Making Your Efforts Count the Most

Offering a veritable smorgasbord of opportunities to engage in the pro-democracy movement is the easy part. Everyone values their time, however, so they will search through the options to find the ways they believe they can have the greatest impact within the limits set by the amount of time they can afford to give. Below are a few suggestions.

Assess your advocacy skills and assets, and do what you are best at doing. Are you articulate? Are you a good listener? Are you seen by others as friendly? Are you a good writer? Are you knowledgeable and credible to those around you in particular ways? Are you networked in your community? What parts of the community contain your strongest networks? Do you use social media? Can you anticipate or spot quickly the types of arguments and controversies that are counterproductive? Are you good at avoiding or damping down such conflicts? Do you feel yourself under the influence of reflexive hostility and suspicion? The point of asking yourself such questions is straightforward. By thoughtfully considering your skills, your strengths and weaknesses, and your degree of emotional self-control, you will be more able to pick activities and roles that best utilize your abilities, personality, and resources. By making those choices, you can reasonably expect to have the greatest impact.

Improve your advocacy skills. Almost everyone can improve his or her effectiveness as an advocate. And many can cultivate within themselves the more positive attitudes and emotions that make building broad community support much easier. Our More Effective Activism section contains resources to help you build your advocacy skills.

Consider the distinctive opportunities that go with particular roles you play (contractor, consultant, business owner or manager, corporate manager, public sector manager, teacher, nurse, doctor, lawyer, minister, therapist, policeman, firemen, active duty military, national guard reserve, journalist, writer, and more). Each role presents particular opportunities.

Study your community. If you look for them, there may be obvious improvements that could easily win broad community support. Notable problems in the recent past may open some opportunities. Look for the overlaps between what activists are interested in working on and what the community may be inclined to support.

Don't leave out the "wicked" stuff. Yes, it's hard to figure out what to do about "wicked" problems. But don't abandon these elements. You can try to get your local paper and local radio and TV stations to do a better job. You can see if the local ministers warm to the idea of affirming democratic civic values from the pulpit. What's possible and what's helpful will depend greatly on local circumstances, so again, study your community.

Don't shortchange longer-term investments. For example, teachers in your community (and the local school board and administrators) may get behind the idea, if approached absent a partisan slant, of rejuvenating civics education. It will take a while for better prepared voters to make a difference, but simply awakening teachers to the reality that they have a vital role to play in the health of our democracy could produce an immediate change in their attitudes, with unpredictable but likely helpful impacts.

Don't dismiss financial contributions. It may be tempting at times to dismiss financial contributions as a cop-out, an easy alternative to rolling up your sleeves and actually doing something. But many of the organizations and campaigns we will highlight would dearly love your donations and would put them to good use. Consider sending a contribution, even if small, on a regular basis.

Plan to do many things over an extended period. Make sure some are easy for you and some are more challenging. Don't only do the easy stuff.

Remember, there is currently very strong public support for pro-democracy reforms. Prospects of success are excellent if choices are made with careful attention to what the community will support most broadly.

Published: August 2019
Revised: July 2023

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