Get involved in what is going on in your town or city. This one’s a biggie so hold on to your hat!
Start with You
Begin with your experiences living your local neighbourhood or town. How could things be changed for the better? What would you like to see? Better cycling infrastructure? (Great for kids!) Or more facilities for your local sporting club? How about just some space to play outdoors after school with your friends and neighbours?
Read your local paper. What else is going on? What are the big issues people are talking about? Transport? Housing affordability? Economic development? Public health and safety? How does this affect you and your family?
Now dig deeper. As a Young Urbanist, use your knowledge to think critically about the issues. How else could these problems be tacked? How can you turn a negative into a positive? And don’t forget to steal! As political scientist Robert Muggah said, “The smartest cities are nicking, pilfering, stealing, left, right and center. Go ahead, you can too.
Engage with your Local Government
Connect with your local city government. In many countries these bodies provide opportunities for public participation in decision making processes. Hunt around a bit, see what you can find. If you’re lucky you might have a gallery space, a dedicated participatory budget or already have a mechanism to connect and have your say in issues affecting your local area.
What if you have something you are particularly passionate about? When I was young I would write a letter to the Prime Minister (although back then I was more concerned about baby seals and nuclear disarmament – thanks for the kind replies Bob). These days there are lots of ways to get your voice heard, many tried and true and some new to the digital era:
- Write a ‘letter to the editor’ to your local newspaper.
- Write your mayor or state representative.
- Start an online petition through organisations like change.org.
- Or petition you local government directly (google “petition city of …” and see what you find).
- You can post these actions to your social media feed too, but write that letter first, it’s shows your serious and also helps you think through your ideas.
Remember, “Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly.”
Want to put your issues on the national stage?
- Write to your local national representative.
- Now write that letter to your Prime Minister or President.
- Many national governments have simple mechanisms allowing for Parliamentary Petitions, such as those available Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the UK and in the US you can petition The White House directly.
- And of course get this on your social media feed too. Spread the word.
In doing these things, you might find some like-minded people, who care about the same issues as you. Time to start a group!
Or Do It Yourself
Maybe your local government is broke (in both meanings of the word) or just not listening and you want to strike out on your own. So you’re ready for more? Let’s get started!
How about a bit of Tactical Urbanism? (Does nothing sound cooler?) Got a good idea and want to try it out? Tactical Urbanism offers loads of ideas to get your idea out there quickly and cheaply in a fun and iterative way. Click here for a great set of guides to Tactical Urbanism from The Street Plans Collaborative.
And if you’re over 18, don’t forget to vote! Vote hard and vote often. Get out there and vote! Make sure your voice is heard.
Not enrolled yet? Here’s a few links to get you on the roll.