How to Get Started as an Activist — Follow these 5 Steps

With so many problems in our world, thankfully there a lot of people who want to take action to make a difference and who care about changing the world. But many people really have no idea how to be an activist or what to do to get started.

Social issues like climate change, racism, poverty, gender equality, animal rights, gun violence, and may others are so massive, it can feel intimidating or overwhelming to think that you as one person can even do anything. While you can’t solve it single-handedly today, thankfully there is a lot each of us can do that all adds up.

How to be or get started as an activist is unfortunately not something that is taught in most schools, which is a major reason why YEA Camp exists in the first place.

Over more than a decade, we’ve trained more than 1,000 aspiring activists to make a bigger difference on the social justice causes they care about.

Our curriculum focuses on building knowledge, skills, confidence, and community as campers examine their issue, their identity, and their impact.

We have a simple 5 step approach we teach at camp, and we want to teach it to you here too. While YEA Camp is a camp for teens, these steps work for adults too.

How to Get Started an Activist

1.Choose an issue you’re passionate about making a difference on.

At YEA Camp, we call this your IOI, or your Issue of Importance. You most likely care about a lot of different issues, and they are probably very interconnected, but we encourage you to focus on one to get started. You can always change your mind as time goes on, and you can follow this process in the future for another cause as well.

2. Learn more about your issue.

How serious is this problem? What exactly is happening? Why should people care about this? Get specific. Research frequently asked questions and learn the best responses to them. What are the arguments against, and why doesn’t everyone agree with you already? What actions do you want people to take to help?

The more you know, the more confident and effective you’ll be advocating for your cause, and the more skilled you’ll be at deciding what actions to take next.

3. Find organizations working on your cause.

When just starting out, it can help to connect with experts on your cause who have been working on this issue for a long time — or at least longer than you! This can be anything from a small local community group or a school club all the way to large international nonprofits. Check out our list of favorites here. Review their websites and follow them on social media.

As you get to know the organizations working on your cause, you’ll probably find some groups you love and others you don’t resonate with or that you even disagree with. Seeing examples of organizations with different approaches is a great way for you to decide for yourself where you want to focus your time. Hopefully you’ll meet some great like-minded people and learn a lot along the way, too.

4. Take the actions they recommend, or that make sense to you.

Most organizations will have identified key actions they want people to take to support their work or cause. Look for sections on their website called Take Action, Get Involved, or Action Alerts. What are they promoting on their social media? Some examples might be:

  • calling your legislators
  • boycotting a company
  • signing an online petition
  • sharing information on social media
  • attending a protest
  • making a donation

Some of these actions may seem intimidating if you’ve never done them before, but you have to start somewhere! Each action you take will make it easier for you to take that same action again or to do something else next time! Even better, see if you can get a friend to join you! You’ll be more likely to follow through and have fun too. Don’t worry about doing it “perfectly,” and if you start wondering about how other people might perceive you, try focusing on cultivating a strong opinion of yourself and taking actions that you’re proud of.

5. Keep going! 

This might not seem like much, but it might be the hardest step. Changing the world can take a while, so please don’t give up because you don’t see huge changes right away.

One phone call to your elected officials is a great start! Unfortunately, that one call is not going to solve the massive issue you’re working towards all by itself. Thankfully, all of our collective actions add up over time. Critically important is to keep going and not give up before we see the fruits of our labor! Appreciate yourself for taking action and make sure to celebrate small victories. You are awesome for caring so much!

The Beginner’s Guide to Changing the World

We hope this helps you get started as an activist on a cause you care about!

The Beginner's Guide to Changing the World shows you how to get started as an activist

Want to learn way more about how to get started or get serious about making a difference?

Check out our free ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Changing the World for many more resources to help you along your changemaking path.

Want even more than an ebook? Join us this summer!

YEA Camp has in-person and virtual sessions for youth ages 10-17. If you’re a little (or way) too old to be a camper, we’re also hiring for summer!

Thanks for all you do to make the world a better place! Please let us know how it goes!