Research and learning is one of the best things that you can do as an advocate. Not only do you want to make sure you understand all sides of an issue for yourself, but you will also want to be able to talk about that issue with those around you.
There are millions of resources online from a wide variety of reputable sources. You might find what you’re looking for from news outlets and magazines, books, podcasts, or straight from people directly affected by that issue on social media or blog posts.
Take 10-15 minutes and consider one issue or cause that you’re interested in. Use all of the resources that you have available to you to answer some of the following 10 questions.
- What is the history of this issue?
- Who is currently affected by this? How?
- Who represents the other side? Who contributes to the continuation of this issue?
- What are the factors that contribute to the issue?
- What are the barriers to overcoming this issue (politically, culturally, or within your own community and circle)?
- How does the general public feel about this issue?
- What influences people to take different sides/opinions on the issue?
- What political forces are influencing decision making on the issue?
- What are the most successful ways of gaining support and achieving progress?
- Who are the role models and current advocates that you should be looking to for guidance?
Many of these questions take more than a few minutes to really answer in full – learning the full history of a movement or organization alone could take hours. This exercise is simply meant to help to get you started on thinking about that topic in a critical manner. It’s important to know the context of that topic, its history, and all sides of any arguments that might go along with it.
Once you start diving into the information, you might find that it can get overwhelming quickly, as there will be differing information and lots to work through. This is where toolkits can be helpful. But this is also part of becoming an effective ally and advocate. Finding out exactly what you’re working towards and how best to do it is something that is going to take some time.
Also, don’t get caught in the trap of burying yourself in research and learning without ever moving on to the action stage. While it is great to have a baseline of information, you will be continuing to learn throughout doing this work. And it is likely that no matter how much research you do, you will make missteps along the way. The most important thing is to continue working towards your goals and stay open to change and new ideas.
Continue on to the next article in this series, Finding People Already Doing the Work.
Start this series from the beginning.