Change happens because one individual champions a cause and ignites the passion of others to solve a problem or find new and better ways of doing things. A movement is started by an idea, leadership, and, of course, a first follower.
During these challenging times, we’ve all had ample time and motivation to reflect on our lives, communities and even our government.
Individuals from all walks of life are speaking out in multiple ways – voting in greater numbers in primary elections, protesting, posting on social media, petitioning government leaders, donating to causes, making phone calls, and participating in surveys.
It’s easy to see where that energy is coming from. Recent polls found that Americans aren’t pleased with the current state of affairs:
- Only 31 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction, according to a recent Morning Consult/Politico survey. That means nearly 7-in-10 voters believe we are on the wrong track.
- Almost 60 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress, according to the YouGov tracking poll.
- Less than half of us (44 percent) approve of the president’s efforts, according to a recent Fox News poll.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. or decades of experience to ascertain that we need to do better, even as our nation struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, budgetary shortfalls and other challenges across all levels of government.
Here are a few ways that inspired advocacy professionals can get involved to make a difference:
Identify leading people and organizations that support this cause and reach out to them about your interest.
Many non-profits, associations, candidates, companies and foundations have well-developed campaigns underway and have developed tools, key messages and mentors to help newer activists become involved. Sometimes joining a cause can be just as impactful or even more impactful than starting one on your own.
Conduct research to better understand the issue you have chosen.
This can answer questions like why current policies were adopted? What’s changed since that time? Who else is aligned with you? Who’s in opposition or undecided at this point and what tactics have been tried, whether successful or not? This research allows you to make a determination on how your personal involvement would be helpful.
Understand your role.
Knowing how you can help, or what level or commitment is necessary, can help determine if you need to start at a lower level of engagement. Campaigns for meaningful change are a marathon, and there’s often room for growth and leadership over time.
It’s a great equalizer in advocating for issues, legislation or projects you support. Websites, social media platforms, apps, educational curriculum, virtual meetings, shared documents, etc. offer a boost to getting one’s message out and developing a two-way communications process.
Start building your own coalition.
Once comfortable, bring other like-minded individuals into the fold. Make sure to be honest and transparent in your communications and actions. Encourage periodic measurement and evaluation of your organization’s progress as your campaign gains momentum or seems to be slipping. And finally, take time to celebrate your decision to get involved.
Regardless of age, experience, or geography, it’s important for all citizens to pick a cause and become responsible activists, especially during challenging times.
Mike Fulton directs the Washington, D.C., office of Asher Agency and teaches public affairs in the West Virginia University Reed College of Media’s Integrated Marketing Communications program.
Joshua Habursky is the Head of Federal Affairs at the Premium Cigar Association and Adjunct Professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.