Listening sounds simple right? It can be but if you are looking at this you are probably a crazy activist (like many in the 4GFC family) and that means you probably have strong opinions or ideas on how to make things better. It also means you are probably looking forward to sharing those ideas. If that is the case listening can be tricky, but remember – if you do not listen you cannot learn and if you cannot learn you will not act effectively.
The first part of listening is knowing what to listen to. Being an activist is about making a difference but you have to start by deciding what you want to make a difference in. To do that you need to start by finding the intersection between your passion and the community’s need. What I mean by this is you may be passionate about stopping drugs but if you live in a community with no drug problem there will not be much to do. This also works in reverse, if your community has a terrible education system but you do not care about education you will not be effective in working to improve it. The principles of economics apply to charity as much as anything – if there is no demand then a supply will not do anything but waste effort. That said, the first step in learning what demand or need your community has is listening.
Listening starts by paying attention. Depending on your interests and what sort of issues you want to tackle in your community there are a number of sources of information you can tap in to. Here are a few ideas:
A final word on our listening primer, remember that you cannot listen if you don’t shut up. That may seem obvious but for those of us with strong opinions it is easier said than done. The key to listening is to opening your mind and shutting your mouth; all-to-often activists have a tendency to look at issues in our community and see what we want as the problem rather than the real issue.
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