The first thing that has to be known is whether the thing that you are petitioning for is possible and whether enough people are likely to be sympathetic to the cause. Of course winning people over is part of the petition process but it is much easier if enough people agree with the proposed petition or are at least part way towards agreeing. This part is an art as much as it is a science and will be determined by both research and the petitioner’s feel for the zeitgeist of the moment. If the project appears feasible the next step is to plan the process and develop a timeline. Broadly speaking the stages that need some thought are the writing of the petition, raising awareness and delivery.
Brevity really is the key here, the less words required to really nail the point the better. A petition should never be more than a page long and ideally should not be more than half a page in length. This is not as easy as it may sound; to get to the magic 200 or so words may require hours of research followed by more hours of distilling it down to its essence. It is worth bearing the intended audience in mind, both potential signers and recipient, but do not prioritize this aspect. A well written petition will be fairly universal and targeting can be counterproductive as it can alienate potential signers. On a technical note make sure that the font is both an easily read one and large enough for easy reading.
When planning the project a lot of thought should have gone into the means of getting the petition in front of potential signers. Standing outside of supermarkets gathering signatures or leaving the petition on the counter of a sympathetic shop keeper are probably what comes to mind when thinking about petitions but they may not be the most effective methods. The web is a huge force multiplier, one right move can gain literally tens of thousands of electronic signatures. Think networking; get a few popular bloggers, Facebook and Twitter to adopt your cause and signatures will flood in. Other advantages such as list building for future campaigns cannot be dismissed either.
The identity of the person who the petition should be delivered to along with the means of delivery and publicity objectives should be decided in the initial planning stages.
Continue reading the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.