Five Essential Skills for Young Activists

October 23, 20120 Comments
Juliette West speaking to an all-school assembly of the Blue Oak Middle School in Napa, CA in November 2012.

Juliette West speaking to an all-school assembly of the Blue Oak Middle School in Napa, CA in November 2012.

Ever feel so strongly about something you knew in your gut you just had to do something? Guess what? You’ve already on your way to being an activist. An activist is someone who gets the word out about a cause, informs people about the issues, and sets forth to make a change. The world’s problems don’t stop if you’re just sitting at home watching TV.

Here are some skills you can start developing to get started on your path to changing the world (or at least your community).

1) Have a Solid Grasp of the Facts

As an activist, you will need to know both sides of an issue and to be able to provide a compelling case for your side. That means you need to have a firm grasp of the facts. Ask lots of questions of  experts. Do as much research as you can before reaching out to your community leaders and show them that you have done your homework. Even those people who seem unwilling to get involved at first might warm up when they see you really do know what you’re talking about.

2) Be Fearless in Using Your Phone to Connect with People

One of the first steps to making a difference is picking up the phone. Whether you’re contacting zoos or shelters to see what their animal practices are or calling people to ask for donations, the phone is a powerful tool is spreading the word. Cold calling places can seem overwhelming at first, but write out a set plan before you start making your calls. If you’re a kid, get your parents’ permission before you get started.

3) Be a Good Public Speaker

No one will know why they should help if they don’t know about the issues. Ask your teacher permission to speak in front of your class or set up an event at your local library to get people talking. Knowing how to engage people and get them excited is half the battle!

4) Be an Effective Writer

As an activist you will have to spread the word in all kinds of ways, including writing letters and petitions to local and national leaders. You don’t need to be a fancy writer at all, so don’t worry about that. You just need to learn how to get your points across in a clear and concise way. Once you write something that works, you can use it again and again in different ways. Don’t forget to spellcheck (especially the person’s name you are reaching out to)!

5) Be Approachable and Make Friends

Talk to people! People enjoy learning about interesting causes. Answer questions and let them know how they can help. If you have a club or charity group, make sure people know they can volunteer or join. Shake hands and don’t be afraid to mingle.

With these five essential skills in your toolkit, you can really make a difference. Don’t wait to have the skills before you do something. You can start out as a bad public speaker who is a bad writer and can’t make friends. That’s totally OK! You will gain the skills by just getting started. Have fun!

Filed in: Advocacy TrainingAllCurriculumGeneral Advocacy Skills

About the Author ()

Maggie is a former Tiger Beat senior staff writer who used to rock out with the Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber in sunny Los Angeles before she decided to relocate to fabulous San Francisco. She has always been interested in animal rights and fell in love with elephants during her travels to Tanzania, Kenya, and Thailand.

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