LISTEN

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 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.

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:

  1. Local newspapers and press – obvious but may be biased or miss things that are not going to help sell papers or impact ratings.
  2. Local talk radio – usually an entirely different approach to local issues than the traditional local press.
  3. Local social media groups – most communities have multiple social media groups talking about what is happening in the community and you may find some that are already active in your issues.
  4. Church – churches and their leaders usually have a great deal of info about issues in the community. Even if you are not a member of a specific church you will usually find the church leaders happy to discuss community issues with you.
  5. Community groups – if you look you can find community groups of nearly every type in every community. Some are very in tune with what is happening in the community.
  6. Specific randoms – what we mean by this is that if you have a specific issue you are interested in the best source if information may be fairly random and require some creativity to find. For example, if you are very motivated by educational issues you may want to join a PTA or simply reach out to some teachers to learn more about what is happening.

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.

Now… on to Learn or back to Listen, Learn, Act