In the aftermath of the women’s marches and in response to the ongoing community organizing that we are seeing across the county, I keep getting asked the same question: How do I channel my energy and take a stand for what I believe in right now?
At IGNITE we believe the answer is clear: Own your political power and run for office! I really don’t care what office you run for. School President, Student Senate, Community College Board, City Council are all places where you can exercise political leadership, make a difference in your community and show other girls and women that they can be leaders too. Running for office is not as hard as you think. Here’s how:
1. Identify the issue(s) you care about. Contrary to the bombast you hear from some people (ahem, men) already in office, political leaders are not experts on everything! They know and care a lot about one or two issues and they figure out the rest when they get there. So decide what is the single most important issue you care about and think through what you would do to make change around that issue. What policy would you espouse if you had the power to decide?
2. Show your dedication to that issue by working on it in your community. For instance if you care about sex trafficking, in practice, you could volunteer for a community organization leading the policy change around criminalization laws, or doing direct service work with women in recovery. It could mean organizing a campus effort to educate students about the scope of the problem. What you do is less important than the fact that you do something to make change around an issue you care about.
3. Build a group of trusted advisors who will help you run. A wonderful thing will happen when you work for a cause you believe in: you’ll meet other people who, like you, care about improving their communities. And these are the people who will support you when you run. Why? Because they’ve seen you fight for issues you believe in. And that’s what an elected leader should be: someone who fights for the issues she believes in.
4. Identify the office you want to run for and research how and when you can run. This one may sound tricky, but whether you want to run for College President or City Council, all of this information is available online. And here’s another tip: find someone who from your community who has already run (and won or lost – it doesn’t really matter) and ask them their advice! People love to give advice, and you can learn a lot from someone else’s past experience.
5. Make a plan, set a date, and just do it! The importance of setting dates cannot be underestimated. Pick the office you’re running for and the date you will announce your candidacy. Work backwards from that date to plan every step along the way: assembling a group of trusted advisors (see step 3), advertising your campaign and your platform, raising money (for non-campus races), and talking to voters. Need a little help with this? Click here for a handy how-to planning sheet!
We are at an extraordinary moment in history. Young women are recognizing and proclaiming what we have always known to be true: we need more women in office. The time is now. Be the change you want to see, and IGNITE will help you get there!