The COVID-19 pandemic has had enormous consequences on the health, life, and economy of millions of people worldwide. At the same time, the crisis revealed a set of realities surrounding health systems, how companies treat their employees, government efficiency (or the lack thereof) in responding to the coronavirus, among other social realities.
A few weeks after following global health protocols like staying at home, we at Change.org started to observe an unexpected phenomenon. It appeared that thousands and thousands of people were creating more petitions than what we usually see on our site. Many of these petition starters were starting campaigns that point to deficiencies of their government’s response to the growing crisis, arbitrariness in their workplaces, and other issues.
It was around that moment when we realized: Change.org was starting to look like a barometer of citizen’s voices regarding the pandemic. The activity we saw on our platform demonstrated how a vast number of people around the world were not passively facing this crisis. Citizens are raising their voices to demand change, seek accountability, and denounce injustice.
There are too many campaigns in Change.org Mexico that could demonstrate this turn of events, but we can classify them into three broad categories:
- Petitions that require the government to react efficiently against the pandemic. These campaigns have specific requests seeking a more decisive action by authorities to cut the chain of infections and the imposition of mandatory prevention measures such as the use of a mask.
- Petitions that call for companies to rise to the occasion. These campaigns have demands ranging from sending senior citizen supermarket workers to their homes (in addition to providing them with additional compensation) to protesting against corporations that force their employees to work in unsafe environments.
- Petitions that call on the government to provide economic support for citizens. These campaigns request to postpone taxes and contributions, temporarily subsidize services (such as electricity and water), or for public school teachers to have access to credits so they could buy computers and implement distance-learning.
- Petitions that ask for access to quality medical services. Under this category, we see requests for hospitals to receive adequate supplies that will allow them to not only treat people with COVID-19 but also protect themselves from the virus. These campaigns also include that hospitals have sufficient resources that will enable them to treat people with other diseases.
In supporting our petition starters in recent months since the coronavirus outbreak, we realized how these campaigns reflected extraordinary online citizen engagement and portrayed a future that people felt they deserved to have once this is all over. This future is one wherein public services are sufficient and have more coverage, a future where companies prioritize the welfare of workers over profit, and where governments are more visible, accountable, and proactive in protecting their citizens, especially the most vulnerable.
What if the post-pandemic world looked like this? How might we learn from this crisis? How might we make citizen action lead us toward a reality where both public and private leaders are competent and practice social responsibility? And finally, will we learn enough to make sure that citizens, too, recognize that they can demand and achieve the changes we deserve?
Let’s find out.