“It is absolutely possible,” says Na’ilah Amaru, a longtime political organizer and now a national trainer for VoteRunLead, a nonprofit organization that trains women to run for public office. “I absolutely understand that feeling of exhaustion and that question of what can I do and will it make a difference?” she concedes. Fortunately, the most effective tactics for bringing about big societal change are small — really. “When we begin to kind of break down how change happens, whether it’s policy changes, structural changes, institutional changes, those changes always start in small ways,” Amaru says.They also take time, she adds: “Or it should take time, if you want to build change that’s sustainable.”
“One of your most powerful weapons as a citizen is your education as a voter,” says Amaru. “When people — whether it’s the general public or your elected officials — are saying, ‘This is the issue that is most important and here is the solution to fixing it,’ you should have enough information … to be like, ‘Yes, I agree, that’s the issue and that’s the solution.’ Or, ‘I don’t necessarily agree with that; I think that there are other, alternative solutions to resolving this particular social issue.'”
When it comes to media, Amaru says, “It’s most important to practice consuming your news from a variety of different sources, so you don’t learn about issues from only one particular angle.”
Elected officials in smaller cities and towns — from city council members to the school board — receive remarkably little input from the people they represent, says Amaru. As a result, the input they do receive has more impact than you might think. Whether you write or call, she offers these guidelines:
- Keep it brief.
- State your relationship to the official (i.e., constituent) and what you want (or don’t want) them to do (i.e., vote yes/no on a bill/budget item).
- Share why it matters to you – how does this issue or vote impact you or your community?
Having worked as both a legislative staffer and a lobbyist, Amaru acknowledges that certain political players (aka, special interest groups with big money) have outsized influence, but that’s in part because “constituents are not reaching out to their representatives in the way that they could,” she argues. As a staffer, Amaru has been in the position of tracking every single phone call and email that comes in, and she says your reps are paying attention. “I can tell you l that I have never met an elected official that would choose what a lobbyist is pushing for if it’s going to cost them votes.”
You might think it only matters to get an op-ed placed in a national publication such as the New York Times, Amaru says, but local and state elected officials pay much more attention to the local rag they know their constituents are reading. “They have an incentive to solve problems that people are complaining about — so be sure to leverage the power of local media!”
This is especially true if an elected official is facing a contested race. “The more competitive a district is — that is when you really see engagement really making an impact, because an elected official has to make that decision: ‘If vote yes or if I vote no,’ the calculation is, ‘what is this going to cost me in votes when I run for reelection?’”
“If women are not really being centered in legislative conversations, then it’s very easy to understand why women don’t feel like they have control over legislation that affects them,” says Amaru.
“Two things from an electoral perspective that are most impactful — more than TV ads, more than mailers: it’s door to door knocking and it’s phone calls,” Amaru says — and yes, text banking is also effective. It’s because of “that human connection,” she says.
Read the full article, How to Change Things When You Have No Energy, Money, or Time published March 9, 2023 on theskimm.com