Getting Started in Activism

So you’ve identified a problem that needs solving. Where do you start?

Congratulations! Identifying the problem is the critical first step. Now:

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  • Do your research. Read. Compile data. Use the internet. Go to the library.
  • Figure out who the key players are and approach them, either directly or indirectly.
  • Investigate. Contact those keys players and get involved.
  • Go to meetings. Listen. Take notes.

“I’ve never described myself as an activist. I see an activist as somebody over there — not me … I guess I did it without a title… I think an important thing is confidence. I had the confidence to do a lot of the things that had to be done.”

— Ofelia Valdez-Yeager
  • Analyze the problem. Who are the key stakeholders? Who benefits from this problem? What will they lose if the problem is solved?
  • Does the fix for the problem have dollar signs attached? Do not be daunted by those dollar signs. Even if the figures seem out of reach, know that for the right cause, there is always a benefactor.
  • Will solving this problem add value to the community?
  • Think: What will be gained? Who will lose?
  • Think through the possible outcomes.
  • Consider whether there might be a solution that benefits all parties involved.

“It’s not about, I’m the leader, follow me! It’s like seeing… we know what we want the goal to be… and then how do we get there, and then backing the steps up”

—Paulette Brown-Hinds
  • If you have a passion for social justice and activism, pursue it, and you will find your way.
  • Look for opportunities to work in the field, and make it clear to others that you are interested in growing with the position.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up!
  • Take it personally. Consider the issues that you’ve personally struggled with.

“… I began to understand the political system differently. Instead of just going to vote and going about my own way, I realized who we voted for made a big difference, who we put in office makes a huge difference, and… impacts you directly in ways that you don’t can’t even imagine.”

—Penny Newman
  • To be an effective community organizer, do not speak for the community; train the community to speak for itself.
  • Remember that activism begins in the home. Be an advocate for your family and your values.
  • Don’t underestimate anyone, especially kids. Help people to understand that change begins with them.
  • Be a role model so that others can see what is possible.

“I think there’s something to be said about equal opportunity versus equitable outcomes, because I don’t think anyone wants to be poor. I don’t think anyone I don’t think anyone desires their children to not succeed in life. And so, if that desire is there amongst all of us, then there are structural two things that are producing unequal outcomes.”

—Elizabeth Ayala

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Inlandia Institute
4178 Chestnut Street
Riverside, CA 92501
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