How To Get Started With Activism In 2017 If You've Never Been Involved Before

Young girl Lara picks flowers in the sunset after a warm summers day on July 10, 2015, at a meadow near Puchheim near Munich, southern Germany. Meteorologists forecast temperatures around 30 degrees and further sun in the region during next days. AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOF STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images

The major news stories of 2016 were a horrific combination of some of the worst issues facing society today — Standing Rock, Aleppo, Brock Turner, Zika, Orlando, and, of course, the never-ending saga of the election. Fortunately, the silver lining of all these dark events is that they've inspired a new spirit of activism in the millennial generation that will hopefully endure into the new year. If you're planning to get started with activism in 2017, here are a few tips for making the most of your time and energy.

The first step in your activist journey is deciding what you want to do. The nature of media today can make it hard to focus on a single issue, but you'll need to set your sights on a singular, realistic goal. Whatever social issue you decide you want to tackle, starting small is crucial — if your goal from day one is ending world hunger, you're probably going to become disappointed by day three. But if your initial objective is to organize a food drive or a sustainable community pantry, you can work to achieve that concrete goal before aiming for something higher.

Next comes the "why" part. Activism, by its very nature, is political, so your activism should be rooted in an informed political ideology and background. Research the issue you're dedicating your time and effort to so you thoroughly appreciate it and how you'll be contributing to a real solution. Find out what other social problems are related to your area of activism so that you can have a full contextual understanding of the scope of the problem. This will also help you achieve the next step, because figuring out why you want to dedicate yourself to one specific issue can also help you figure out where you might be able to attack the problem most effectively.

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Your next question to answer is "how," and the key to making this choice is knowing what you have to give. If you're a hands-on type, you may serve best on a community level by working with people directly. If you have special skills like strategic media planning or accounting experience, you might be able to best contribute at the institutional level of whatever organization or cause you want to pursue. If your investigation of your particular cause reveals some especially neglected detail of the problem, start there. Remember that true altruism isn't in service of yourself, so even if you want to play some specific role, you need to go where you and your unique talents are needed most.

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By your very existence as a human being, you have the power to change the world — a big part of your experience as an activist will be dealing with people who try to convince you that's not true. Don't let them discourage you, because honestly they are flat out wrong. You have as much power as you have belief in yourself, so get out there in 2017, prove the haters wrong, and make the world a better place.

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