#1 Start a petition

TITLE

The title of your petition is the first thing other people will see. It should be easy to identify your exact demands and make possible supporters curious. Without a good title, even the most important causes remain unrecognised.

Examples of successful petition titles:

„District administrator Bielefeld, act now! Free WiFi for Cuxhaven schools“: addresses the recipient directly and precisely brings across the demand.

„It’s five past twelve. Better framework conditions for primary schools now!“: Clear and explicit. Reminds of the saying “It’s five to twelve” and illustrates the urgency of the cause. Also a good choice for a catchphrase for the campaign and a high possibility of recognition in the media.

„Bivsi and her parents must come back to Germany!“: Short and direct. The title doesn’t say to much but makes the reader curious to find out more about the background.

Examples of unsuitable choice of titles:

„Death penalty for pastor in Iran“: inconclusively stated – the demand was to free a priest, not the death penalty. For the same cause there was another petition with a very good title: “Freedom for Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani”. Here the demand is clear and positively stated. The person affected is also called by their name, which illustrates that the cause is about an individual’s destiny. This petition gained over 15.000 signatures, the above-mentioned one less than 3.000.

„Protest against EU-policy RL 2017/63/EU“: What could it be about? Only very few readers will know this administration abbreviation. Cats and dogs which are caught running free should be brought to animal-testing laboratories – that’s what it’s about and should be easily recognisable in the title.

PICTURE

Your petition should not go online without a picture. The first impression is very important. Supporters as well as journalists will pay more attention to a petition which is well thought through than a rushed one without a picture. People think in images – and like to share them. Here is the most important advice for good campaign pictures:

For correct display please upload a picture in horizontal format with a side ratio of 3:2. Image rights: Please be careful which material you are using and make sure the photo license is easily recognisable. We bear liability for the contents on our website and reserve the right to delete pictures which are not labeled correctly.

Choose an active, strong gesture behind which many people can assemble.

You want to actively change something: if you give an inspiring example, many people will want to join you. Show them your cause is mobilising! Just as the initiators of petition „Siemens employees fight against the sale of the generator factory in Erfurt” have done.

Tell a personal story – concentrate on a single person.

To the dismay and acting of a single person we can relate immediately, which worked really well with the petition against the deportation of 15-year old Bivsi.

Show a symbol for something intangible.

Is your cause invisible, as for example the framework conditions for the education system or tution fees, take a symbol which illustrates its urgency. A ringing alarm clock with the petition title “It’s five past twelve. Better framework conditions for primary schools now!” underlines how urgent the petitioner’s demands are. The usage of associations’ logos which are easy to recognise is also recommendable. The flame in combination with the phrase “We burn for education” in the petition “Against the introduction of tuition fees” is a good example too.

TEXT

Your text is the centrepiece of your petition to convince other people of your cause.Your demands should be as precise as possible. In the first paragraph you answer the following questions: Which goal do you want to reach? Whom is the petition addressing? Who is supporting your cause?

Unter “Begründung” können Sie genau darlegen, warum Ihr Anliegen wichtig ist. Beschreiben Sie die aktuelle Situation und wieso sie geändert werden muss. Machen Sie deutlich, wie die Forderung darauf einwirken würde. Hier können Sie auch einzelne Beispiele oder Ihre individuelle Erfahrung teilen. Die Begründung sollte nicht zu lang sein. Es lohnt sich, weiterführende Informationen auf einer eigenen Seite oder auf Facebook anzubieten und die Unterstützenden über die Neuigkeiten-Funktion darauf hinzuweisen. Die Begründung Ihrer Petition sollte logisch nachvollziehbar sein. Es ist wichtig, dass Sie sich auf die aktuelle Gesetzeslage beziehen.

Reason: In this section you can explain why your cause is important. Describe the situation and why it must be changed. Specify how your demands would influence the situation. You can also state single examples or individual experiences. The reason should not be too long. It is worth offering additional information on your own website or on facebook and making supporters aware of the news function on your petition page. Your reason should be consistent and comprehensible. It’s important to relate to the current legal situation.

Your petition is more convincing if you can proof your statements with reliable sources. Add links with articles or studies. Be careful when examining your sources’ reliability or your petition might become implausible. Your text should be short and to the point. A petition is not a novel, but a well-founded demand. Make an effort and pay attention to your spelling, grammar and punctuation and use clear and simple language.

RECIPIENTS

The recipient of your petition is an entity, which can decide over your cause. If your demands address someone who is not responsible, you don’t gain anything. That’s why it’s important to make sure to address the right entity.

As a recipient you can name a specific person, a legal person, a parliamentary committee or a political, economical or societal organisation. Entries like “Merkel” or “Authority” or “Everybody” make no sense. Generally it is useful to submit your cause to the petitions committee of the respective political level. In Germany, there are petitions committees on federal level and national level. The recipient can be changed afterwards, too. In Germany, nationwide petitions should be submitted to the Bundestag’s petitions committee.

REGION AND DEADLINE

The region of your petition is generally dependent on the people affected. Are people living in Cologne affected or people in the entire federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia or all over Germany? If a petition is directed towards the ZDF related to the TV programme, the region would not be Mainz, even if the ZDF is based there, but Germany, because the TV programme affects all citizens.

The deadline depends on your action plan and on external circumstances alike. Is your cause urgent, because there is an important council meeting next week? Or are you working towards an event in two months? A petition on openPetition should not run longer than one year. Longer periods affect your cause’s credibility and its urgency. There is a big difference between collecting 1000 signatures within one month or within a year.

QUORUM & COLLECTION TARGET

Petitions addressing non-governmental entities such as TV channels, banks or private companies have a collection target. Petitions on openPetition addressing governmental entities such as the Bundestag, Landtag of a federal state or a city council get an openPetition quorum depending on the number of citizens on the respective state level.

A petition should count with a reasonable collection target, meaning: high enough, to build up public pressure but still realistically reachable. A collection target out of reach is demotivating, whereas a target too low might make the impression that no effort (and hence no signature) is required anymore. Depending on how large the group of affected people is, the target varies. In a small municipality a few hundred signatures is a lot, whereas a nationwide petition should aim at several 10.000. If a petition is addressing a parliament (city council, Landtag etc.) in Germany or Austria, there is an openPetition quorum. The quorum level goes by the number of votes a delegate requires to be elected into the respective parliament. Once the openPetition quorum is reached, we ask delegates (city councilmen, Landtag representatives etc.) to leave an official statement. The statements can be seen on the petition’s page and encourage an open dialogue between citizens and politicians.

Attention: Reaching the openPetition quorum doesn’t mean that your cause is automatically successful. Not reaching the openPetition quorum doesn’t mean that your cause has failed. Petitions that haven’t reached the quorum should also be submitted.

Network with openPetition

Publikationen & Material

  • Petitions-Atlas 18: Länderbericht (PDF)
  • Paper: Petitionen als Werkzeug niedrigschwelliger Bürgerbeteiligung (PDF)
  • Jahres- und Transparenzbericht (PDF)
  • Positionspaper Petitionsrecht (PDF)
  • Masterarbeit Online-Partizipation (PDF)

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