Democracy, what’s that — and what does it have to do with me?
You’d better skill up, because the way things are going, we won’t have a democracy unless we fight for it.
Take a few of these steps and get involved.
Click any of the images to see them at a larger size.
Go to your political party’s local meetings: otherwise known as creating an instant social circle for yourself, filled with people who share your world view. With the added bonus that you can change the world.
Image by Emily Haworth-Booth
MONITOR YOUR PARLIAMENT
Parliaments aren’t always the best placed to ensure that their work is being presented impartially, clearly, and accessibly &emdash; that’s why, in many countries, NGOs have taken it upon themselves to do it better.
Modern technology and the internet mean that it’s now relatively easy to set up a website that gives citizens easy access to everything their representatives are doing in Parliament, from what they say to how they vote.
And once those representatives see that they’re being watched in this way, it may have the knock-on effect that they start behaving a little more responsibly!
Image by Paul Peart Smith
VOTE, VOTE, VOTE
The UK group Disabled People Against Cuts say “There are 12 million disabled people in this country. If all of them over 18 voted, our world would change”.
The same goes for everyone. About 41% of eligible people didn’t vote in the recent US elections, and in the UK, 33% didn’t vote in the general election while approximately 28% didn’t take part in the EU referendum.
Image by Jenny Soep
Under many countries’ Freedom of Information Act, citizens have the right to request information from publicly-funded bodies, and in most cases, if the bodies hold that information, they must provide it.
FOI can be an extremely powerful tool. Use it to uncover corruption, misspent funds, cuts in budgets, and more.
Image by I.Fluke
SIGN, SEAL, DELIVER
Signing a petition is so easy that it sometimes feels like it can’t be changing anything, but there are many examples of petitions that have reversed policy, halted poor decisions and changed the world.
In the UK, if a petition to Parliament gains more than 10,000 signatures, it must be considered for debate in the House. There is a similar law in Australia.
Once you’ve signed, share: your social circles are influenced by what you do, and sharing can bring in several more signatures.
Image by Nicholas Sputnik Miller
MAKE A NOISE
Campaign, march, demonstrate, use non-violent direct action. Take heart from those who have taken this route before, and who have made change — through history, like Martin Luther King, and in recent times, like the Feminist Library campaign in London.
Image by Una
KNOW WHAT’S ON THE AGENDA
Subscribe to an online service so that you’ll always know when an important vote is coming up.
Contact your MP or representative and tell them how you want them to vote — even if you know they’ll be toeing the party line. Get your right-thinking friends to do the same.
If enough people make their feelings clear, your representative will convey that upwards to Parliament.
What if there’s no website like this for your country? You can set one up!
Image by Sarah Mirk
JOIN THE PARTY
It costs surprisingly little to become a card-carrying party member. It also gives you the right to vote on important party decisions, like leadership and the stance they take on important issues.
Image by Freya Harrison
FORM A POSSE
Gather people together — online or in your living room.
What are you going to achieve — the downfall of the state? Helping the homeless? Changing legislation? Make an action list. Then act.
Research shows that meeting in person is a more effective way of staying motivated and productive.
Image by Jan Wheatley
KNOW YOUR REPRESENTATIVES
Websites like TheyWorkForYou.com in the UK, and similar sites set up by NGOs in many other countries, allow you to subscribe to your MP so you get an email every time they speak in Parliament.
Keep careful watch and make sure you contact them if you’re displeased with their activity.
Image by Hannah McCann
People like you don’t stand for election, right? That’s exactly why you should consider it.
When government is dominated by the rich, the privileged, the male, or other dominant groups, legislation tends to favour those people. We owe it to our own communities to represent them in local and national politics.
Image by Rosa Devine
HACK THE GOVERNMENT
In Taiwan, the government wasn’t being as transparent or making as much use of online technologies as certain hackers would have liked — so they created their own version of the government websites, just changing one letter of the URL (from gov to g0v).
With a single stroke of the keyboard, the public could access public assets and information as they ought to be, sharing open data and inviting collaboration.
Several years on, one of the primary instigators of this movement has become the country’s Minister for Digital.
Image by James Harvey
START A PETITION
Starting your own petition is really easy. In the UK, use a service like 38 Degrees to exert power on big business or non-governmental institutions.
For governmental issues, use their own petitions facility at https://petition.parliament.uk
Image by Aneurin (Nye) Wright
PUT THE PRESSURE ON
Tell your MP or other representative what you expect them to do about the issues that matter to you. And keep telling them.
You might get a pat, generic response: that’s not good enough, and you should write back to tell them so. Otherwise, how will they know? It’s our job to hold our representatives to account.
Image by Simon Russell
Our parents wrote to the letters page of their local press.
These days, with online space to fill, many publications are happy to accept high-quality thought pieces from the public.
For local issues, approach your regional press and get your community onside. For national issues, go big.
Image by Keijo Ahlqvist
WALK THE STREETS
It’s really easy to organise a march or a demonstration these days, thanks to social media. So, get everyone out on the streets and let’s shout about injustice.
Image by Simon Russell
HAVE YOUR DAY IN COURT
Your government should serve you. If you believe they have gone so badly astray from this path that they are doing actual harm, there is recourse: you can take them to court.
Yes, it takes guts; it takes money too. But it may just save the world. In the US, for example, kids are suing the government over climate change.
Image by Amber Hsu
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