In the midst of the numerous intersecting pandemics we are struggling to address — COVID-19, racism, and climate change — it can feel overwhelming to know how best to contribute toward meaningful change. Often the messages we hear guide us toward individual actions we can take in our own lives. To overcome COVID-19, we must vigilantly wash our hands, wear masks, and maintain physical distancing. When we talk about acting as anti-racists, the first steps we often talk about include interrogating our own biases and educating ourselves on the “hidden curriculum” we’ve been exposed to that propagates racist ideas. With regard to climate change, solutions often discussed in schools and communities revolve around individual lifestyle changes, such as traveling by public transport or bicycles instead of using personal vehicles, using less plastic, and avoiding meat-heavy diets. And of course, we always hear that to make our voices heard, we must vote. These individual actions are surely all part of the solutions to these challenges, but if we really want to create change on the levels necessary to overcome these blights on our society, we need to get better at targeting our efforts toward changing policy, and that requires community organizing.
Policy undergirds the norms we take for granted in our everyday lives that pave the way for the vast inequality we see all around us. Disparities in health outcomes along racial and socioeconomic lines can be traced to mismanagement of air and water quality and lack of access to affordable healthcare. Wealth disparities along racial lines stem from our histories of homesteading and redlining. We already see how the failure to enact aggressive policies to address climate change have led to outcomes such as flooding and food insecurity that disproportionately impact communities of color and poor communities around the world. Researchers have plenty of ideas for the kinds of policy solutions that can help address the challenges we face, but our decision-makers, many of whom are beholden more to corporate donors and lobbyists than to the citizens who vote them into office, lack the political will to enact them. It is on us to let them know that we are paying attention and we expect much more from them if they want to maintain their positions.
How do we move ourselves beyond focusing on individual actions toward organizing our communities for collective action and influence? Once the news cycle moves on from powerful moments of protest and unrest like we’ve seen in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, how do we keep up the pressure for systemic change?
On July 14, at 10am, the Center for Sustainable Development will be hosting an Intro to Community Organizing workshop for young people interested in learning how they can take their passion and individual activism to the next level. We’ll be discussing how to:
- define your problem, solution, and organizing goal
- identify key decision-makers and understand their priorities
- craft effective messages and recruit more messengers to join your movement
- choose advocacy strategies, such as targeted use of media, visibility, coalition building, lobbying, direct action, etc.
Come prepared with your ideas for how you want to make change on the issues you care about! Register on Eventbrite.