How to Get Active in Your School or Community

It’s September, and this is a great time to get active and get involved in any kind of activism! In Canada, we have Parliament resuming, a possible federal election and a mandatory minimums bill that’s weeks away from passing into law. We need to get active more than ever, so, here’s how!

Group Formation/Participation:

I have mentioned it before, but one of the most effective ways of being active is by joining and working with what are refered to as “Civil Society Groups” or “Non-Governmental Organizations”. Examples of these kinds of groups range from Churches, Unions, Professional Organizations to groups like Habitat for Humanity, United Way, Sierra Club or Greenpeace.

This is helpful for a number of reasons:

-Gives you a chance to network with other politically active and influential individuals in your community
-Gives you a chance to influence people in your community
-Gives you a chance to build experience in community organizing
-Gives you experience to put on a resume

Whether you’re working with an existing group or starting your own, remember two important things:

1)You’re there to help that group make the world better in their particular way, volunteer, help out and generally try to advance that groups cause.
2)You’re there to represent the majority of Canadians who believe in drug policy reform and to influence and educate those who believe in the status quo while making contact with like-minded people to work with you on drug policy reform projects.

For those of you going back to school, here’s some advice for University and College students:

-Clubs:
Most schools have a “Clubs Day” in which clubs are allows to put out tables and recruit students to join their clubs. Generally this is just collecting names, email addresses, and sometimes student numbers. The advantage to having a registered club varies from school to school, but generally allows for cheap/free copying, use of web servers and the ability to post posters within the school.

-Recruitment:
Other than “Clubs Day”, you can hold events, protests, bring in speakers and lecturers and, with permission, setup a table outside the alloted club days. Check with your student union for more info.

-Start CSSDP Chapter:
For students, join or start a “Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy” group. This is a great group of active students who already have a headquarters in Ottawa. If your school doesn’t have a CSSDP chapter, start one up and recruit people from your school.

-Start Campus Political Party Group:
If you’re affiliated with a particular political party, join or start a campus youth wing of that political party. Most political parties give special consideration to university clubs, so this can be a great way to help influence our elected officials.

-Student Groups:
If you’re non-partisan, join your schools Political Science or Criminology student group. Help out and work on a vareity of your political interests, but also bring up how prohibition influences other issues. If your group is already supportive, plan a rally, have them write letters, get them involved.

For parents who suddenly find themselves with a lot more free time or students who want to get involved in their local community, there is a lot you can do to:

-Join Civil Society groups:
Join up with groups in your community! Find groups working on issues that interest you, environmental groups, churches, unions, volunteer organizations, civil rights organizations, organizations that help the economically disavantaged or even sports teams! Getting involved and just talking to people about marijuana, and letting them know the information out there is a huge help. People are always more willing to listen to people they know, and the average person changes their mind after hearing something from as few as 3 different sources.

-Volunteer:
When you join these groups, don’t go just to tell them about marijuana, volunteer! Not only is this great for resumes, or if you plan to run for political office, but you’re helping people that need help. Volunteering for a group is a good way to build credibility, making what you have to say about drug policy that much more persuasive.

Join a political party and get active:
Don’t just join the party, but get active by going to Board of Director meetings for your local riding association or constitiency association. This is both a great way to network and meet influential politicians, but also a great way to directly influence party policy and internal appointments. Participating in political parties is a great way of being active!

-Find hemp/progressive stores:
Find local hemp stores in your town. These are people who already care about ending marijuana prohibition and can help you with printing costs, hosting rallies and getting people involved. It’s great if you can start by taking print materials to hemp stores to get them involved. Once you find these stores, post them to WhyProhibition.ca in your town’s group.

Regardless of what you’re doing, where you are or who you are, there is a bunch of stuff you can do online as well! From your computer you can do a lot to influence public policy, here’s some ways:

-Blogging:
Start a blog and submit your content to sites like progressivebloggers.ca. The “blogosphere” is one of the places reporters go to get leads on stories. If a topic appears in two of three major blogs in a day, a reporter is likely to notice and report the story to traditional media. In addition, if you blog, email me at [email protected] and I will add you to our press-release list.

-Twitter:
Twitter may seem like a silly medium for activism, but is actually one of the primary means reporters and bloggers use to get leads on original content. If you hit twitter with traffic, especially by using #hashtags, people can follow updates in real time. A group of consistent twitter-ers can influence blogers and media into reporting on a story. This is especially true on ongoing events like protests, busts, which require updates of real-time information.

-Facebook:
Facebook is more useful to spread the word to your supporters and friends than it is to influence media or bloggers. Facebook is one of the primary ways of influencing friends and supporters and recruiting them for online and offline campaigns. One of the easiest ways to ultilize Facebook for activism is to repost events on your profile. Your friends and supporters will be informed of new events, news and web campaigns simply by reading them Facebook homepage.

-Newshawking:
If you read the news every day and see an article about drug policy that we haven’t posted to WhyProhibition, post it as a Userblog. If it’s not about a bust, it will probably get promoted to the front page of the site.

-Translation:
If you speak any other languages, consider translating WhyProhibition.ca pamphlets into your language and submitting it to me at [email protected] We are always looking for more languages so we can help enable activists around the world!

–Alternate Language Newshawking:
Also, if you speak any other languages, please consider submitting positive news articles about marijuana legalization to WhyProhibition.ca!

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