During the 2022 General Election analysis Dr. Kristina Hinds made the point that given the overwhelming mandate the BLP received from the electorate, citizens will have to be the guardians of our democracy – words to that effect. To be expected she was descended upon like the vulture having caught a whiff of the dead. Yet here we are several months later with no elected opposition and an ineffective dissenting voice in the public space. A space in which the government lead by larger than life leader Mia Mottley continues to suck all the attention.
The current predicament Barbados finds itself will only be constructively attended to if citizens become more engaged in the democratic process. What is civic engagement?
Civic engagement means participating in activities intended to improve the quality of life in one’s community by addressing issues of public concern, such as homelessness, pollution, or food insecurity, and developing the knowledge and skills needed to address those issues. Civic engagement can involve a wide range of political and non-political activities including voting, volunteering, and participating in group activities like community gardens and food banks.ThoughtCo.
Barbadians like the majority of global citizens have become politically polarised which means the opportunity for good sense to prevail is lost. Given where we find ourselves, how can citizens of small Barbados swim against the tide to be persuaded we need to switch paths? We must become more engaged in the governance process and be less concerned about the cost of Netflix membership.
Here is a Democracy 76 bucket list put out by Brookings targeting citizens to assist with boosting civic engagement. Although made for the US market there are suggestions Barbadians should borrow from to make relevant to our environment.
1. Read and subscribe to daily local, regional, or national newspapers.
2. Facts matter: Is your news source trustworthy?
3. Fill your pocket with democracy. Pick up pocket-sized constitutions for as little as $1.
4. Get the facts on any politician or political candidate.
5. Talk with someone who doesn’t share your political views.
6. Attend a discussion or event in your community or school about an issue you want to know more about.
7. Shadow a public servant for the day to learn how our institutions work.
8. Visit a museum. Learn about local, regional, and national history, and about those who have taken civic action in the past.
9. Visit a library. Librarians can point you to important books on our American democracy.
10. Deep dive into the constitution.
11. Use a highlighter when reading news articles to note points of interest, subjects that you agree/disagree with, or questions that you would like to know more about.
12. Vote: Local, state, and national elections matter!
13. Make sure you’re registered to vote.
14. Make a voting pact with your friends or family. Collectively commit to register and vote. Remind each other regularly. Make a plan to go to the polls together!
15. Volunteer to register voters.
16. If you are a boss, give your employees time off to vote.
17. Volunteer to work at a polling place.
18. Offer to drive elderly voters or those without transportation to the polls.
19. If you own a business, offer discounts to people who provide proof of voting on election days. If you work at a business, ask your boss to consider this.
20. Prepare to vote by checking ahead of time what is on the ballot, your polling place, and what you need to bring. Many states require identification such as a license or passport.
21. If you are voting by absentee ballot, pay attention to deadlines and follow all the steps in the instructions.
22. Mark the date
23. Communicate with your elected officials to share your views on issues you care about. A letter, phone call, or visit are still the best ways to contact them.
24. Write an op-ed or letter to an editor.
25. Attend a city council or community board meeting.
26. Advocate for civic education in schools.
27. Join a political campaign. Volunteer for your preferred candidate.
28. Become an ambassador supporting digital citizenship education
29. Join the Parent-Teacher Association at your local school.
30. Get involved with the local school board.
31. Join a political party.
32. Run for office. If you don’t like the candidates you are choosing from, put on your shoes and run for office.Build community
33. Identify a problem in your community and work with your neighbors to fix it. Neighborhood street sweeps and playground refurbishment are just two examples.
34. Plant a tree or garden in your community.
35. Share the #WeThePurple Teacher Toolkit with teachers in your community for good ideas on civic engagement activities for young people.
36. Volunteer to serve as an officer or member of a group in your community.
37. Visit someone else’s place of worship.
38. Keep watch on children who play in your neighborhood.
39. Paint a mural in a public space (with permission).
40. Pick up trash in your or someone else’s neighborhood.
41. Start a book club and invite your neighbors to participate.
42. Serve as a juror. If you are called for duty, remember our judicial system can’t work without citizen jurors.
43. Collect food for those in need.
44. Visit a nursing home or hospital.
45. Donate blood or plasma.
46. Take a first aid class.
47. Clean up the local park.
48. Clean up a local river or lake.
49. Start a bowling league or another activity that you enjoy that might bring people together.
50. Help others in an emergency.
51. If you own a gun, participate in a gun safety course.
52. Host or be an exchange student. Rotary Youth Exchange is a good place to begin.
53. Shop local and support small businesses.
54. Contribute financially to a cause, even $5 can help.
55. Support the teachers at your local school.
56. Volunteer at a museum.
57. Volunteer at a public library.
58. Volunteer at a pantry, soup kitchen, or food bank.
59. Volunteer at a community garden.
60. Volunteer to coach a youth sports team.
61. Volunteer to lead a youth group.
62. Volunteer at a community center.
63. Volunteer to help veterans. The USO is a good place to start.
64. Volunteer to help teachers. Chaperone school trips to the local city hall and share your experiences engaging with your community and government.
65. Do a year of service.
66. Choose to work at a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping others.
67. Become a substitute teacher.Get social
68. Host or attend a debate watch party in your community or university.
69. Host a Purple Conversation with family, friends, or in your school or community to discuss ways to foster civic engagement. Use the tips on facilitating open dialogue from Living Room Conversations.
70. Follow and like #WeThePurple across social media.
71. Host a picnic or block party in your neighborhood and (respectfully) talk about your views.
72. Use your consumer power to support companies whose values you believe in.
73. Go out and talk to people, use your hands, and your time.
74. Invite friends and neighbors to watch a documentary on a topic affecting your community.
75. Use your social media accounts to post uplifting information relevant to making our society more civil. The University of Virginia has a helpful guide on civil discourse when talking about politics.
76. Recruit a friend and start checking off items in the “Democracy 76” checklist together!