Consider civic engagement in the new year

As 2021 comes to an end, it’s impossible to ignore the year of dizzying U.S. politics that was at the forefront of our lives.
Throughout the year, political leaders continued to mitigate the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and news headlines were deeply entrenched in policy decisions and assaults on democracy.
To summarize: it was a lot.
Many people nationwide may have found themselves feeling helpless due to these life-changing and sometimes unsettling events, especially when they occur at a high level of government. There is hope, though. People can participate in civic engagement to create a better future for their families and communities across the country.
Civic participation has great benefits for the person getting involved, too. It builds social capital and expands networks that can create more opportunities, as well as helps an individual develop a sense of purpose.
It’s vital to emphasize that America’s democracy is highly dependent on citizen involvement, whether it’s advocating for the dismantlement of systemic oppression or just voting in an election. It can also mean becoming a politician or studying political science.
Here are some ways to be proactive in the community.
Volunteer
This common form of community participation has a wide array of topics covered, such as working on a political campaign or helping collect food for the homeless. Studies show that volunteering can even promote psychological well-being.
Opportunities can be found at cityofvancouver.us/cmo/page/community-volunteer-opportunities. There are also national organizations that need support whether it’s attending meetings, working on a call line or going to marches.
Donate
Providing resources to nonprofits can contribute to its mission and is ideal if someone doesn’t have the ability to invest their time to a cause. Donations aren’t only monetary, as many nonprofits accept food, clothes and other supplies.
The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington accepts money that can be contributed to local funds of the giver’s choosing. Contact a nonprofit whose goals resonate with you to learn more about what supplies they might need.
Get involved in politics
Joining the political arena is one of the most ambitious ways to be engaged in positively influencing a community’s trajectory. Politicians typically begin their careers on a local level on a school board, city council or commissions. Political participation can also entail attending city meetings to present concerns or reaching out directly to local representatives.
Most importantly, though, voting in both local and national elections is central to community engagement. Clark County’s population is nearly 500,000 and nearly 327,000 residents are registered to vote. Regardless of what political party someone identifies with, everyone has the right to be heard. More information on voter eligibility and how to register to vote can be found at sos.wa.gov/election/register.aspx.
Politics is local, and everyone can move change forward through their actions in the community.

Lauren Ellenbecker

Lauren Ellenbecker

Lauren Ellenbacker is a politics reporter for The Columbian.

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