Want to Become an Activist? Let MomsRising's Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner Tell You How

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner isn’t new to this whole activism thing. The CEO of MomsRising has spent her career working for grassroots causes and nonprofits and pushing for change — and now she’s sharing some of her wisdom with the rest of us.

In Keep Marching: How Every Woman Can Change the World, Rowe-Finkbeiner doles out the kind of practical, easy advice that makes activism seem like a possibility for any woman who cares about bettering the world — because in her mind, it is. In this excerpt from the book, which hits shelves on May 1, Rowe-Finkbeiner lays out a not-at-all-intimidating guide for any woman who wants to get involved and make change in her community.

How to Take Action

I’ve been doing some form of community engagement, policy, or politics work since I was nineteen years old. My organizing started with many failures. I love failures! I’d go out in the rain trying to drum up attendees to an event, struggle with wet tape on wet surfaces, water dripping down my nose, only to find that I’d postered the wrong part of campus and would end up with an empty event. I’d learn what I’d done wrong, change tactics, and try again until I got it right. (Or at least until I got a better result!) I started organizing before the Internet, email, or social media even existed. But while the tools for organizing have changed, the strategies remain the same.

Due to my many failures, I now have some tricks up my sleeve that have helped win some significant battles. One of those tricks is beginning any activism project by using a simple outline, which I call an action sketch. Over the years I’ve used this technique on the back of napkins to help plan more than a few high-impact advocacy projects. You can also do this on a computer or on a regular piece of paper, of course! But sometimes using a napkin-size piece of paper helps to simplify your planning.

An action sketch starts with answering four key questions:

1. What is your focused priority area for this project?
2. Why is it important for your voice to be heard right now?
3. What change do you want to make?
4. Who has the power to make that change? (This is who should be contacted to make the change happen.)

Sound the Alarm

Here’s an example of a roughly completed action sketch using protecting the safety net as an example to give you an idea of how it can be used in real time. (Here’s a big hint: You should be able to do your action sketch on the back of a napkin over coffee. If it takes more time than that or more than a page of writing, you’re not doing it right.)

1. Focused priority area for this project?
Making sure that women maintain access to safety net programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and WIC.

2. Why now?
Recent tax proposals include big cuts to these important programs in order to fund tax breaks for the very wealthy.

3. What change?
Protect and increase access to these safety net programs and boost our economy.

4. Who has the power?
Congress has the power to move policy for all in our nation forward (or backward). So I should contact my members of Congress.

When you put these items together, you have a plan of what you’re doing, when you need to do it, and who you need to reach to make the change you seek. It’s easy. Each policy area has specific leverage points and outcome goals, so each should get its own action sketch. Don’t combine them.

I promise it’s not rocket science. Just practice. And have fun!

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