Turning Anger Into Action

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PCP may be a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, but we’re also mission-driven and values-led, meaning that if ever there was a moment to live out our values – to stand up against prejudice and bigotry and support healthcare for all – our moment is now. So get involved! We’re not cultivating leaders so you can stay home and tweet your frustration.

Here are eight great ways to raise your voice and rally your teams.

As an individual

1. Identify your issue.

You’re no doubt passionate about a lot of important issues – from climate change to healthcare, and school choice to veterans affairs. To be taken seriously, however, you need to be more than passionate – you need to be knowledgeable. Pick one or two issues you feel strongly about, and start there. Read the literature, connect with a local advocacy group, meet the stakeholders (yes, on every side of the issue), and then articulate a vision for how you want to impact the agenda. It may be something as a simple as the addition of a clause in proposed legislation or writing letters to the editor to raise awareness. You’ll be taken far more seriously if you know the nuance and not just the rallying cry.

2. Get involved locally.

Find out who your local legislators and representatives are, and get to know them. Attend town hall and city council meetings, and call your representatives’ staff when you have an opinion to share about current events or current legislation. It’s easy to get so caught up with what’s going on nationally, that we fail to look for ways to make a difference locally. In the 114th Congress (the last full session of Congress from 2015-2017), there were just over 300 laws enacted. Compare that to the more than 1,500 bills passed in the same time frame in Texas alone! In other words, while our federal government may have a lot of sway over the laws and regulations that govern our daily lives, there are thousands more pieces of legislation that start on the local level – and can be impacted by a few votes and voices.

And while you’re at it, learn to speak their language. From guidelines on how to contact legislators to personal insight from a former Congressional staffer, know how to engage in a way that ensures you’ll be heard.

3. Join a community group and roll up your sleeves.

If you have kids, volunteer with a parent-teacher organization or run for a seat on the school board. If you have pets, try the SPCA. Curious how the political process works? Contact your local city council and ask about volunteering at the polls on Election Day. Whether it’s Planned Parenthood or Right to Life – get involved. This isn’t about being partisan; it’s about being connected and getting involved. While national debates reverberate through the halls of Congress, how those debates impact your local community is something you need to discover for yourself. And without a local connection to the issue, it’s easy to start seeing those with whom you disagree as “the other.” That’s neither fair nor constructive, because those “others” are your neighbors, not your enemies. And without engaging individuals across the political spectrum, we’re never going to find shared values and common ground to advance our aims.

4. Talk about what matters to you.

You’re the best spokesperson for your cause. Practice with a friend or a mirror – and learn how to talk about the issues you care about in a way that’s clear, civil, and actionable. When it comes to issues that may be political or potentially divisive, two things tend to happen: we complain in our echo chambers with people who are aligned with our perspective, or we avoid raising the topic with people we know (or assume) represent a contrary viewpoint, so that we don’t rock the boat or pick a fight. If we’re going to influence others, we have to step humbly and boldly outside our comfort zone to talk with – and listen to – other perspectives. And guess what? Listening to diverse perspectives is only going to strengthen your position by cultivating understanding, identifying some common ground, and perhaps adjusting your position as you gain more insight.

As a PCP Team

5. Fight misinformation by getting informed – and informing others.

Read. Read your local newspaper. Read up on American history and the histories of health disparities and inequities in your community. Read your hospital’s Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). Read academic journals. Read publications you disagree with or that represent a different position. Circulate articles among your team. Hold documentary screening nights. As you and your team get more informed about the issues that matter to you, share that information through blog posts, articles, op-eds, and discussion groups. And if you come across misinformation, call it out – civilly and without condemnation – by submitting a correction or counter perspective. Complaining about ignorance or misinformation will never help advance truth; you need to speak up.

6. Hold forums and community conversations.

As you continue to get informed, you’ll likely discover that you have a lot more to learn – and not just about the facts, but about the people and perspectives that the issue is shaped by and impacts. Convening diverse stakeholders is one of the best ways to facilitate meaningful dialogue and foster understanding  – if done well. Invite a range of organizations and individuals that are connected to your issue, and identify a seasoned facilitator to help navigate the conversation. Community conversations can be as small as a dozen passionate people, or as large as a hundred – and can follow a panel discussion or powerful film screening. And don’t overlook community partners who have a lot of experience in moderated town halls and forums – like your local public media stations (in fact, did you know that they’re required by Congress to host educational town halls?). So reach out to fellow knowledge-seekers and change-makers as you explore ways to raise the collective understanding of your community.

7. Partner with organizations that can take action.

As a PCP team, our tax status restricts us from lobbying for a specific legislative agenda or piece of legislation, and with (or with the intent to influence) individual legislators – from local reps all the way to the President. However, that doesn’t mean you have to stay silent. PCP teams can participate in events and activities with other organizations that don’t have the same restrictions, as long as the participation does not involve an exchange of money or goods. So if Human Rights Watch is sponsoring a free discussion on campus to protest the ban on transgender individuals in the military, there’s no restriction from you attending as a PCP team, as long as the organization in question is aligned with PCP’s mission and core values (more on that in a moment). You can’t sponsor the event or provide meeting space, food, or honoraria, but you can absolutely attend as a team.

What you can’t do as a PCP team (using PCP’s name) is sign petitions for or against specific legislation intended to go to legislators. So if an organization is circulating a petition to support the expansion of Obamacare, you cannot  sign as a PCP team. You can, however, sign as individuals (which can often be more effective). If the petition is a principled statement supporting the right for every American to have access to healthcare (in other words, not specific to a piece of legislation), you’re permitted to sign as a PCP team.

One important caveat: do your homework. Make sure you know the organization and its agenda, and take time to look into the Board of Directors and leadership.

8. Create a “Values Contract” with your team.

PCP is governed by a set of core values – values like Equity and Inclusion, Commitment to the Team and the Mission, and Trust and Integrity. We revisit our values regularly, use them as a rubric to decide when and how to tackle certain initiatives, and take time to reflect on our own actions – individually and as a team – to ensure that we’re living out our commitment.

As part of your team charter and meeting management process, you take the time to create a team mission and norms; try taking the time to create a values statement, as well – a commitment that communicates your guiding principles. Then, as a team, when you make decisions about activities and events, make sure you’re reflecting and incorporating your values. For example, if you state that you’re committed to the environment, hold your meetings outdoors and use recycled products. If you’re committed to the community, agree to spend 20% of your team’s time on community-related projects, or host your meetings at your local Boys and Girls Club rather than a conference room on campus. If you’re committed to diversity, set a goal of 50% women/non gender-binary team members and representation of people of color on your team. And talk about your values. Post them on the wall, add them to your email signature, and review them at your meetings. This not only keeps your values front and center among the team, but also sends a powerful message to other groups on campus that you’re more than a club – you’re a movement.

Contact us to share more ways you’re making a difference.

Elizabeth Métraux

Director of Communications and Development for PCP, Elizabeth regularly speaks and writes on the art, science, and power of language, as well as performs as a storyteller in the Boston area.

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