Political Advocacy Guide for the uninitiated activist

November 6, 2017 - 5 minutes read

Between busy lives filled to the brim with friends, family, and work, it can be difficult to fit political advocacy into your schedule. But if you’re angry at the way things work, at the political process, at your representatives, being a bystander is not an option. Yes, going out and creating change is easier said than done. But knowing that you have to do something is the first bridge to cross. Since you’re here, it’s safe to say that you’ve crossed it. If you’re unsure of what comes next, this article will give you an outline for getting involved in political advocacy.

political advocacy guide for the uninitiated activist

Have a specific goal

It’s easy to get caught up in an overarching idea, say one for clean energy, equal rights or healthcare. While keeping that idea in mind, you have to break up your idea into smaller, more specific goals if you want to see your efforts bear fruit down the lane. Find a cause that you care deeply about, say clean energy. Now go into the specifics. How is the lack of clean energy affecting your community? Are there laws in place that support environmental protection? Are there any business practices that are causing atmospheric pollution? Pinpointing a cause lets you align your efforts with an achievable end goal and keep yourself on track towards that goal.

You can also look at advocacy organizations currently working in your community and reach out to them to offer your support. Make sure that the organization is working towards an achievable goal (World peace? Not so much. Nuclear disarmament? Yes! ) and that your interests align with theirs. Political advocacy efforts can drag on for a long time and are mostly driven by the passion of its volunteers. If you don’t see eye to eye with their goals, look for one where you do.

Do your Research

National events get much more coverage and you can easily get swept up in a bubble of online rants and news coverage. While familiarising yourself with events at the federal level, make sure that you do your research on the state and local level i.e your representatives, state laws, ballot initiatives etc.

Local advocacy is driven by citizens to address the policies and practices harming their own communities. And that is where your efforts can make the most impact. You can do your own research or refer to political advocacy groups working in your community. Most of these groups will have educational material on their website. If they don’t, they’ll be more than willing to connect you with a campaign operative who will fill you in on the specifics.

Spread the word

Okay, you have a cause in mind and you did your research. Now it’s time to get out there and do something about it. Well, maybe not literally. Today, making your voice heard doesn’t necessarily require you to step out of your house. From spreading awareness on social media to signing a petition, phone banking, or donating to a candidate or cause, advocacy organizations have made it easy for their supporters to join the political process. For the technically inclined, you can even join a group of coders building low-cost tools for progressive grassroots movements. But this doesn’t mean that you should stay cooped up in your house. Having face-to-face conversations and sharing the room with a group of like-minded individuals can not only encourage you to do more for the cause but also ease that sense of helplessness we all tend to feel now and again. So, while you are making phone calls and writing code, go out to town hall meetings and get involved with campaigns. If you are so inclined, you can even run for office.

Political advocacy is far from perfect. With overwhelming citizen interest and partisan agendas in play, advocacy often leads to a cacophony of incoherent voices rather than streamlined approaches to achieving specific goals. Before you get your feet wet, make sure you know why you’re getting into the water. If it’s just to enjoy the swim, so be it. If you intend to reach the other side, you need a plan. Make one yourself or find an organization that sticks to one.

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