Taking it to the Next Level
Okay. You’ve been clicking away on the click sites. You’re getting a few notification emails each month on issues you think are important and regularly fax or email your representatives on these issues. You feel good that you’re finally making a contribution. You want to do more. Where do you go next? This page is meant to be a launch pad for taking action that is more than pointing and clicking. There are more ways to take action and make a difference than there are causes, so this page is by no means exhaustive. Hopefully you are pointed in the right direction so you can use your newly charged enthusiasm to work even more change the world.
Get Others Involved and Get Involved with Others
The most powerful way for any activist to effect change is to be one voice among many. Politicians and businesses generally want to satisfy the greatest number of people, so the more people there are working towards a change, the more likely it is for that change to occur.
There are many ways to work with other people. Start by getting your friends involved. For example you can have letter writing parties or discussion groups to get educated on the issues and that include plans for taking action. Remember when you talk to your friends about issues, look for both sides of an issue – don’t try to convert them or you may alienate them from yourself AND the issue. If you can motivate even one other person to take action, your efforts will be twice as effective. In addition to rallying your friends, you can get involved with like-minded folks that are already working on issues you find important. Don’t forget to tell your friends about The Lazy Activist!
Below are a few tools for event planning, networking and working with others towards a common cause. One type of networking tool is a social networking service (SNS). Social networking services allow you to see the network of your friends’ friends and are loosely based on the six degrees of separation theory. These sites are denoted as 6°. There are more services than are listed here, but the SNS listings provided are better for forming interest groups or are very popular.
ActForLove.org – ActForLove.org is a cause-oriented personals service that lets you take action while looking for love. Or – ahem -“take action, get action.” By using ActForLove.org, you help support progressive, activist causes.
buddyBridge – 6° buddyBridge is a good SNS that includes geographical maps of friends, directories and interest groups.
Evite – Evite is a free online event planning service designed to give people all the tools they need to plan, host or attend any type of group gathering. Evite is great for planning a letter writing party or fundraiser for your causes.
Friendster – 6° Friendster is the most popular SNS. Friendster is focused more on meeting people than on creating groups.
Meetup – Meetup is a free service that organizes local gatherings about anything, anywhere. Organize your own meeting or find a meeting already going on that you would like to join.
StargazerNET – Offers a variety of communications and learning tools including surveys, online meetings (with transcripts) and message boards.
Tribe.net – 6° Tribe.net is probably the best SNS for creating interest groups (like your local activist group!).
High Touch Activism
Clicking links and sending pre-written faxes is The Lazy Activist way. It truly is the easiest activism on the Net. But you’re ready to take it to the next level. Now that you have a group of friends that you’re working with, you’re ready to start doing “high touch” activism. This means you do the following:
Donate money – Cash is king. Where you put you dollars says a lot and if you believe in a cause, help to support the organizations working on it.
Volunteer – Time is money so, if you don’t have money, consider giving time to the causes you believe in. VolunteerMatch a great site for finding groups with which to volunteer. (Be sure to check out their “Virtual Volunteering” section!)
Send totally customized letters to your representatives – Sending a letter is one of the most effective tools for change in an activist’s toolbox. When you write your letter, don’t be combative – rather, clearly state your positiion and why you think it’s the right way to go. Thank the person you’re writing for taking an interest in the views you’re expressing. Be sure to get each of the friends in your activist network to send letters (or at least sign yours) too!
Send personalized faxes (using the Internet) to your representatives – If you don’t want to spend the money on postage, fax your letters instead.
Call to your representatives – Calling is very useful. State that you’d like to comment on a specific issue, name that issue and express your opinion. Again, be polite.
Start your own special interest group (SIG) – If you’re concerned about an issue that isn’t well represented, consider starting a special interest group to further your cause. Build a website (it’s not too hard). Tell everyone you know that you’re starting this group and build a contact list of people that share your concern. Share news with this group and coordinate your efforts to effect change. This is a very rewarding activity and just think: you get to name your new group!
Send personalized emails to your representatives – If you prefer, you can send your thoughts in email, although emails carry far less weight than letters or faxes because they’re easier to send, so lots of folks use email (including folks that don’t agree with you).
We’ve all heard the saying “Think globally, act locally.” But how many of us have acted on that idea? If you have, great – keep up the good work. If not, now is the time to start. Local activism can be among the most rewarding forms of activism because the results can be much more tangible and personal.
Community Action – Get involved with local activist groups or create you own.
Write the Op/Ed section of your paper frequently. Make sure you have your facts correct so your position isn’t dismissed. Here’s a page of tips for writing Op/Ed pieces from the NoWar Collective.
Participate in local actions like marches, boycotts or fund raisers
Activist Shopping & Actively Not Shopping
Who knew? Shopping can be a form of activism. Below are a few top sites. For a more complete listing visit the Yahoo “Virtual Charity and Fundraising Mall” category. In addition to where you spend your money, think about where you invest your money. Socially responsible investing is an important step in making sure that the businesses you’re supporting are the businesses you agree with. For information on socially responsible investing visit the Google category.
CafePress.com – CafePress.com is a service that allows others to sell products online. They have a “non-profit + charity” shopping section.
eScrip – eScrip lets you register any one or all of your existing grocery loyalty, debit and credit cards for use in the program. They have a lot of big name merchants. When you shop at the store or use the card as you normally do, they donate a portion of the proceeds to your selected cause.
GreaterGood.com – At GreaterGood.com you can shop at over 100 leading online merchants — including Barnes & Noble.com, priceline, Nordstrom, Lands’ End, Dell, Office Max and more — and up to 15% of each purchase automatically goes to an organization you select at no extra cost.
iGive.com – iGive.com has 440+ stores and allows you to choose your cause.
Schoolpop – Lets you shop for schools by donating a portion of your shopping proceeds to the school you select. (You might be able to find your local school, although we weren’t.)
The ultimate in lazy activism is doing nothing – that is, not shopping with (read not giving money to) companies whose business practices you don’t like. Of course, you need to get educated about when to boycott a company. This takes a little time, but it’s hugely effective. You’ve may have heard about the Nike sweatshop labor issues. While they still need to improve, Nike is responding because people stopped buying their shoes (as much).
Transnationale.org – Transnationale.org is a fantastic resource that provides comprehensive information on more than 10,000 companies around the world. They report social and environmental behavior, financial data, list of brands, membership to the most influential lobbies, public relations and opinion making, managers’ names and positions, shareholders and subsidiaries, plant locations and offshore centers and brand and corporate image management.
Boycott for Peace – Boycott for Peace provides a list of companies that stand to profit from the war on Iraq or from future conflicts like it, or that stand in the way of peaceful solutions to the Middle East crisis. Many companies have supported the political direction taken by President Bush, British Prime Minister Blair and other leaders.
Boycott Action News – Brought to you by Co-op America, this site lists several current boycotts and explains the rationale behind each boycott you select.
Responsible Shopper – Brought to you by Co-op America, this site profiles 350 companies and their products to help you make more informed consumer choices.