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Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Rent To Live Here


People need to understand that it takes an entire community to effect change. Small groups of individuals can have a certain degree of success; however, nothing is stronger and more effective than united, mass movement in a positive direction. Grass roots activism requires work, and social improvement requires sweat from all residents to achieve the labor needed to build new and better conditions.

The down and dirty chores that must be completed to make change a reality become so much easier to do when all with a stake in the matter contribute their individual talents. True, David did slay Goliath with the help of God. But, in our county, even with the grace of God, no one person or no one small group can be successful in defeating a large enemy that is so well entrenched. The imperative is that we all rise and take pertinent actions to defeat the deadly beast of prescription drug abuse.

One overriding question that is continually posed to those already active in the struggle is -- "What can I do, personally, to help?"

The answer is "many, many things." Minimal participation requires educating oneself about the problem. Beyond that crucial process and issuing statements of support is the real nitty-gritty, the bottom line. Joining a group and participating in group activities is essential. Still, an individual group member can do many other things to help procure change.

Today, the blog entry explores some of the best methods for total involvement in the movement.

Convert Friends

You can become active by converting friends to a cause. Does converting friends reach out to masses? Probably not, but it certainly has a high rate of success. Consider the tremendous boost that one or two new, committed activists can provide. And, if all current members would reach out to just one friend, membership roles would surely burgeon. Face it, some require a bandwagon to ride. Just ask any politician.

Hit the Streets  

Lord knows the Scioto Rx Task Force Action Team has planned and executed plenty of activities all over Scioto County in the last couple years. These activities do not immediately convert as many people as desired, but they do raise awareness. Every time the group does "hit the streets," hundreds of people witness the activity. Whether the group attending an event is small or large, shock waves emanate from the assemblage. Awareness is so important. You will be amazed at the natural curiosity you will develop when you go public.

Petitioning

A petition (including statement of position and desired outcomes) with signatures can be effective. When you write the petition, keep some important things in mind. The petition should be relatively brief and explicitly clear in design. A signature on a petition should be legible, dated, and signed only by the party supporting the position. Give prior consideration to the recipient(s) of a petition. You must choose the best possible target for your call to action.

Personal Outreach

Writing letters to the editor, e-mailing and calling officials is something everyone can do with little effort. You probably won't see the immediate impact of stating your personal opinion. Often, targeted officials collect all information and thoroughly analyze it before they reply with what they consider to be an appropriate response. Unfortunately many replies are standardized form letters - this is the nature of the game. But, the volume of individual responses is often the key to the amount of attention personal correspondence actually generates. Of course, personal, factual writing can produce great results also.

Lobbying Government

The process of influencing public and government policy can mean doing considerable political work. This means understanding all the regulatory and political bodies that can affect an issue. It is important to "speak the language" when lobbying. Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Mandate Communications, said, adding: “If you want to talk about your issues to a politician, think about how to explain it in the context of the policies and the voters that matter to them.” (Braniac, "How to Effectively Lobby an Elected Official or Legislator," www.ehow.com, 1999-2011)

Every politician worries about being re-elected, and they know the happier their constituency, the more likely their own re-election. All elected officials are "counters" - and they all pay attention to the numbers of voters in their districts who are pro or con any issue.

The "counting" is done by staffers. If you want to make a personal visit, always call for an appointment - remember that for congressional visits, you don't have to go to D.C.; all members of Congress have local offices. A call is almost as powerful, sometimes even more powerful, than a visit. Your prime goal is to speak with a staffer, so when the receptionist answers, request to speak with a staffer - the receptionist will understand that you are asking not to be made just a number on her tally sheet. Many times, no staffers will be available, so ask if there's a better time to call - and there should be. If the receptionist offers to have a staffer return your call, all the better.

If you wish to write, here are some pointers:

(1) Keep it to one page! This is an absolute; if you feel you need to say more, make a call or a personal visit. 
(2) Make sure you start by thanking the legislator for his/her good service. 
(3) Make your point clearly, short and sweet, but offer to be available for more input, and don't be surprised if you get a call from a staffer. 
(4) End with appreciation for the opportunity of discussing this important issue, and looking forward to the legislator's support. (
5) Don't forget that it is always in good taste to address your letter to, The Honorable Senator X.

Organizations And Clubs

Talking to groups like community clubs and organizations, parent/teacher/student organizations, librarian unions, activists, etc is very effective. They can all be very helpful allies to the cause while giving leaders a platform for disseminating information. Just get in contact and let them know what an organized group has to offer. For example, Scioto Rx Drug Task Force, SOLACE, Fix the Scioto County Problem of Drug Abuse, and The Apostolic Coalition are a few of the groups that offer speakers and many helpful services.

In Conclusion

No one can realize the potential of his or her contribution until their brains, hands and feet move. We could speculate all day, but, I find, the smallest actions can produce spectacular results. Each of us has a spark of unique talent to lend. Together, with all our movements, the contributions add immeasurably to the power of impact. I truly believe that activism, to be successful, requires acquisition of good information, time to digest the information, a commitment to appropriate response, and ACTION.

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