I frequently hear about how what separates high-functioning animals from low-functioning is the use of tools.
Humans are the best at tools. I guess that’s how we got where we are even though we are kind of slow and weak in comparison to most animals. Now take a minute to gaze off into nothing while you imagine a world run by cats or porcupines. Alternate timelines are the best for distraction.
Anyway...Since, that isn’t the case and we humans used our tools to get us into this political mess. We need to use our tools to get ourselves out of here. Here at SFA, we have no need to reinvent the wheel. There are a ton of wonderful tools available to our citizenry that make engagement easy as pie (pie is hard, that is a misnomer- easy as microwave popcorn?).
Here are some of our favorites! Make thee a toolbox! We've got some things to fix.
TOOLS FOR DEMOCRACY:
Good for- Federal legislation, keeping up with the times, plain language analysis
Bad for- local politics, calling your representatives directly
“Get clear, concise summaries of bills going through Congress, see what others think, then take action. Telling your reps how you feel is easier than ever with email and now video messages. Make your democracy more responsive!”
This website and soon-to-be app will tell you what is coming up for vote this week in federal legislation. They lay it out pretty simply and then you can contact your representatives right from the site.
Good For- planning the revolution, clear action steps, finding a local group to be a part of
Bad for- Daily action guides
A group of former congressional staffers who survived the Tea Party’s impact on the Obama Administration have written you a handy guide on how to harness the techniques wielded by the Tea Party to achieve your own goals. The actual step by step guide is wonderful and a must read. Local action groups are a huge part of that plan so they also have a searchable database of action groups so that you can find one near you. SFA is one of those groups!
Good For- Finding your representatives, upcoming issues, large scale campaigns
Bad For- Local politics
These folks have been around the block. They’ve got how tos on activism out the wazoo and are full of useful information. They have a daily action network called CauseNet you can sign up for. They have a simple searchable database for your elected officials. They have articles on upcoming issues. They are, in general, great. They are, however, only for national politics. If your state has a chapter, they might have more info on state and local politics. Though, the state chapters don’t seem to have as much momentum and resources.
Committee of 70
Good for- Philadelphia area specific politics, voting guides for elections, local politics
Bad for- anything outside of the Philadelphia area, look for something similar near you though!
Cof70 is a huge crush of ours over at SFA. As far as I am concerned, every city in America needs a version of this organization. They’ve done some amazing things since they started. Most importantly, they brought a level of transparency to local government in Philadelphia that now the citizens expect. They do an incredible non-partisan voting guide for each election. They host educational events, they encourage attendance at city council meetings. Really the question is what don’t they do.
If you live in Philadelphia, you need to keep a close eye on them. If you don’t, please see if there is something similar in your area. If there isn’t, consider starting it.
Free Press- Perhaps the greatest tool we have in the US.
Good For- keeping up to date, crosswords, longform investigative journalism, every day updates from the press room
Bad for- literally nothing bad about this in politics
Here’s the deal, friends. Most countries do not have a constitutionally guaranteed free press. Even the UK doesn’t, but we do. Please please please support it. They will have the resources, the tools, and the access to be watchdogs for the citizenry. Here are some ways you can:
Seeds for Action
Seeds for Action is a Philadelphia based cohort focused on taking the barriers out of social justice and activism and translating the emotions of the last election into accessable dire