What’s Going On
So there’s a ton that’s been going on all over the world lately. Here in the US we’ve got a lot on our plate: natural disasters, economic problems, environmental issues, politics, tragic events … it’s overwhelming to process. I considered reairing episode 034 Coping with Tragic News Events. But then I remembered it’s still Women’s History Month, where we recognize and celebrate women who made change happen.
At the beginning of this month, I introduced you to five tween and teen girls LIKE YOU who are changing the world right now. So while you’re welcome to relisten to episode 034, today I want to give you actionable steps about how to make change happen. You are not too young, not too small, not too inexperienced. You don’t have to wait for someone to give you permission. Remember that Rachel Platten song, Fight Song? “Like a small boat on the ocean, sending big waves into motion.” Whatever it is you are passionate about, you can make a difference right now.
Circles of Influence
I want you to imagine concentric circles, like there’s small circle in the middle, that’s inside another circle that’s a bit bigger, and that’s inside another circle, and so on. We’ll call these your circles of influence, starting with you in the center, the next circle is your family, then your friends, then your community, then your city, your state, then your country, and then the world. Let’s discuss what you can do in your circles of influence to address issues, raise awareness, and make change happen.
Change Starts With You
Starting with the smallest circle in the middle, change starts with you. You may already be passionate about a cause, or maybe you have questions about something, or you feel like there’s something going on that just isn’t right, or you want more people to know about what’s happening. Whichever you are, follow that spark and learn more about it. Gather facts by doing research–not from rumors or conspiracy theories, not from an influencer, and not from wikipedia; but from actual data, credentialed experts, reputable sources. Study this issue and learn more about it. A great way to start is to be like a journalist and find the answers to Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. I actually like starting with What.
What: What’s going on, what happened or is happening?
Why: Why did it occur or why is it happening?
Who: Who is involved, who is causing it, who is impacted or affected?
Where: Where is it happening, where is it headed?
When: When did it start, end, or is it ongoing?
How: How did it happen? And How do we change it/make things better/resolve it?
Brainstorming how to change it will help you know if it’s an issue that can be fixed with just you/family/friends, or if it needs greater awareness and support. Having a solid understanding of these foundational facts, Who/What/Where/When/Why/How will help you voice your concerns in the other circles.
The next circle is Family. I encourage you to talk to your parents about what you think needs to change. Share your concerns and your feelings, help them understand why this matters to you and why it’s important to let others know, too. I truly hope they will listen to you and support you. But if they don’t, at least you got some practice talking about it with others. You could also turn to another trusted adult you feel comfortable discussing this with. You can ask that adult or your parents for ideas about what you can do together, and what you can do in the other circles, too. Maybe they know of resources that can help. And they can help you with the rest of the circles, too.
The circle beyond that is your Friends. Talk with your friends about it, and if they want to join your quest, awesome! The more the merrier! They can get their Family involved, too. Depending on what the issue is, you could coordinate an activity together, like cleaning up trash at the beach or a hiking trail, or a carwash fundraiser for a larger organization that’s involved.
So now we’re getting to the Community circle. You could see if you can start a club at your school to build support. Talk to businesses in your community that may be able to help donate money or items or support your cause. There may be similar organizations or charities you could partner with or join their efforts.
Next is the City circle, if this also impacts your city, or is something people in your city should care about. I’ve mentioned before that I used to work in news, so I’ll tell you what I’d do. You can contact the news to see if they’ll cover your story. Look up the phone number for each news station and newspaper in your area. When you call them, ask to speak with an assignment editor or ask to be connected to the news desk, it’s the central hub of a news station. The people who work on the news desk may be easier to reach than a reporter or news anchor. When you talk to them, they will want to know the foundational facts to decide if it’s “newsworthy.” They’ll want to know if there’s anything visual to show that their cameras can film because video/photos get put on TV, newspapers, and social media. They’ll want to know if you have an upcoming event they can bring their cameras to, like a rally or a bake sale (call them at least a few days before it happens). If you can’t talk to them on the phone, get the email to send news tips and include all of that information. Call/email the day before and the day of an event, just to be the squeaky wheel. It’s worth a try.
Also in the City circle, you can contact your local leaders: the school board, the city mayor, the city manager, the city council, the county commissioner, the county council, whatever you have there. Give them a call, leave a message if you have to, and send them an email. See if you can schedule a meeting with them. Go to an upcoming public meeting and share your concerns when they allow for public comment. I’ve done this, it may seem intimidating, but if you have your family and friends there to support you, that’ll help.
Now to the State circle, if this issue affects people in your state. If you’re not in the US, your government is likely organized differently but may be similar, so do some research to find out who to contact. If you are in the US, you can reach out to your governor, lieutenant governor, your state secretary of state, your board of education, and/or your state legislature (state senators, assembly, etc.). Call, leave a message, send an email. You might even be able to schedule a meeting with them or speak to them in person. If there’s an upcoming public meeting or forum, you could try to talk to them there, too.
Beyond that is the Country circle. Again, if you’re not in the US, your country’s government could be organized differently but may be similar, so do some research to find out who to contact. If you are in the US, you can contact your state’s leaders in Washington, D.C. Our Government’s Legislative Branch, aka Congress, includes the Senate and the House of Representatives. Every state has two Senators representing them. Find out who your Senators are at senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm. Call both Senators. An office aide will probably take your message, you can request to speak to your Senator about the issue, and see what they say. You could send an email or letter, but a phone call has more impact.
Every state also has Representatives who represent a Congressional district in your state. Find out who your Representative is at house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative. Again, an office aide will probably take your message, you can request to speak to your Representative about it, maybe they will. You could send an email or letter, but a phone call has more impact.
If this issue spans even beyond your state, you can also contact the Vice-President, or the President at whitehouse.gov/contact/ – it’s a form to fill out, but it’s something. You can also write a letter addressed to: The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20500 . I know that seems like a long shot, but I’ve seen videos of our current President and Vice-President responding to messages they received from children. Remember, you are not too young to make a difference.
The final circle is the World. And this may seem too huge, but hear me out.Three years ago I started feeling like I had a message that girls needed to hear. I learned more about it, I taught it in my community, and then I shared it on this podcast and it’s being heard around the world. 46 percent of you listening to my podcast are outside of the US, which absolutely boggles my mind. I get emails from girls all over the world sharing their concerns and topic ideas. All because I started a podcast. That’s one idea for the World circle.
These next suggestions come with a disclaimer–like I always say at the end of episodes, I am not encouraging or endorsing social media or other media platforms. Okay? So, I have seen how sharing information, videos and pictures on social media and other platforms can be an effective way to raise awareness about an issue and gather support for change on a global level. It’s amazing that you can connect with people on the other side of the world and share your message with them. They can be useful tools, if used mindfully and cautiously.
So now I hope you now have one, hopefully more, idea about how you can make change happen, or at least get started on your quest. Never underestimate the power of your voice. Use it. Share your message. Help people understand why this matters to you. I would love to hear about what waves you make.
If you have a topic suggestion, I’d love to hear from you! Send an email (tweens get the OK from your parents) to hello@EmpowerfulGirls.com .
If you have social media already, follow me on Insta or tiktok @empowerfulgirls. I’m not encouraging or endorsing social media, but I’m on there to offer an unfiltered, uplifting alternative to what’s in your feed. Remember to get on the email list for the newsletter!
Also, if you enjoy listening to 10 for Teens + Tweens, I would truly appreciate you telling your friends about this podcast or leaving a review so others can find it and feel uplifted, too! Your support means the world to me!