Updated: Apr 3
by Chantelle Pierre
Community involvement is an example of collective impact and interdependence, meaning the seemingly small actions of individuals can make a significant change. A community that is informed and active is a powerful one. When individuals come together to plant trees in a neighborhood, the effect is substantial: the neighborhood’s look improves, as does air quality and, ultimately, the quality of life for its residents.
Like volunteerism, voting is another action that harnesses the power of individuals to improve their communities. We shape our community's quality of life indicators like school funding, safety, property taxes, crime by those we elect. We often focus on national elections, but we have the most stake in affecting local and regional elections to fill school board seats, judicial benches, city council seats, and the mayor’s position.
Here’s how we can maximize our civic powers to improve our communities:
You must know your districts to know which candidates you should be researching
Learn about the responsibilities within each elected position and evaluate the candidates’ experience accordingly.
Get to know the candidates. Research their backgrounds, visit their websites and follow them on social media.
Make sure that all folks in your community have registered to vote. Join a voter registration drive or start one, visit National Voter Registration Day.
Compile a list of questions you have for the candidates based on the essential issues.
Attend events in which the candidates will be present and use your list of questions as a guide to engaging them in dialogue.
Make sure that candidates are present in YOUR community. Invite them to neighborhood association meetings; host a “meet and greet” at your home or community center. How /, if they respond, can be a strong indicator.
Volunteer on a candidate’s campaign, on election day, or at the polls.
Be aware of early voting dates and poll locations. In Louisiana, the registrar of voters has a handy app with tons of info, GeauxVote.
Harness your power, take it to the polls and cast your vote.
Bring others with you or identify organizations offering free rides to polling centers.
Have a local election party in person or create a watch party on social media.
Hold those elected accountable.
Once elected leaders enter the office, the real work begins for informed and active communities. Whoever ultimately wins, it is our responsibility to hold elected officials accountable. Officials may not keep every campaign promise or make changes that show up immediately to benefit us; still, if we correctly understand their key roles and responsibilities, we can keep them to task and evaluate their effectiveness in the role.
Attend public meetings and ask questions during Q&A.
Capitalize on your access. As citizens, we can request private meetings with public officials.
Join civic engagement groups that regularly and responsibly engage with elected officials. Your volunteer efforts could be part of your neighborhood association, with a larger organization with a local presence.
Meaningful community involvement reminds us of the power that we each hold. Volunteerism demonstrates that our small individual actions tied together can yield significant improvements in our daily lives as well as the lives of others.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead
Chantelle Pierre has over 25 years experience in the nonprofit industry. After struggling with balancing her career and motherhood over the past 14 years, she thinks she’s finally found balance…for now. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Medium.