Interact with (Local) Government
You are young, burning for change and a better world...But you feel that your cries often fall on deaf ears when it comes to big-scale institutions or governments. How can you bring about the long-awaited change then? Oftentimes, it is all about the tools we use. While petitions and project proposals in municipalities are still valid forms of interaction with local/national authorities, there is a growing need to go beyond them and explore more creative means of communication with politicians and other relevant stakeholders.
For instance, the people of South Africa have been using toyi toyi dancing as a political dance during protests - stomping feet and chanting (political) slogans to voice their discontent with the government and push for change. Protests don’t have to be all angst and anger, it can actually be fun and silliness to make a statement. To take one example, CIRCA (“Clown protesters”) are using humour at demonstrations. The lessons learnt from Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring underpin the importance of another form of citizen organising and modern activism online via different social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, MoveOn.org etc. Other more controversial methods range from civil resistance (nonviolent resistance) to nudity as a form of protest, used for instance by the protest group FEMEN while staging protests against sexism, sex tourists, international marriage agencies etc. A less widespread but rather controversial tool has been sex strike. When the women from the Colombian town of Barbacoas went on a sex strike (“the crossed legs movement”) to pressure the men to join them in their lobbying of the government to construct safe roads to their town which was thus far cut-off (and thus unsafe for them), the government finally lent a friendly ear to their plight and started reconstructing the roads.
This activity aims to explore alternative methods of interacting with local authorities and stimulate youth participation in local communities.
Group / Experimental
To inspire youth to become politically active and active citizens
To experiment with alternative forms of active citizenship and contribute to sustainable development of the local community
Connect with like-minded individuals to fight for a common cause. Agree on a common objective to influence the local policy, infrastructure or related issues that impact negatively the community and that you feel strongly about. The group should create a vision from a common dream related to this (local) issue, define the objectives, tasks, and moments to celebrate. For instance consider questions like:
Why was the local policy, infrastructure, or practice designed as it is?
How could it be improved with minimal initial or long-term cost/time/disturbance?
Research the issue. Investigate online or via conversation with information officers of your local government, which elected body, civil servant or office has responsibility for deciding on this issue. What are the different possible strategies to get the handling of this issue changed? Consider direct dialogue with decision-makers, media event(s) to raise attention or mass mobilisation of citizens to support your cause. Conduct research on creative ways to get your message across - politicians can often be too set in their ways and more fierce and outspoken forms instead of dialogue might be employed:
Protest Art (Project Orange, Guerilla Girls etc)
In case you lack support from the local population, try to organise awareness-raising campaigns, such as running for cause, using art to highlight an issue (see above), writing in the local newspaper etc. Community collaboration and creation of open spaces where people can discuss social issues can bring about critical thinking as well. This can be a simple and improvised space, such a park even.
When you come to the point of direct dialogue with politicians or relevant stakeholders, make sure you have designed a proposal for change in advance, Does your proposal benefit most people or will most people support your perspective? Why should the local government adopt your proposal?
Select the issue that everyone feels strongly about.
Propose a feasible change in the current system
Select an appropriate strategy and design a campaign to effect change in terms of this issue.
Test the strategy by carrying out an action/event/meeting/publicity.
What kind of difficulties did you encounter engaging with representatives of local governments?
What youth issues are crucial for you to be mainstreamed in local government work?
Which methods of interaction with (local) authorities did you employ?
What kind of recommendations would you present to local government to create mechanisms for useful engagement of youth?
Instructions for Submission
Provide answers to the questions under Reflection and upload them in Moodle. Instructions on how to upload photos and how to submit things in Moodle can be found here: Instructions on Submission&Uploading
Instructions for AssessmentProvide feedback to at least one participant that has done this activity. Instructions on providing feedback can be found here: Instructions on Feedback
Tried an activity? Give us feedback!