Written by: Natalia Brown
We all want to be heard, recognized and understood. Historically, engaging with others has helped us to learn a great deal about ourselves and how to best fulfill our role in society. This simple observation is important because it has enabled us to settle our differences and be productive in organized communities.
During this time of uncertainty, we are being advised to distance ourselves from the coworkers, neighbors, peers, friends, and even family members that are an integral part of our social identity. Engagement has been crucial to navigating our shared struggles and co-creating solutions that support diverse goals and values.
With that said, the foundation of patience and trust that supports these relationships is something that we all need to keep in mind over the coming months.
The same foundation is needed for relationships with our elected officials. In the face of such large-scale crises, there is no match for the value of clarity and commitment from our political leaders.
We have the power to change the way governing institutions consider solutions, consult sources, deploy resources and deliver results. There is no way for one person to completely understand all that is necessary to fulfill the highest governing positions; that’s why banding together to express our unique and shared knowledge is monumentally important.
It is our civic responsibility to engage with these institutions for a reason! As the times change, our needs change, and there’s no better source for solutions than our communities.
Our relationships with elected officials may not always feel immediate, but civic engagement has a direct result on our everyday lives. Just as any personal relationship, this will unfold and change overtime— requiring trust, honesty, and integrity.
It’s easy to get caught up in current frustrations and expect quick returns, but the political process is the necessary avenue for us to achieve these aims in the long run.
When our communities are empowered and mobilized, the metrics that are generated from our engagement are a better reflection of our collective needs.
It doesn’t have to be Election Day to harness the power of civic engagement! Here are some activities you can take up year-round to organize and make your voice heard:
Research suggests that young people who volunteer in their communities are more likely to vote, actively serve others, and feel empowered as citizens. One study found that volunteers become emotionally connected to the communities they serve and sustain involvement that translates to future economic growth (Promoting Student Engagement).
Volunteering has been found to help people of all ages to develop skills for professional success and build personal confidence. The leadership skills needed for the betterment of our world are best exemplified by engaged leaders who understand the inner workings of our complex society.
The United Nations has credited volunteerism as a requirement for better governance at the local and national level. In fact, it’s considered a necessary first step for achievement of the international Sustainable Development Goals!
Collaborative problem-solving that integrates different perspectives has been proved more effective in the long run time and time again. As an active member of a group or association with others that you share common values with, you can engage in knowledge-sharing on issues as simple as your daily routine or as far-reaching as public policy reform.
To support plastic pollution reduction efforts in your community, support and engage with organizations that are advancing this agenda through social (beach cleanups, plastic-free events) and political (issue advocacy, lobbying) means.
This Tuesday, March 17th, is the day to cast your vote in the 2020 Democratic Primary elections. If you are well and able, we urge you to cast your ballot for the candidate you feel is best fit to lead our nation!
Once you make plans to vote, you can advocate for electoral participation by wearing buttons, using campaign stickers or signs, talking about the importance of the political process, volunteering for a political organization, contributing to a campaign, or getting trained to register other voters.
When it isn’t election season, you can work on your relationship with existing public officials by contacting them directly to express your needs or stance on an upcoming decision. You can also reach out to print or broadcast media by writing a local journalist or news anchor to provide insights on a recent development in your niche or request coverage on what you believe to be an under-emphasized issue.
You can provide public comments for rules and regulations before they are voted upon. After the fact, you may protest a change by striking, boycotting, or distributing a petition.
On the issue of plastic pollution, you may not have the opportunity to provide a public comment if the legislation needed has not yet been proposed. In the meantime, you may contact local elected officials to communicate your values and strive to be a more conscious consumer in your daily practices.
This may include avoiding unnecessary packaging, personal care products with plastic micro-beads, and new synthetic clothes or linens. Instead, opt for secondhand goods, products made from natural fibers (i.e. cotton, wood, hemp, wool, bamboo), and plant-based bulk foods. Praise small businesses and conscious brands that make noticeable efforts to minimize their use of plastics by leaving a sincere review and remaining a loyal customer. If a company or manufacturer uses excessive packaging, it doesn’t hurt to politely reach out and express your desire for greater corporate responsibility.
We are living in unprecedented times—with limitless access to information and the ability to circulate information to a massive audience at any moment. The internet has become a major avenue for social interaction and can be exploited as a tool for educating the public.
You can use social media and the internet to advocate for key issues, support candidates, and share reputable information. The aim should always be to make reputable, important information more transparent and accessible!
Even though more widely distributed news and educational programming informs citizens, online engagement doesn’t have the same ability to influence outcomes that electoral participation does. Simply put, retweeting a statement by your preferred candidate does not have the same power as voting in the primary elections.
By sharing information and resources with your online community, you may certainly mobilize others to take a stance on a political issue, but we cannot lose sight of the privilege and power of our right to vote.
Questions on civic participation? suggestions for future Trash Talk Topics? reach out to me via email firstname.lastname@example.org!