Blog: We are the changemakers, we must stand up for what we feel is right
November 11, 2022

Blog: We are the changemakers, we must stand up for what we feel is right


It is human to care. You may care about animal welfare, gender equality, reducing poverty, local development, youth rights, further European integration, or a plethora of other causes. It is natural to care. As part of the 2022 European Year of Youth, YEAs were given the opportunity to take part in Level Up! Accelerating change at the European Parliament. Together with 1,200 other activists from around Europe and beyond, we were able to take part in workshops on advocacy, communications, and organising.

However, as most things in life, knowledge is most impactful when shared. That is why we have decided to summarise the most important learnings of the boot camp. We hope that reading this article will prove a convincing first step (or one among many steps, if you are already involved with activism) into the world of progress and civic involvement.

Stand up for what you believe is right

As Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament said in her opening speech, we are a generation of changemakers. We currently find ourselves in possibly one of the most crucial moments in human history. With populism threatening democracy, it is important to articulate and demand what we want from the world around us. If it is human to care, it is only natural to strive, to actually push for the changes that you hope to see in the world. Reach out to other young people, to community leaders, and don’t feel afraid to campaign for your beliefs.

Know who your main audience is

Activist actions do not need to please everyone. In fact, as you push for your own causes, you will undoubtedly gather critics along the way. It is important, however, to understand who your target group is. Are you trying to appeal to people of a certain age, of a certain ethnicity, of a certain gender, or maybe your target audience is much more complex to define? Whatever the case, you need to know whose support you will be able to count on. A hundred people that are passionate about a cause will make much more of a difference than a thousand people that feel ambiguous about it will. By appealing to your supporters, you will forge cohesion, increasing the influence of your group.

Reassess and recalculate

The world of activism is not stale. It will always change. Do not do things a certain way just because that is the way it has always been done. Your team will definitely grow and it is your responsibility to adjust your work accordingly. Do not feel afraid to rotate positions, to question whether the things you are doing are right or whether there is room for improvement (in our experience, there is always room for improvement). Make sure your actions stay true to your cause. Moreover, think of the mechanisms that need to be put in place to allow your project to upscale, both in terms of the number of volunteers and of your scope. A local organisation could someday go national (or even international). Make sure your team is ready for such a jump.

Assess any risks

In your activism work, you might end up organising rallies, protests, demonstrations, or marches. It is imperative that you actively work with your local government, law enforcement, and other institutions to prevent violent provocations and to ensure that nobody gets hurt. Think of the things that could go wrong, think of ways to minimise their effects or eliminate them completely. Most importantly, make sure that any potential risks are communicated to the participants. Your supporters should know what they are getting themselves into, otherwise, you are no better than a tyrant.

Utilise your team

To have a feasible impact, you need to be aware of the strengths (and weaknesses!) of each member of your team. Do not overwork yourself to the point of burning out. Delegate tasks to those around you, and put trust in them. In time, you will gain a better understanding of what each person can do independently and competently. It is useless to have everyone do the same thing, allow your colleagues to specialise, to come up with their own ideas. Do not put a limit on what you want your team to do. If they want to accomplish more (and are competent to do so), allow them to. Promote idea-taking. Promote an assertive team that feels confident to change things for the better.

Go local

Before trying to solve esoteric problems that pertain to matters of the universe, think of the community closest to you first, since these are the people you will be most able to help. Collaborate with local brands, and reach out to other community leaders and activists. Look into what issues matter most to your local community. It is likely that those issues impact more communities that you will eventually be able to upscale to. The people around you are key to understanding your causes and beliefs. The more local inputs you collect, the more likely your project to succeed later on.

Use the headlines to your advantage

There will definitely come moments in which your causes will be more relevant to the general public. If public attention is focused on a particular event that is relevant to your cause, make use of that opportunity. Reach out to news outlets, organise press conferences, and make your position heard. People are more likely to support and be interested in causes that get media coverage. If the circumstances allow, be as vocal as you can. As mentioned above, stand for what you believe is right, especially when doing that would allow you to grow your audience. Collect signatures for your cause, expand your network, and convince people that, given whatever the current circumstances are, supporting your cause is the logical choice.

Be inclusive

Whether you are organising a charity concert or developing an online voting app, make sure you do not be excluding anyone based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious identity, disability status, or any other criteria. While it is important to target a specific audience, that should not come at the expense of impairing the ability of other people to join your cause. Work with representatives of various NGOs to create a welcoming environment. Diversity is key to innovation. Work actively to ensure that disability does not prevent anyone to join your cause.

Digitalise

Technology is already playing a pivotal role in politics and policy-making. It is crucial that, as you upscale, you use digital tools, whether cloud-based databases, social media, or even the emerging new tool of Artificial Intelligence. There is no limit to where human creativity will lead us. Do not feel afraid to reach out to experts in computing to push your ideas forward. Everything from poverty to xenophobia can be understood algorithmically, and we now find ourselves in the unique position to look for innovative solutions. Furthermore, as you are creating civic digital tools, make sure to promote co-creation: work with those you are trying to help.

At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of each one of us to create a just world. We are not (and we should not be!) mere consumers of democracy, but forgers of it. It may be human to care and natural to strive, but it is heroic to actually fight for those too afraid to raise their own voices. We need to build an equitable world in which everyone, regardless of where they are born, regardless of who they are born as, or of who they choose to be, feels confident enough to stand up for what they believe is right. To achieve that, we ourselves must take the first step and stand up for what we believe is right.

LevelUp! is a youth event that gathered more than 1,200 local activists and offered space to boost their skills and accelerate the change in their community. It took place from 27-30 October 2022 in the European Parliament, Brussels. Twenty-four Young European Ambassadors took part in the event, including multiple workshops, ranging from communication to volunteer organisation.

Author: 

Cătălin Donțu – EU NEIGHBOURS east

Contributor: 

Freya Proudman – EU NEIGHBOURS east




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