Part 4: Taking Action for Human Rights

Ten Tips for Taking Action

1. Choose a problem. You might want to work on improving conditions or issues you observe in your community or that you hear about in the news. You could also choose a problem you learned about through a school course or your own reading. Finding a problem isn’t hard, but staying focused on one problem is. Try writing out a definition of exactly what you want to address. Deal with just one problem at a time.

2. Research the problem. Survey your school or community to find out about the problem and how people feel about it. Call officials for information. Write letters. Read newspapers, magazines, and reports on the issue. See Action Activity 5 for more on research and planning.

3. Brainstorm possible solutions and choose one. Brainstorm everything you can think of, however zany. Then choose one or two solutions that seem the most possible and likely to make the most difference.

4. Build coalitions of support. Find as many people as possible who are concerned about the problem and agree with your solution. Survey your community. Ask teachers, officials, community activists, and young people. The more people on your team, the more power you will have to make a difference.

5. Identify your opposition. Find out who the people and organizations are who oppose your solution. They may not be the "bad guys" but people with different opinions. Consider meeting with your opponents: you might be able to work out a compromise. At the least you will understand each other’s point of view. In every case, always be polite and respectful of other opinions.

6. Advertise. Let as many people as possible know about the problem you are trying to solve and your proposed solution. Newspapers, radio, and television are usually interested in stories of youth action. Some TV and radio stations offer free air time for worthy projects. Write a letter to the editor (See Action Activity 5, The Power of the Pen). The more people who know about what you are doing, the more who may want to support you.

7. Raise money. This isn’t essential, but sometimes you can be more effective with money to spend toward your solution.

8. Carry out your solution. Make a list of all the steps you need to take, and once you’ve prepared yourself for action, just do it!

9. Evaluate. Is your plan working? How do you know? Try to define some indications for what progress means. Are some efforts effective and others not? Have you tried everything? Keep thinking creatively about how to solve the problem.

10. Don’t give up. Problem solving means eliminating all the things that don’t work until you find something that does. Don’t pay much attention to people who try to tell you that the problem can’t be solved. Keep on keeping on!

Source: Adapted from Barbara A. Lewis,The Kid's Guide to Social Action (Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Press, 1991).

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  Human Rights Fundamentals The Right to Know Your Rights Activities Taking Action for Human Rights Appendices