If you’ve been following my advice on how to build your personal road map to being an effective everyday activist, you’ve triaged your issues and picked just a couple, maybe three, on which you commit to being a leader. That’s a big task #inthesetimes, so pat yourself on the back for taking the time to dig deep, listen to yourself, and make your commitment.
Now I recommend that your first goal is to join. Join with others who are prioritizing and focusing on your core issues. Find the leaders, the non-profits, the advocacy groups, the online communities, the newsletters, the reporters, etc. who share your passion. If you want to make a change in workplace policy, find those outside your company who have successfully made such a change. Find those inside your company who will be allies in the effort.
One reason to look first to join is that you can avoid re-inventing the wheel. There is power in numbers, in aggregation, in community, and in the network effect. You will have more impact together than apart. Acting in concert with others also brings emotional benefits…comrades in arms, people with whom you can commiserate and celebrate. Especially in these times of physical isolation, being part of an advocacy team is a good way to ensure you stick with it. You can count on others, and they are counting on you.
A second reason to look first to join is that you can avoid “savior complex.” Particularly if your advocacy is around speaking up for groups of which you are not a part (e.g. advocating for gender equity as a man or advocating for racial justice as a white person) You do not have to be a savior. Chances are you are not the first person to think your issue needs urgent action. Especially if you’re advocating for another group of people, you can bet folks from that group have been activating long before you. Support the work of those most directly affected to gain justice and equity for themselves. Your work as an ally is important…raise the voices, profiles, and reputations of those who have done the work before you.
It’s entirely true that you may research an issue and find that no one has yet tackled it from your perspective. In my book, Road Map for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism and Advocacy for All (co-authored with Carolyn Gerin and Jamia Wilson) we tell the story of Amber Goodwin, founder of the Community Justice Reform Coalition. As she became motivated to work on the scourge of gun violence, she realized there was a gap amongst existing worthy gun violence focused organizations. They were primarily founded and run by white people, and they were not operating at the intersection of gun violence prevention and criminal justice reform. Amber wasn’t trying to be a savior, nor reinventing topical wheels. She was bringing new representation and perspective on her issue of choice. And you may be called to do the same.
Bottom line: Look to JOIN first to smooth your way, but if there is no one to join, heed the call to act anyway!
Be sure to join me on Friday, October 23rd at 12pm PT for a fireside chat with Anita Jackson, director of digital communications for MomsRising, and Brandi Riley, creator of the Influencer Activist Toolkit. We’ll discuss how to integrate sustainable cause-related activities into an already busy life, including with your work or at your workplace.