Focus: Communications - Three minutes with ... Tom Steinberg, founder of mySociety and PledgeBank

What is PledgeBank?

It's an internet service that aims to help people get things done and improve local community relations. Anyone can post a pledge on the website, promising to do something if they are joined by a specific number of other people. For example, one person has pledged to donate £10 to repair the windows at the east London mosque that was vandalised, if another 10 local people pledge to do the same.

How does it work?

Sometimes we all need a bit of help or peer pressure to encourage us to do things. When you make a pledge through PledgeBank, you are effectively making a psychological bet.

If someone has a desire to do something, and we can help them connect with other people who want to do the same thing, they are much more likely to do it. If other people join you, it makes it more worthwhile. It also helps you meet new friends.

What kind of pledges work best?

Someone promised to give blood if 50 other people agree to do so. Crucially, this person added: "I'm scared senseless of needles." That makes other people more likely to empathise with him and so far he has got 68 pledges.

What other advice do you offer?

People sometimes think that because it's on the internet they will get access to thousands of other people, but we encourage them to make their pledges as small as possible. In fact, you have to obtain our permission to post a pledge asking for more than 100 supporters - the NO2ID campaign on identity cards asked for 10,000, for example.

We also say that you need to do your own publicity, although you can print off fliers from the PledgeBank website, and these have a number people can text their support to.

We find that it's the people who are enthusiastic about raising awareness of their pledges who tend to be the most successful.

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