The open petition tool We the People is the single most effective attempt to engage the public by the White House under President Obama. It’s dead simple: create a petition on any topic you like: (“Legally Recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a Hate Group” has 356,860 signatures, while getting the president to do a coin toss at an Ultimate Frisbee game has 204). Collect enough signatures and the White House pledges an official response—even if your petition asks them to build a Star Wars-style Death Star.
Since We the People’s launch in 2009, 8.2 million users have contributed 13 million signatures on over 200,000 petitions. It’s a testament to the tool’s popularity that the threshold for triggering an official reply has been raised twice, from 5,000 to 25,000 to 100,000.
“It started because a lot of us had worked in online advocacy groups and saw a problem,” says Macon Phillips, the White House Director of Digital Strategy. “There were many petitions out there, but the connection with the target wasn’t that strong.”
“We see some great things here at the White House every day, and sharing that stuff with you is one of the best parts of our jobs. That’s why we’re launching a Tumblr. We’ll post things like the best quotes from President Obama, or video of young scientists visiting the White House for the science fair, or photos of adorable moments with Bo. We’ve got some wonky charts, too. Because to us, those are actually kind of exciting.”
Tim Gunn chats it up with local D.C. Students at the Teen Design Fair hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama and the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Take an early peek at our Master’s of Design issue with Cooper-Hewitt Director, Bill Moggridge on the National Design Museum’s design problem.
On March 23, from noon-12:40 p.m. EST, Fast Company senior editor Nancy Cook will travel to the White House with your questions in tow to moderate the panel, “Startup America—Reducing Barriers.” It’s part of the White House’s Startup America initiative, which began with an executive order in January by President Obama, instructing federal agencies to identify and take steps to reduce old or burdensome business regulations. President Obama is also visiting eight cities and entrepreneurs and businesspeople there to get their ideas for how to further streamline the process. But if the president isn’t visiting your city (Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, and Boulder are still to come), here’s your chance to take part nonetheless.
Via Twitter or the convenient box below, ask a question about any impediment you feel is getting in the way of startups. Or answer the question: “What regulations are stifling startups?” using hashtag #startupamerica. Or tweet the question at someone whose ideas you think we—and the president—should hear with the same hashtag. We’ll grab a variety of questions and discuss them March 23rd at a roundtable with Karen Mills, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Adminstration, Gene Sperling, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council, and others. The whole thing will be livestreamed from the White House. (We’ll share details on watching the broadcast as the event draws near.)
Celebrate democracy and give us your questions and ideas, yes?