If you scroll through Twitter, tune into a podcast or catch a glimpse of a news broadcast, you’ll notice that the world has no shortage of problems.
Our world is populated by global challenges.
We confront stories of global hunger and poverty, of migrants suffering persecution in their home countries and in the countries where they seek refuge. We hear about persistent gender inequality and about the millions who don’t have access to the things we take for granted like clean water and education.
The world may be populated by global challenges, but it’s also populated by people who can do something to tackle them.
They’re people just like you and me.
It’s difficult to see stories of struggle and not feel the urge to do something. However, this urge is usually followed up with the thought that you’re just one person.
What could you possibly do to tackle problems that seem insurmountable?
Even though you may be one person, you have more power than you think.
If you advocate for the people hit the hardest by global challenges, your efforts aren’t just a drop in a bucket. It’s not a stretch to say that you have the power to change the world.
Merriam-Webster defines an advocate as “one who pleads the cause of another.” The only credentials you need to be an advocate is your voice and your concern for the well-being of the world. Advocacy isn’t presuming to speak for others: it’s using your voice to amplify the voices of others, voices that may be minimized or silenced, to raise awareness of problems and proposed solutions.
One of the most impactful ways you can be an advocate is by reaching out to your representatives.
Over the last several decades the American public has developed a deep sense of cynicism when it comes to politics. More often than not, we feel like politicians listen to lobbyists and corporate donors more than they listen to us.
But there’s power in being a constituent. Believe it or not, members of Congress care about what their constituents tell them. After all, without the support of constituents they wouldn’t be in office.
Congressional staff members keep track of which issues constituents contact their representative about. Your senators and representatives receive weekly call reports that tally how many constituents called about a given issue or bill. You have the power as an individual constituent to call about issues and bills you care about and put them on your representative’s radar. This could shape their stance on policy and reprioritize the issues they need to address.
Phone calls might not be everyone’s favorite thing. It can be intimidating to make that first call, but they’re so much simpler than they seem. When you call a representative, your request can be as short as a single sentence. You might have to verify your address to confirm you’re a constituent, but that’s it. I’ve had calls that were about 30 seconds long.
Advocacy has strength in numbers. If multiple people contact their representatives about an issue in a short period of time, the representative is going to pay more attention to the issue than they otherwise might have.
This is why campaigns like last week’s #gucallsforjustice have such incredible potential. Dice, Mission and Ministry and CCE helped students make calls to advocate on behalf of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. This put the rights of immigrants and refugees on the political radar of the people who might be able to do something about the injustices of our immigration system.
The collective influence of many people taking the individual action of reaching out to their representatives is what makes The Borgen Project such an impactful organization. The Borgen Project is a Seattle-based nonprofit that seeks to alleviate global poverty — one of the world’s most pressing challenges and the catalyst of other sources of suffering — through legislative advocacy. It mobilizes people to contact their representatives about the anti-poverty legislation The Borgen Project supports each legislative session. These efforts have helped pass legislation that could improve millions of lives around the world like the Global Health Innovation Act and the Global Food Security Act.
The efforts of individuals should never be minimized when it comes to advocacy. These individual efforts amount to incredible change when added together. We can achieve so much in the spirit of collective action. The UN’s Millennium Development Goals were so successful because of a collective commitment to making the world a better place. This kind of monumental change is possible when individuals take the first step and use their voices to amplify the struggles of others who are often silenced.
You may be one person, but you’re not alone.
So, pick up the phone. Be an advocate.
You just might change the world.