Become a Force for Change Today!
10 Simple Steps
Compiled by Equinox Center and Move San Diego following February 23, 2012 Leaders 2020 event, "Civic Engagement 101: A Conversation with Elyse Lowe of Move San Diego."
Download a PDF version of the 10 Simple Steps.
1. Identify your passion
You can't change the world overnight, but you can identify a particular issue that you can make a difference on in your community. From there, your impact will grow. Regional and national policies and legislation often draw from best practices uncovered in individual communities. That could be your idea!
2. Don't be afraid to challenge the status quo
Ask yourself: will the path we're currently on get us where we need to be as a region? Does it defy common sense? Then you have every right to challenge the status quo, no matter your age or experience level.
3. But first...get informed
- Turn to Equinox Center's tools like our Quality of Life Dashboard, other research or Facebook updates.
- Pick the issue that pushes your buttons most and sign up for e-updates from advocacy groups focused in that area.
- Identify the Committee Consultant or appropriate staff person for your local city council, State Senator or Assembly person, or even federal representative on a given issue and ask if they will meet with you. They are a wealth of information and can help you understand what is at play with a certain issue.
- Join Twitter. It's amazing how many policy debates are aired publicly and in real-time through Twitter. You can easily follow along, or participate! Follow us @MoveSD!
4. Identify the decision makers
For example, visit San Diego County's website or CA state's website to find out who are your elected representatives. Sign up to receive their e-news or Facebook updates to stay informed about what's happening in your community and upcoming town hall or "coffee with your councilmember" events you can attend.
5. Take a stand
- Endorse Move San Diego's FAST Plan for innovative transit planning
- Sign the Equinox Leaders 2020 Call to Action to show candidates and elected officials you support intelligent, sustainable growth in the region.
- Contacting elected officials via email, phone or even snail mail is not only an effective way to have your voice heard, but issues with calls from constituents are typically recorded and tracked by elected officials. Typically, you will get a written response for a written communication to an elected official acknowledging your issue, and making a comment on where they stand.
6. Decide if you'd like to go solo or team up
As an individual, simple things like sending letters to the editor on issues you care about can be incredibly powerful. Or use groups like Leaders 2020 to network and find others who share your passion and brainstorm simple things you can do in your own community as a start. For example, consider that each member of the public can have three minutes to speak at a City Council meeting, so team up with others to make multiple comments on a given topic.
7. Attend local City Council meetings when agenda items relate to your interests
Yes! Elected officials will listen to what you have to say - IF you address them in a respectful and professional manner. Remember that they are public servants who work hard to better our region. Treat them and their staff with the respect they deserve and your input will carry more weight. Basic etiquette for a governmental forum!
8. Serve on a public commission or committee
Find out what citizens' commission openings are coming up by looking at your city's website. Apply to join one that covers an issue you care about, such as a Sustainability Committee. If you're not accepted right away, keep trying! (Here's an example from the City of San Diego.)
9. Identify opportunities to volunteer in your community and learn more about an issue
- Develop a broader understanding of growth and sustainability issues in the region by taking a leadership role in Leaders 2020.
- Identify advocacy groups working in areas you care about and inquire about volunteer opportunities.
- Explore board or junior board openings.
10. Spread the word!
As someone who is passionate about an issue, you are in the best position possible to inspire others, so don't keep it to yourself!
- Invite people to get involved.
- If you hear misinformation spoken or written about an issue, gently correct it.
- Draw from resources in #3 to make sure you are using solid data and facts to make your case.
Move San Diego