In 2012, I read a headline I won’t forget: “14 year old education advocate shot by Taliban for going to school.” I was enraged reading the article, but as I got busy I forgot about the story and continued my day answering emails.
Then I started to think: if I cared so much, why wasn’t I doing something about it?
When a terrible event happens in the world, it generates energy: sometimes rage, despair, even a sense of disempowerment. What if we could capture that energy and channel it into a solution? What if we could do something about the news we read?
I believe we can. That’s why we’re launching Speakable, a technology company on a mission to connect people to the power of their civic voice. Our first product, Action Button, is launching in partnership with Huffington Post, Vice and Guardian US, to enable readers to participate in the outcomes of those stories—whether by donating, signing a petition or emailing a policymaker. With Action Button, it’s never been faster to have an impact online, you don’t have to search for how you can help or for opportunities to do something; they are where you are.
In 2014, I went to Arianna Huffington with an idea about how the Huffington Post could enable readers to be part of the story. Arianna understood immediately the sense of frustration we’ve all experienced when reading bad headlines we feel powerless to change. Dozens of platforms exist so we can talk about what’s going on in the world, but what’s the next step? Twitter for instance, gives our voices the power to be heard—but what does that sound translate into? Often not enough: talking about news is not the same as acting on news.
We piloted new technology that enables newsreaders to take instant action on the stories that inspire them, and we’ve learned that others feel the same: people want to do more than read headlines, they want to change headlines. We’ve been testing across articles on Huffington Post, where readers have taken thousands of actions on important issues like the refugee crisis, the climate march in Paris, or defending women’s health rights through Planned Parenthood.
I still think about the headline on Malala’s story — a young girl who was shot for going to school and yet I did nothing about it. I was angry instead of active. If Action Button existed in 2012, I would have quickly taken action by signing a petition in support of girls’ education. I’m very excited that today we can do more than read headlines; we can take action to change them.