The importance of choosing the right issue

The first step toward social change that Amanda Sussman outlines in The Art of the Possible is choosing a meaningful issue – one that’s important enough to you that you’ll be willing to see it through.

“If you are looking for a worthwhile way to spend your time,” Sussman says, “but don’t know what that means for you, start by examining your personal interests and values. While the topic you choose will likely have broader community and social implications, it is important that you choose something that has meaning in your life… Examining your interests will help make sure you choose a topic that will sustain your attention.”

A lot of us, for example, have our eyes on the future of Transit City at the moment. Public transit may not be the sexiest of issues, but it’s an issue that affects a lot of people – and battle lines, however superficial, are certainly being drawn along it.

But to really make a difference on an issue takes sustained dedication. if you’re working toward a change you really believe in, then the amount of time and energy you’ve got to devote to it probably won’t seem like a chore. These are the types of issues that you’ll want to choose.

“Choosing a topic that resonates with you personally will help make your efforts less of a burden and more of a release. Spending your time addressing the problems that bother you deeply rather than lamenting about them can give you a real sense of personal satisfaction, regardless of the outcome.”

Choosing a specific issue like Transit City, as opposed to a broader issue like “public transit,” also enables you to focus your time and energy on a concrete set of tasks. Working with a small coalition of people on an issue that involves even one level of government can be a great introduction to activism and engagement in a much broader sense.

Posted in Democracy