Change.org has a pretty idealistic goal: to get people to rally around ideals, accrue signatures, and create tangible change in government. It believes that the petitions it hosts are somehow able to spark more civic and local action.

That’s a lofty goal, but Change.org thinks it can do it.

Today the petition-signing platform announced that it has reached over 50 million users worldwide. That’s more than double the number from last year. The site also presented some interesting tidbits about specific campaigns its hosted as well as trends in national causes it’s been noticing.

Change.org to me has always been a fascinating, if not idealistic, venture. I frequently receive invites to sign a local petition about something going on in my community, and I’m somewhat reticent to take part. This isn’t because I don’t believe in the company’s values of sparking change. It’s just that I think real-world engagement is better than a nebulous online signature, and I question the impact my name on a virtual list is actually going to have. In some way I think of it as disingenuous to sign, but that’s just my cynicism forming a bond with my degree in Political Science.

A month ago Change.org announced a way to battle my pessimism, which was a platform for politicians to engage with their constituents. While politicians can still give their age-old jargon to the people through this new outlet, this addition to Change.org made a way for citizens to voice their concerns and make sure their lawmakers respond.

Change.org’s founder and CEO Ben Rattray thinks that this current milestone shows how these updates to the platform are actually creating a real impact. Additionally, it indicates a political shift in how action can be made. These petitions are “activating people to get interested in issues,” he said.

He also admitted that he was initially skeptical about a petition’s efficacy, but he’s been blown away by not only the amount of users but the change that has been occurring.

However, many of the most powerful campaigns have been for apolitical issues. These include users demanding that Thesaurus.com to halt associating the word “male” with “power,” and a petition that worked to stop parents from euthanizing a child’s guinea pig. Rattray explained that campaigns like these spoke to issues but were accessed through stories. “It’s more about people than parties,” he said.

So if Change.org is to create a shift in how political action is done, perhaps it’s through those unorthodox ways rather than convincing a politician to vote a certain way. As Rattray sees it, that’s how you connect the “chasm between awareness and action,” by garnering interest for local and anecdotal issues, which will hopefully create something truly actionable.

We’ll see how far it will go. Below is the company’s map of which topics won the most interest by country.

Most popular winning petitions

[Image via Change.org]