Make your voice heard, and stand up for what you believe in, with these tips for creating positive change
Most of us have a cause that we believe in – be that environmentalism, anti-racism, feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, political activism, or, of course, standing up to mental health stigma – and in 2021 there are so many ways to make our voices heard.
We can join rallies and demonstrations, connect with local groups within our communities, volunteer our time, take part in projects, or simply have conversations with the people in our lives. But the internet means that we can also contribute to causes in new and innovative ways. Although sometimes given a bad rap as ‘slacktivism’, when done with intent and purpose, online activism can reach far and wide, and unite people across communities and borders – just think of the cultural impact of #MeToo and Black Lives Matter.
And since the start of the pandemic, we’ve been more engaged than ever before – online petition platform change.org notes how petition-creation has increased by 227%, with the number of people supporting campaigns increasing by a massive 1,060% – leading the UK to place firmly within the top 10 countries with the highest civic engagement index, alongside South Africa, Japan, Canada, United States, Peru, Malaysia, South Korea, Philippines, and New Zealand.
“Activism is everywhere. It’s in campaigning for workers’ rights, fighting for gender equality, challenging systemic bias, and demonstrating against dictatorships,” writes Karen Edwards in the introduction to her book, The Little Book of Activism. “Any one of us could become a micro-activist by making changes within our own lives. Combine this with support from like-minded people, and that is how macro-activism begins.”
It is equally as easy to feel hopeless and intimidated by the scale of causes, as it is to feel complacent – as you get caught in a ‘social bubble’ where it seems everyone is already doing the work to achieve a collective goal. But both big and small acts are needed to propel a movement forward, and you may never fully know the impact that a seemingly insignificant conversation or action may have on the world, and people around you.
For Karen, it’s important to understand the history, and to acknowledge those who came before you; by getting familiar with the roots of a cause, we’re much more likely to see it flourish. In The Little Book of Activism, she explores just that, and here Karen shares eight actionable tips for how you can begin to make positive change right now...
1. Educate yourself
If you campaign on behalf of a particular cause, be sure that you know the truth behind the issue. Write down factual information, statistics, and examples to explain why you support this particular cause, and read widely to ensure you understand the history behind it. If you can, talk to those directly affected by the issue.
2. Be a conscious activist
Activism by doing, is leading by example. It helps others to see an issue being tackled in an accessible way. Document what you do on a personal blog or your social media, and share valuable resources – such as books, articles, or videos, that have educated, supported, or inspired you.
"To become an ally is to stand in solidarity with those affected by a specific social issue"
3. Be an informed ally
To become an ally is to stand in solidarity with those affected by a specific social issue. This means seeking out the voices of those who are disadvantaged, to fully understand their experiences before you actively challenge misinformed attitudes.
4. Team up with local, like-minded souls
Look online for local groups and social clubs that support the cause or campaign you feel strongly about. Ask community organisations for connections, or approach social media groups who support the same issues. Making friends who understand and support your passion, is empowering in itself.
5. Write letters, paint, create
If you feel passionately about a cause, consider how you can share your advocacy in a creative way. You could use artivism, articles, and letters, to inspire others to see things from your point of view, and get a message across.
6. Be realistic about what you want to achieve
When advocating for change, bear in mind there may not be immediate results. Prepare yourself for the long haul, and celebrate the little wins as much as possible – such as community recognition, a great turnout at events, receiving media coverage, and growing support from the public.
7. Remain respectful
Bear in mind that not everyone can be persuaded into supporting an issue, however important it might feel to you. When faced with opposition, always stay composed, and deliver your viewpoint based on facts.
8. Always use your vote
Vote for the government – both local and national – who will implement the change you want. This means empowering yourself by taking the time to research the policies behind each candidate. If unable to vote in person, you can register for a postal vote, or to assign a proxy, in advance.
‘The Little Book of Activism’ by Karen Edwards (Summersdale Publishers, £6.99) is out now.
To discover how to build confidence and create positive change in your life, connect with a life coach using lifecoach-directory.org.uk