During Hispanic Heritage Month this election year, we are partnering with Voto Latino to help promote civic action nationwide. This week, we offer advice on how to take issues into your own hands by becoming a strong community leader.
Why? We love our communities because they have shaped who we are and have given us safe haven in our most difficult days. It’s natural to want to give back to a place that gave you so much. No matter your reasons, everyone has the ability to be a community leader. Below are some tips to how you can get involved.
Self Authorization. Take stock of who you are and what you want. Great ideas come from people who are inspired by something and follow their instincts in bringing their vision to fruition. You do not need to know everything to start, but you do need to give yourself permission to start.
Leadership Style. We all have different leadership styles and myriad leadership styles are needed. Understanding your leadership style will help inform you how to use your passions, skills, and experiences to make a positive impact.
The Power of Place. The reason place is so powerful is because place shapes much of who were are, where we come from, and where we go. The issues closest to you are often the ones you have the most impact on. Learn the history and politics of a place—they can inform not only the present but also the future.
Engaging with Local Politics. Local politics have a huge and immediate impact on the everyday quality of our lives. Know who your local political representatives are and how you can communicate with them. Getting anything done for your community in a substantial and sustainable way will nearly always include some sort of support from your local political representatives.
Civic Structure. Beyond local politics, learn the local civic infrastructure of the place you live in, such as planning and zoning regulations. This information will shape what solutions are possible. Think big. Many local issues have a national connection whether through demographic trends, federal funding, or economic and trade policies. Making these connections will help you to develop a holistic strategy that brings in multiple stakeholders to develop real solutions.
Community Groups, Nonprofits + Public Meetings. These entities give people a democratic forum to share their experience. Hearing from your community will teach you about the complexities of your area. This information will help you build authentic and trusting relationships with community members and better understand what issues exist.
Joining the Board of Directors for a local nonprofit organization can help strengthen the relationship between the organization and the community. Most nonprofits reserve a handful of board seats for members of the community and should be filled with committed residents (like you).
Nonprofit vs. Community Minded Business. The most common way people think about helping a community is by starting a nonprofit organization. Another way to have a positive impact is by opening a community-minded business. By starting a business you are building an asset in the community which can supply jobs, sponsor events and/or community programs as well as be an anchor business to attract other needed businesses to an area. You can read more here about what it means to be a community minded business.
The ability to lead is within all of us. Be clear in your vision, be confident in your skills, be open to learning new things and embracing new people. Start with what you are passionate about and go from there one step at a time. And don’t forget to vote!