If you clicked the title of this article, you’re probably looking for a way to leave a mark on your local community. But it’s easy to get sucked into the grind of everyday life. 

When we’re juggling work, school, hobbies, chores and family time, participating in your local government seems like a great idea in theory. But how do you possibly make time for it?

The good news is that participation doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. There are many things you can do as a citizen to uplift your community and the people in it. Some of them will cost you little to no effort, but with such a tangible impact on your neighbourhood, how could we ever call them ‘small things’?

Let’s take a look at different ways to get involved and leave your mark on politics and public life — without having to clear your calendar.

1. Stay up to date on (local) politics

Do you know who’s in charge? Who has the decision-making power, and what are their plans for your community? Knowledge is power, so make sure to stay informed on what happens around you. Read the local newspaper or the town newsletter with your Sunday morning breakfast. Follow local politicians on social channels and, if you want, ask questions directly. Talk to your neighbours about the decision-making in your community and share your thoughts, or attend town meetings if you can find the time.

2. Volunteer in your community

Get your hands dirty if you can! Every small act of volunteering goes a long way. After all, you’re directly impacting the existence of important organisations, charities and individuals in your city or municipality. It doesn’t matter whether you’re walking a shelter dog every weekend, signing an online petition about a local cause, or serving beers at the school’s yearly fundraiser. A community is built on its active members, and volunteering now and then is a great way to make a difference.

3. Share your ideas and spark the debate

Is your city or municipality launching a digital citizen participation project? Great! That means that your administration is actively asking for your input. After all, who knows better what a community needs than its citizens?

On the platform, you can share your ideas, voice your concerns, and discuss local topics that matter to you, all without even having to leave the comfort of your own home. An added bonus? Participating on a digital platform gives you a clear and direct overview of the course that your administration is planning to take. Like we said, knowledge is power!

4. VOTE!

We get the chance to let our voices be heard every couple of years at the ballot box. It might not feel very impactful when you’re checking the name or party of your choice, but the importance of casting your vote can’t be understated.

Elections allow citizens to keep the administration accountable, and to weigh in on the direction and prioritisation of policy. Safe to say, getting informed and voting for your favourite candidate is one of the best ways to engage as a citizen.

5. Check your privilege and create space

Almost every person in this world is born with a certain amount of privilege. That means that they have a special advantage over certain other people or groups. Whether it’s about ethnicity, social status, gender or physical ability, it’s important to be aware of the privileges you hold, because if you use them in a powerful and positive way, you can truly transform society. Get informed on topics that don’t affect you directly, and create space for voices that aren’t heard as often in your community.

6. Scratch that cultural itch

Going to the library, visiting a local museum or heading to a concert isn’t just fun and enriching, it’s also beneficial for your community as a whole. Cultural organisations enable local people to read, write, and appreciate arts and music in an inclusive and accessible way. Getting a library card or buying museum tickets can really make a difference in the way these organisations function.

7. Settle down with a book

We told you engagement doesn’t have to take a lot of effort, right? We weren’t lying! Grab a drink of your choice, get settled in the cosiest nook you can find, and dive into an interesting book on politics or democracy. Don’t know where to start? Take another look at our curated list of top 10 must-reads that’ll inspire you to get involved. Not much of a bookworm? Check out these interesting podcasts or political documentaries!

8. Support local businesses

That cosy family bakery on the main square? The vegetable stand that’s been selling leeks and carrots on the market for 25 years? The new coffee place across the street? For them, it makes a huge difference where you buy your croissants, zucchinis or latte macchiatos. Instead of shopping in bigger chains, try spending your hard-earned money at a local business. It’ll make your community flourish!

9. Watch your ecological footprint

You don’t want to live in a smoggy nightmare full of dirt and litter, and your neighbours don’t, either. Keeping your community clean and healthy is an individual responsibility for everyone. Reduce the amount of useless plastic or non-recyclables you buy, see what you can re-use, and recycle the rest! Or maybe join #TrashTuesdays and take 10 minutes to pick up litter while you’re out walking that shelter dog? 

10. Take matters into your own hands

Agreed, this one takes a little more time and effort. But is there a certain topic that’s close to your heart, and are you passionate about making a change? Then why not get started with your own citizen initiative? Gather the signatures you need and put your proposal on the council’s agenda, join a group of like-minded peers, or why not join local politics? Become a member of a local party, help them with the campaigning in your city or municipality, or even get on the list yourself! 

As citizens, we hold more power than we think. We can drastically change and improve our communities and the lives of the people in them if we put our minds to it. So let’s get to work! How are you going to start? 

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