and was covered extensively by the media. A interministerial committee was formed and the passport rules which hadn’t changed in over 50 years were amended. Now you can have a passport with just your mother’s or father’s name on it.
Knowing that the work I am doing is creating real change is very encouraging and satisfying.
What was the biggest challenge or change you needed to adjust to when you started engaging in the not for profit space ?
Working as a journalist tends to make you a bit cynical. You are surrounded by news which is almost always negative. And it has an impact on how you perceive the world around you. When I joined Change.org, I used to ask myself, will this campaign really achieve impact? It was difficult for me to understand that everyday citizens could bring about a massive change. And so the biggest challenge for me was to shed the negativity and approach campaigns with an open mind.
I am so happy that in the past four years my cynicism was proven wrong. I have supported innumerable digital campaigns, many of which have gone on to create incredible impact.
Take Insia Dariwala for example. She has single handedly gotten the government to do an in-depth study on Male child sexual abuse in India. This is the first time such a study would take place in our country. And it was made possible by Insia’s sheer determination and resolve.
Change.org has a very unique model in the way it engages with a digital audience. Tell us a little more about the importance of bringing not for profits to become more digitally active & engaged ?
The potential of the digital world in building the brand of non profits and in engaging with their supporters is growing leaps and bounds. It is a given that attention spans of people is dwindling drastically and there is so much online content for people to choose from. But these challenges apart, we have realised that the digital space breaks the gender, age and socio-economic barriers.
People are spending so much time online that they are getting most of their information from the internet. Therefore, it becomes very important for non-profits, to leverage the power of the internet to spread their message.
From the impact perspective, all decision makers are now easily accessible online. This is the best time to engage with the decision makers on social media and at the same time empower the masses to interact directly with them. If social media becomes an integral part of your campaign, it can lead to sustainable impact and transformation.
What are your goals over the next few years, for the organisation and for yourself ?
Over the next few years, we will be focusing on a flagship program addressing issues of gender equality and empowering women and girls towards creating change. This is a year-long program of support, training and community building for women campaigners across India who want to work on campaigns that impact women and girls’ issues.The program focuses on developing core campaign skills and building a campaigning ecosystem where women Changemakers feel empowered and supported to start and run their campaigns. It’s an intense program that takes a lot of energy and efforts. I wish to take this program forward so it can become a learning template for other organisations, as well as can be used in other countries where gender inequality and violence exists.
You can read more about the organisation or connect with them here : https://www.change.org/en-IN