Your voice is a powerful tool but imagine if a thousand voices echoed your same views! Getting people involved is crucial – whether it involves eradicating bullying at your school, getting others to sign a petition to stop animal trafficking, or raising money to adopt an elephant. There is power in numbers!
You can become an instant activist by joining a group that already exists. Or, you can create your own project and get other people involved in your cause.
Here are five steps for organizing your own activist cause:
Step 1: Identify a Problem or Need
The first step in becoming an activist organizer is to find something that needs improvement. Look around for what is wrong or bad or missing in the community around you. Look around where you are sitting right now or think about what you see on your way home from school. There are probably 50 ideas right there. Think across the categories of things that could be improved: economic, social, political, environmental, the list goes on and on!
Have you ever seen a classmate get bullied and wanted to do something about it? Well, identifying that need is the first step in becoming an activist!
Step 2: Imagine a Solution and Create A Plan to Implement It
Once you’ve identified the need or problem, the next part is deciding what you want to do about it. You can just wing it, but if you want to follow best practices for activists, you should develop your vision, mission, and action plan. These can be super short and simple – like just a few sentences – but it’s helpful to write them down so you can share them with others.
- Vision: Imagine what things would look like if they were perfect. Write this down as your vision statement. Focus on the positive of what you want to create, as opposed to the negative of what you want to eliminate. For example: If you want to eliminate bullying at your school, you might write, “My vision is that students will treat each other with kindness and respect.”
- Mission: Next, imagine what you are going to do to make that vision come true. What is the purpose of your project? This will be your mission statement. For example: “My mission will be to educate students about the causes of bullying and engage them in positive, inclusive activities that result in genuine understanding and friendships. I will achieve this by organizing activities like ‘invite someone new to lunch.’”
- Action Plan: Finally, how exactly are you going to implement your mission? This will be your action plan. What types of people, skills, resources, and money will you need? What will you and others need to do? How will you know when you’ve succeeded? For example: “I want to create a one-month “invite someone new to lunch every day” program. I need to get the principal, teachers, and students involved. I will promote this through posters, school newsletter, school talks with student groups, and the media. I will recruit other students to help organize and promote it. I will know I’ve succeeded when there is no bullying at my school.”
Once you have your vision, mission, and plan, you’re ready to start talking to people and getting them involved!
Step 3: Get Others Involved
All right, now you’re ready to get other people engaged in your cause. How do you get started, and how do you do it in a way that will be effective and long-lasting? Let’s look at the Who, What, and How of getting others involved.
- Who – Who do you need to engage? Involve the stakeholders. Stakeholders are anyone who has some kind of interest or stake in your cause. For bullying, that could be the school, the students, the parents, the local crisis center, etc. Stakeholders can also include donors who support the cause or the media who promote it. See if you can name 5 or even 10 different stakeholders for your cause. Having a cross-section of stakeholders creates a strong program.
- What – What are you going to talk about with stakeholders? Your vision, mission and action plan! You are going to paint a picture of how great things could be, your plan for making that happen, and then invite them to become involved in some way.
- How - How are you going to reach your stakeholders? Through emails, phone calls, posters, petitions, and more. There are many different ways to reach out to others. In-person meetings and phone calls are the most effective in building strong bonds with stakeholders.
Step 4: Implement Your Action Plan
Now it’s time to take action and turn your vision into a reality with the help of everyone you’ve gotten involved. This is where it all happens! You get to be the person who pulls it all together! You’ll need to learn the skills of communication, delegation, and keeping different kinds of people motivated to make it all come together. If you’ve written a good action plan, now, as Nike would say, “Just do it!”
Step 5: Ensure Sustainability & Growth
Once you’ve had success in implementing your plan, there’s one last step. You want to plan for sustainability – to make sure that things stay good after you’ve moved on, for example when you graduate school. Who will look after the program? Is there funding? Is there monitoring and evaluation? Get these things into place to ensure long-term success.
Share your knowledge with others so they can continue in your footsteps or even spread the word to other towns, cities, countries… You get the picture! Make it easy for others to take what you’ve learned and to pay it forward and continue on. You can do this by sharing with others the vision, mission and action plan that you’ve created so that they can use it too. Put it online so others can find it. You never know who it will help or whose life it will change.
No matter how young or old you are, you can make a change!
Photo Credit: C. Young Photography