We recently caught up with Jeannette Gusko, Communications Director at Change.org, the world's largest petition platform. Join her as she takes us a through a day at Change.org and introduces us to the groundbreaking petitions that are changing the face of Germany and the revolutionary people behind them.
This article was originally published in March 2015.
That’s me. My name ist Jeannette Gusko and I work as Communications Director for Change.org Germany, the world’s largest platform for social change. We're building this platform to really do for campaigns what Instagram has done for photos or YouTube has for videos. Anyone can come, start a petition and make a difference in the world. This is why every day in my job is different.
I arrive at our office at Bundespressekonferenz (headquarter of news correspondents in Germany) before 9 AM. It is a great place - always buzzing with the news that is going to shape the day. As I talk to journalists a lot about the stories of people that start petitions on the site, this is the perfect office spot. Not to mention, the political heart of Berlin where decisions are made that impact the lives of millions of constituents is close by too.
In the office, I review the news agenda of the day and send out any urgent news updates on petitions to interested journalists. In our daily meeting at 10AM my team and I discuss new campaigns on the site, current developments and plan next steps. The tools on the site are very powerful and free for everyone to use. Additionally we support as many campaigns as possible with mobilization and media outreach.
Our work is all about helping people help themselves. We put petition starters, their petitions and passions first in everything we do. People like Constantin who want to change the law that enables people with severe disabilities to pursue careers, save money and lead independent lives. We help them to get their voice heard, to be successful about something they and thousands of other people care about - we breathe empowerment.
My colleague Gregor and I discuss a new process for Change.org petitions in Germany on national causes that reach over 100.000 signatures. MPs will have the opportunity to position themselves and answer to petitions directly. For example, Mary from Berlin and over 80.000 signers wants the parliament to rework the anti-stalking law for better security for victims. This new process - we call it petition check - will make people-powered campaigns and the dialogue between citizens and decision makers even more engaging.
After lunch I coordinate last details for a press event we planned for a while that takes place at Berlin’s east side gallery this afternoon. Perry, a reggae activist and DJ started a petition on Change.org to save Berlin’s biggest street festival, the “carnival of cultures” - more than 30.000 people signed it. Together with the reggae band Culcha Candela and dancer Sandra, Perry invited journalists to launch his citywide poster campaign. Samba!
Back in the office, 25 year old petition starter Kristina Lunz is visiting the office. We talk through next steps of her campaign. Her goal? To end sexism in Germany’s biggest tabloid BILD. Her first step: Getting rid of the naked BILD girl. Just recently Kristina was interviewed by Süddeutsche Zeitung sharing her story and mobilizing even more supporters. You go, girl!
Late afternoon we are having our weekly All Team video conference with 18 offices worldwide and 235 colleagues. We use Google Hangout to celebrate each week’s people-power victories on the site, talk about tech improvements, global strategies and how NGOs are using our site to connect with passionate users. This is our chief of staff from a conference room in our San Francisco office.
Currently, we have a viral petition on the site against the controversial Islamophobic movement PEGIDA. Started by Karl, an engineer from Hannover, this #nopegida petition really changed the conversation about diversity. The impact of Karl’s petition has been tremendous: Before Christmas the Islamophobes and their demands were dominating the news. People could get the impression that they are about to take over Germany. But Karl’s petition totally changed the game, reached more than 430.000 signatures and showed that the vast majority of Germans do not support Pegida. Tonight at a #nopegida rally in Berlin, we are coordinating with a group of petition supporters to bring the online protest to the streets...
“430.000 people are saying NO to PEGIDA” says the projection that ignites spontaneous jubilance among the protesters on the streets and on twitter. Karl, his supporters and our team are happy everything worked out as planned.
It’s been a good day for social change. Gute Nacht!
My advice for someone pursuing a career as a communications director :
- Stay curious and open-minded - the learning curve in social businesses is huge
- Experiment in different fields to know where you can follow your passion best
- Build meaningful relationships - network is king
- Sharing is caring - find ways that you can give back to the community
What I’ve learned from working at Change.org:
- Think big - startups allow you to think out of the box and question the status quo
- Build self-efficacy - actively take on ever larger responsibilities as they come along
- Execute excellently and pay attention to detail - it matters
- Ask for what you want
- Always be a team player. It's just so much more fun doing great things together
Thank you, Jeannette!