Chapter 3

Picking your issue

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Activism can feel quite overwhelming. This is especially true when you are new to it. 

A key cause of feeling overwhelmed is people can often fall into the trap of choosing a target that is simply too big for them to tackle alone. Whenever you start to feel overwhelmed, stop and remember that change takes time. It’s not just our individual responsibility to make change happen. Activism is a collective effort.

To prevent you feeling overwhelmed, you and your group need to decide on a campaign issue that is small enough to work on – but big enough to care about, and to inspire others to care too.   

Finding this balance can guarantee that you and those in your groups stay involved and motivated in the work. 

The following definitions can be helpful for you to remember when picking your issue:

  • Problems: these are broad, unspecific and unlikely to be solved completely. For example, ageism is a problem embedded in the structures that govern us and in our culture. It would take the work of many, many people over a very long period of time to resolve the systemic issues causing ageism in order to get rid of it all together. Other examples of broad and specific problems are racism or sexism.
  • Issues: these are specific and targeted. An issue exists within a wider problem and is something that can be changed – for example, an issue within ageism is lack of voting rights for young people; an issue within racism is unfair and discriminatory immigration policies. Issues can be linked to our everyday environment and can have a strong local dimension. For example, the lack of public spaces where young people can gather safely in your city or district, or too few bicycle lanes around the University. 

If you think you have an issue in mind that you would like to change, test it using these two questions:

  1. What is the underlying problem your issue is trying to address? 
  2. Can I/we work with others to address this issue?

Once you have identified your issue, find out who else is campaigning around it. You can do that by mapping your community. 

Discover more

Here are some useful links