Saturday, December 3, 2011

Gunning for Change [Part 1]

Barack Obama ain't the only one capable of ushering in the winds of change. Anyone can do it! Twenty two year old Molly Katchpole did just that when she made Bank of America remove a US$5 monthly debit card fee it was planning to charge its' customers.


How did she do it? When Katchpole who works two part-time jobs in Washington D.C. heard about the yearly US$60 increase, she turned to Change.org - an online platform that enables people to initiate campaigns for social change.

What she did:
  • Wrote an open letter to Bank of America to withdraw the fee. The letter went viral.
  • Closed her account with Bank of America.
  • Cut up her debit card on camera.
  • Moved her money to a community bank.

After one month and 306,000 signatures later, Katchpole succeeded. Bank of America removed the charge on  November 1. Other top national banks have also scrapped plans for a similar fee.

Katchpole's success is a sign of the times. Can you imagine any other era in which one person could make a huge corporation change their policy in a matter of months (September to November)? Without going to court or the press, but by simply posting an online petition? Well that's the power of social media for you!

We all have grouses about many things, but how many of us would go the extra mile to do something about it? That is what I admire about Katchpole. Ask most people why they don't do something about the things they are unhappy about, and the most likely answer would be - it won't work, waste of time. So they rather rant with friends and accept whatever it is.

I do admit that once upon a time, getting heard was tough. I'm talking from a Malaysian perspective here. If you had a grouse/concern - you had to know the right people........so very third world right? Especially if it was to do with government departments.

As a last resort, people would go to the press. However as a former reporter, let me tell you that even this can get tricky. Big companies and politicians make a point to be friendly with top bosses in the newspaper world.

So if you have a grouse against the 'friend' of a newspaper boss, your story might not see the light of day. However if the said organisation has irritated the top guns in a newspaper or is a rival of one of their 'friends', they will be more than happy to make a splash of the issue. Stinks huh? Trust me, there were times when the stench got too unbearable.

Which is why I absolutely love social media, you don't have to kiss someone's arse to get heard.

More to come on my love for online platforms.......