How To Turn Your Passion For An Issue Into Advocacy And Action
By Liana Lozada
In 2004, Richard Branson and Virgin founded the non-profit foundation Virgin Unite to connect people with entrepreneurial ideas that help create opportunities for a better world. Since then, Virgin Unite has worked with partners to tackle global challenges and unacceptable issues. Most recently, Virgin Unite and Virgin Hotels New Orleans partnered to host Positive Justice, working with co-host Tatiana Begault alongside LA Repeal, The LOHM, and Witness to Innocence, to bring together business and community leaders confronting local social justice challenges.
While Virgin Unite is a worldwide endeavor, the partnership with Virgin Hotels champions positive impact within the communities surrounding us. We recognize when policies and legislation threaten those communities, so we want to make sure everyone—no matter where they live—feels empowered to enact change around them. This is especially true when facing grief or feeling hopeless and overwhelmed.
We tapped Joshua Wiese, Virgin Unite’s lead on U.S. criminal justice reform, for guidance on how everyday people can convert their passion for an issue into advocacy.
We hope these tangible steps help answer questions like “what can I do next” when faced with a challenging roadblock toward positive social change.
- Do your research & get proximate. Joshua encourages people to” find the guide, the north star,” for the issue or item they want to change: It’s almost always the case that those closest to the problem have the most important insights for understanding how to solve it. Research the community and try to find directly impacted leaders, grassroots, national organizations, and social media groups who champion your goals and passions. In many instances, people of color—Black, indigenous, and non-black people of color—and marginalized communities have been doing community, grassroots, and organization work for years—even decades—and grasp present-day issues far more deeply. Finding these leaders and groups can help eliminate personal growth edges and bias and allow you to understand better how policies, practices, legislation, and issues directly affect these communities.
- Audit your skillset and volunteer your skills. Nonprofits and social organizations always need help, and your skills might be the missing piece they need. For example, photographers can offer to shoot teams on the ground or document the hard work behind the scenes. Social media lovers can teach members how to share timely messages. Chefs can guide rationing and preserving community meals throughout the week. Reflect on what you enjoy and what you are good at and offer it to those around you.
- Activate your social capital. Joshua explains that “Your social capital is your connective tissue to other people” and encourages everyone to tap them. You can share opportunities to participate in endeavors, promote valuable resources, amplify unheard voices, or initiate local outreach. Group gatherings are a practical way to educate one another and create connections to larger movements that build on its capacity in important ways.
- Try to understand the impact of your policies and actions – not just the intent. Unless we’re directly impacted by them, it can be hard to see the unintended consequences of our actions or policies. Sometimes the spaces we inhabit or lead carry biases, policies, and microaggressions we don’t consciously notice. If you currently lead a business, organization, or group, reflect on how these spaces may or may not cause harm. Thankfully, several organizations and professionals host training and seminars on approaching sensitive workplace dynamics, the importance of language, and leading with conscious compassion.
- Vote! In 2020, The Virgin Voice created a two-part guide on preparing for the national election, but local and state elections are just as important as national elections—if not more.
- Donate. Some organizations might not be able to accept untrained or licensed volunteers. In these instances, monetary support might be the help they need most.
While all of this might not seem like we are doing enough, Joshua kindly reminds us that “a bunch of little things turns into really big things.”
*Featuring editorial review by Jessica Penaranda.