Civic Engagement: Being Heard

protest-464616_640This Saturday we’ll be joining the Poudre Library District to wrap up the third part of a series Civics @ Your Library.  This final installment, in the Harmony Library Community Room will explore ways to actively participate in government regardless of your age, political party, or tech-skills. Carrie Bennett, League volunteer and Fort Collins-based facilitator/mediator will guide the discussion to help you uncover and develop your inner advocate.

This interactive and engaging talk will begin at 3:00 and should wrap up around 4:30 with a non-partisan post-card writing party.

To help you get ready, or in case you can’t attend but want to learn more, we’ve recommend the steps below:

Prepare

  1. write-593333_640Identify what you’re passionate about. Make a list and write it down.  Think about the issues that you care deeply about.  These may be things you feel strongly in favor of, or things that make your blood boil in opposition.  Carrie recommends focusing on the positives of what you’re FOR as you begin your civic engagement.
  2. Consider the scale. Where do you have access to support that cause?  For every issue, there are likely ways to get involved and support it without leaving your own back-yard.  These same issues also likely have ways that you can support them on a global scale.  Think about what level of decision-makers you think you can best influence, this will help you identify the audience for your activism.
  3. Decide on your tactics. What strategies can help support the outcomes you hope to see?  Some forms of activism may be easy and quick while others require a greater investment of time, money, and commitment.

Act

  1. Go for it! Once you have  decided on your issue of choice, scale/target audience, and tactics, get busy and do the work!
  2. Be thoughtful and respectful in whatever action you choose.  After-all, when you put yourself out there in behalf of a cause you’re representing how outsiders may see that cause itself.
  3. Reflect on your progress and adapt.  Change is often hard to measure and sometimes no amount of activism seems to produce the results we hope for.  This is no reason to give up but it’s worth being smart about your investment of time and resources.  For an in depth look at the impact of different forms of activism, check out this article in the New Yorker from Kathryn Schulz or this look at the importance of grassroots activism in The Hill from Mike Fulton.
  4. Connect with others.  Our voices often carry more weight when we join forces with others.  Carrie suggests checking out this 2009 TedTalk from bestselling author Seth Godin. By joining a “tribe” of people who are passionate about the same cause you are, you are likely to feel more supported, spark more creative ideas, and feel that your efforts have a greater impact.

Menu for An Advocate

The ideas below may help spark your own ideas for ways to get more involved.

Read!

Get more informed about the issues you care about.

Attend events.

Events may be ways to learn more, opportunities to connect with others who share your passions, or demonstrations that affirm a particular point of view.  These may include film screenings, concerts, festivals, or rallies.

Share your views close to home.  chair-1850612_640

  • Talk to friends and family about the issues you care about.  Spend at least as much time asking questions and listening to THEIR ideas as you do promoting your own.
  • Share reliable and interesting information within your community of friends and family. This can mean recommending or lending stories, articles, books, or data.
  • Write or call in to your local media outlets.  The Coloradoan and the Reporter Herald are both great about publishing views from our local communities. Use our Letter to the Editor Guidelines to get started!
  • Get creative- stand on a street corner with a clever sign and wave, incorporate art, join others who are doing the same.

Connect with your elected officials (or their staff).

You don’t have to go to Washington to be heard.  In fact, you may have the BEST luck connecting with elected officials here locally.

  • Connect face to face. Visit their offices or attend public meetings.
  • Call, write letters, or email your public officials.  Use this Elected Officials Calling Script to help get your call off on the right foot.  Contact information for elected officials across levels of government (with Larimer County connections) is available here.
  • Be creative!  If phone lines seem busy, consider sending staffers flowers, cookies, or pizza…with a letter expressing your ideas attached.

Get involved and volunteer with a political party of your choosing.

Contact information for local parties can be found here.

Volunteer your time and talents or donate money

If you are making financial contributions, be diligent in finding out how organizations use their donations and make sure you feel comfortable with their tactics and priorities.

Whatever you do, invite others to join you.

We’d love to hear about what you try and how it goes in the comments of this post!


2 thoughts on “Civic Engagement: Being Heard

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.