What are the Best Ways to Become an Activist?

Do you want to become an activist but don’t know where to start? We have everything you need right here to be on your way.

activists at a protest march

Main image courtesy of amNew York.

We all have causes that we’re passionate about and that we can really get behind. Some people see injustice in the world and want to know what they can do about to alleviate it, or fix glaring problems due to inequality. Whether you want to support better access to resources, affordable housing, education, or just help children in your area get the mentoring they need, there are a lot of changes that can be done to improve people’s lives. Whatever cause speaks to your heart, know that there are other people out there who want to fight for the same things.

But how do you take your activism to the next level and start down the path of actually becoming an activist? In this article we’re going to discuss that and more, including:

  • What an activist is and what they do
  • How you become an activist
  • Where are activists in society?
  • How to become an activist in your community

What is an activist?

What’s an activist and how do you know if you want to become one?

activists at a protest
Supporting causes that are important to you is the first step towards becoming an activist. Image courtesy of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Activism has always been essential to the human experience, and there are activists all throughout history who have fought for what they believe in and ushered change into our world. An activist is someone who takes action in order to foster change. Typically they challenge those who are in power or who have made the laws that they would like to see changed or altered. This could be because there is an injustice happening, or because an issue needs to be addressed in order to make things better, more viable, and fair for everyone, not just a select few. 

Anyone can be an activist, all it takes is the desire to see change somewhere, and to work tirelessly with others in the community who think like you. Being an activist is when you participate in a variety of ways to help the cause you’re fighting for, and there is no one way to do it. Sometimes you’ll want to show up at a rally and show your support, or donate to causes, and other times you can be an activist by choosing where you shop carefully. People are activists who support causes in a variety of ways, including volunteering at local groups or starting their own if there isn’t one. If you’ve always wanted to get more into the fight for climate change for example, there are all kinds of national groups that have local chapters, possibly in your area. These types of groups are always looking for activists to donate their time, energy, or funds to help support the cause. 

Activism can support causes from empowering women, helping fight racism, and keeping the environment safe all have a similar goal in mind—using a collective or group effort in order to facilitate change from the bottom up. This is also referred to as grassroots movements, because it starts at the bottom in local areas building communities and changing local laws and attitudes, and works up towards the top where systemic changes can be made. But you can’t get to the larger, national or international levels of changes without first starting at the bottom.

That’s why activism is considered a passion and there is always something to be done. Many activists work long hours, or schedule in volunteer time after their work and family obligations are met. Everyone has a different schedule and responsibilities, so if you’re interested in becoming more active with a cause that’s important to you, make sure you start slow and gradually take on more. 

Have a cause that’s important to you and think you have some time you can devote to helping to spread the word or being an agent of change? Then you might just be an activist! 

How do you become an activist?

Who can be an activist and how do you get started?

clean energy activist protest
Activists want to change the world, one step at a time. Image courtesy of Inside Climate News.

If you’re thinking of becoming an activist that’s great news! No matter what the cause is that’s close to your heart, you’re working to change the world, one person at a time. Anyone who is passionate about changing something can become an activist, and it’s not something only people with degrees can do. While you can choose to go to college and earn a degree in subjects such as:

  • Political science
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Business
  • Law and pre-law

it is not a requirement in order to be an activist. These degrees will give you the skills and background in order to be an effective communicator, whether in writing or verbally speaking. They’ll also give you experience seeing things from a variety of perspectives, which is important for any activist.

Consider some of these tips if you’re interested in activism in your community.

Not everything will be a huge event

When you think of activism, large rallies or marches probably spring to mind. While these are important parts of activism, they are not the only ones. Not everything you do for your cause will be a large event with hundreds of people, and that’s okay! Activism is also about sustained action, and showing up to do the work. Whether that’s answering phones at your cause’s headquarters, engaging in thoughtful conversations about the issues with people, or making sure your local representative is informed about what your group is striving to change. 

These are all actions that can be repeated in order to change minds about why you’re fighting for the change you want to see.

Learn about the issues, including all sides

Doing your research and learning about the history of your cause is essential. You’ll want to make sure you’re aware of all the issues that surround it, and develop your own personal stance. You want to make sure that everyone who wants to participate is able to, and that their voices are heard when it comes to decisions. You can use your privilege to help elevate other members of the group to ensure everyone gets a chance to fully participate. 

Being an activist also means dealing with people who are resistant to your idea of change, and who do not share your beliefs. Learning how to effectively communicate with people who have different perspectives is one of the best lessons you can learn. Everyone wants to feel like their opinion matters, and when you know ahead of time how people may respond to you, it can help you be more confident in your response.

Remember to listen

Listening to others is a great way to learn from other activists, as well as see what the other side thinks. When we stop listening to each other, we can no longer move forward and work together. Being an active listener takes time and experience, but you can really gain a lot out of it, especially if you have trouble understanding why someone would be opposed to your cause. Active listening separates the person from their opinion, allowing you to see things from other perspectives that you might not have been able to if you were emotionally involved. This helps create consistent dialog, and will help you as an activist deal with people who do not see eye to eye with your beliefs.

Volunteer and get experience

There’s no substitute for experience, so if you want to be an activist, the time is now to get out there. While there is a lot that can be learned from books and research, if you’re not out there doing the work, you won’t get the hands on experience. If you don’t know where to start, try finding ways you can volunteer your time to a cause. The more you show up, the more opportunities will be available for you to do different things with the organization. Knowing what’s going on in the world and seeing how it has an impact on the cause you’re supporting as well as the community is a great way to continue making a difference.

This is a community

Activists work in a community, and people do not get into this in order to be the leader who knows everything. Activism is an evolving process, and you’re always going to be learning. When everyone works on building things together as a community, there is less of a chance that everything will fall apart if one person leaves.

Where do you find activists?

There are activists all over!

black lives matter activists
You can find activists all over who support a variety of important causes. Image courtesy of Penn Today.

You can find activists everywhere who are helping to foster change with a variety of movements and causes. Activists can work for the organization that they support, or they can lend their services such as an attorney using their skills to help an organization that supports the rights of incarcerated people. You’ll find activists in your own community, doing the work daily to help bring about those small, local levels of change. Many larger causes have branches and offices across the U.S., so make sure you check out their websites and see if there’s a place near you that you can become involved in. Some places you could start your activist career include:

  • The Sierra Club
  • Amnesty International
  • Planned Parenthood
  • The Appleseed Network
  • League of Women Voters
  • Black Lives Matter

No matter what cause you choose to support, you’re putting yourself out there to try and change the world for the better. That takes a special type of person, so if you’re interested in doing more for change, consider becoming an activist in your community!

Bridget Houlihan

Bridget Houlihan is a writer, poet, and cat mom living in Pittsburgh, PA.
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