It has been a little over a week since I started being part ofthe Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative here in University of Nebraska- Omaha where our theme focus is on Civic Engagement. In the last five years, civic engagement has been of great importance to me because of the individuals, groups, organizatons and communities I have met who have done inspiring and effective efforts to be involved and engaged in their advocacies.
As we gather from different countries, diversed culture, various advocacies and a wide range of initiatives, I have learned from my co fellows that one of the things that unite us is the common desire to make a difference and impact positive change in our communities, countries and the world. This learning have been the highlight of my first week in UNO so much so that I have spent the week understanding from the classes, visits, and non profits panel, what it means to make a difference, why is it important and what do we need to learn to start making it.
1. Learn what it means to be a leader and be one.
On our first week with in UNO, we had our classes on defining civic engagement and leadership with Dr. McNamara and Dr. Landow. The classes gave us a deeper understanding of leadership and how it is essential in our desire to be engaged in our communities.
2. Know your advocacy and what you are passionate about.
We have learned that challenges around the world are broad, frustrating, and complicated that more often than not, it makes us confuse and overwhelmed where to start. It is important then to ask ourselves, when we walk down the street, listen to the news, read the paper, browse our social media pages, what makes us angry? what gets into our nerves and what churns our gut? or if not, what inspires us? what motivates us? and what makes us sit at the tip of the chair when we talked about it? This could be a start of knowing what we are passionate about and what we want to stand up for.
3. Understand your advocacy and what needs to be changed.
Whether we discover that our advocacy is standing up for our environment and climate change, or for people to receive quality healthcare, or for women who are not given equal rights, it is important that we work on having an understanding of these issues and challenges in our community, in our country and even the globe. The more that we can understand, the more that we will be able to find what needs to be changed, what we can change, and how we can start creating that change.
4. Answer your Ws.
College Impossible is one of the non profits working in Omaha whose advocacy is on youth development and education. There is probably a wide range of challenges involved with the youth in Omaha but one of the things that enabled College Impossible to be effective in making a difference in the youth and education in Omaha is that they have a rooteded underastanding of their Ws. They know what challenge they need to address; what their goals are; who they will be serving; where they will be serving; and when they can serve these youth.
5. Develop your plan of action.
When your Ws are clear to you, which means you know what sector you will be focusing on, what the challenge is and what needs to be changed, who are affected and who you should be serving, where is the change needed and where can you start, when can you start, how long does it need and how long does it take to achieve such change, you can be ready to start developing your plan of action which answers another question, the how?
6. Identify what resources you need and how to mobilize them.
Connections is a non profit organization in Omaha serving children with mental health conditions and providing services to help each child achieve his/ her fullest potential. An organization that is still young in the world of non profits. Start ups’ biggest challenges involves mobilizing resources to run its projects and programs whether human or funding resources. Connections worked with a larger organization called Project Harmony and have since then been working on efforts to mobilize and raise resources to continue its services including applying for grants, community support and fundrasing events.
7. Build strong partnerships and collaborate.
Mosaic works in Omaha and other places across the globe which has been made possible by their strong partnerships. Mosaic works with other organizations that support similar advocacies and serve more people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for them to live a full life. In stading up for our advoacies and implementing potential solutions to them, it is important to know what other organizations might be doing similar projects and programs that you can collaborate with or work together in serving more communities. College Impossible whose focus is on coaching low income students graduate college might not be able to directly serve the youth who are going through shelter problems but can collaborate with Youth Emergency Services (YES) who provides such services Omaha.
8. Monitor your progress and tell your stories.
In the Leadership Non Profits Panel, Girl Inc. has always been highlighted by other organizations for being effective in sharing their progress and telling their stories to people. They have found this significant in making sure that people are aware of where their organization is and having clear outcomes on where they are in terms of achieveing their goals. Girls Inc. believe in having evidence- based and research- based initiatives in making sure that positive change and impact is visible in their efforts. The more people are able to see these, the more support and awareness will be raised on their advocacies.
9. Stay on track but be flexible and keep your commitment.
Making a difference means being able to impact positive change that may not always happen in a short time, moreso when creating lasting solutions. This has been what Connections had faced as a start up organization. Along the way, they have realized that their plan of action and approach needs to changed in order to be able to have effective solutions. They have made themselves open and flexible to what other people’s view are but also able to be firm on what they see is for the best interest of who they have committed to serve.
10. Evaluate your efforts and share your success.
Girls Inc., College Impossible, Mosaic, Connections with Project Harmony, and Youth Emergency Services are organizations that are effective at what they do and are able to make a difference of the lives of the people they are serving and their communities through their efforts. When implementing projects it is important to consistently g back to what the goals are and whether they have been effective in bringing about the change. Implementing projects is not just about being able to complete the plan of action but also about ensuring that we have served and bring about positive impact to our communities.
As we work on our action plans which is vital as we complete these institute, may the leaders and organizations be part of our inspiration and motivation in developing our projects in the hope of making a difference to our communities. As we continue to learn the rest of the week, may they have paved the way for us to think about our advocacies and how we can start doing them.