2016 will be remembered as one of the weirdest, disruptive and polarizing years in recent human history. From a Canadian perspective, we elected a government on promises of environmental and electoral progressiveness, but, much to the chagrin of many folks who voted for them, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have since changed course in favour of more traditional economic policies. From a global perspective, Donald Trump is about to become the most temperamentally, intellectually and experientially unqualified president in U.S. history. More than ever, citizens who want to build healthy and sustainable communities need to strive to become more active and involved. Here are five ways to be a more engaged citizen in 2017 (and beyond).
The rise of fake news was one of the most disturbing trends of 2016. Whether you heard about Macedonian teenagers disrupting the American election, Vladimir Putin launching an unprecedented propaganda campaign, or mistook The Beaverton for a legit, trusted source of information, this year has revealed that a critical mass of humanity is unprepared when it comes to analyzing, understanding and sharing the information that flashes across social media. In addition to simply “reading before you share”, check out this information about how to be a better critical thinker and encourage others in your world to do the same.
More than anything else, financially supporting causes that you value creates the most impact and makes you happy, too. So whether you care about policy analysis, literacy, journalism, or community building through sport, find the organization that is doing stuff to bring your vision of the world to life and give them money. Three worthy organizations – Vancouver Street Soccer, Writers’ Exchange and Ceric – are partners of this website and you can donate to them from this page. Also, subscribing to your favourite news organization (or a couple of them) is a good way to align financial contributions with building journalism’s capacity for holding governments accountable.
Maybe cash flow is a barrier to charitable giving or you’re re-imagining your relationship with data to save money. Retweeting, liking and even talking about ideas and organizations that you support, frankly, isn’t enough to make an impact, so prepare to spend time fundraising or actively engaging communities around the issues that you care about, such as shoreline cleanups or after-school tutoring for kids.
Engage elected officials
Politicians will only change course when there is a price to be paid (like not getting re-elected or having difficult conversations on the campaign trail) so it is critical to make our voices heard. Writing letters, calling your Member of Parliament (MP) or Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), and peacefully protesting against things are examples of how to bring about change. Be sure to write MPs and MLAs when you agree about the good work they do, too!
Diversify your community
This year the team at The Potentiality focused on how we need to have better conversations in our communities because too much dialogue happens in polarized, echo-chamber communities. If you do one thing to become a more engaged citizen next year my best advice is to have a conversation with someone with whom you do not share the same world view write down what you learned. Strong communities are ones that simultaneously hold myriad views of how to get stuff done and we need to work together no matter how we might disagree.