Five Advocacy Actions You Can Do in Ten Minutes or Less
In our fast-paced, digitally connected world, we all seem to have less time but more work. Productivity experts will tell you that you have to focus on your number one priorities, create templates for the work you do over and over again, and break large projects into 10 to 15 minute segments in order to achieve them in a timely manner.
Well, advocacy can definitely be counted as a "large" project. It takes repeat efforts, lots of follow up and follow through, and a lot of persistence and perseverance. So to help make it a bit more manageable, I've put together a brief list of things you can do that will have an impact as long as you keep doing them. This is where the perseverance comes in. You can't just do them once and then forget about them. The best news is that they can be done in 10 minutes or less.
#1: Write a letter to your school district administrator.
You know the value of computer science, but your administrator may not. Even if s/he does, it isn't always at the top of her or his priority list. Your letter should focus on why it is important to have CS in your district, specifically how adding it into the curriculum benefits not only the students but the district as a whole.
Afraid you'll hear your administrator tell you there is no money in the budget for CS? Offer alternative low-cost or no-cost solutions. Here are three to help you get started:
- Recommend setting up a district wide CS club after school. Start small and create the demand for it. Once you have a regular group of students, you can leverage their parents to help you advocate for funding it and building it into the regular school day.
- Host a CS weekend every couple of months. Use Alice or similar software that is easy to use and easy to teach but gets students engaged in creating their own programs.
- Team up with industry people in your area to provide a school-wide assembly that promotes whichever aspect of computer science that particular company focuses on. This is a win-win. They get exposure for their organization and your students get to see cool computer science jobs and outcomes. Not to mention, we all know how much students love getting out of regular classes and going to assemblies!
#2: Write or answer a blog post about the importance of computer science in K-12 education.
Blog posts don't have to be long and they don't have to be brilliant. Pick a topic and write about it. You can write about things like:
- What about funding for CS frustrates you?
- What has someone done recently that ignited your computer science passion?
- Or just answer someone else's blog post.
It is all about taking some time to engage and connect. Reading a blog post and being a shadow person (someone who doesn't comment) doesn't drive up the SEO numbers for that posting. Exposure helps drive advocacy efforts and more people talking about a posting increase exposure. This leads to more people being aware of the problem, which in turn, increases support for the issue, etc. You get the point. Any politician will tell you the squeaky wheel does get the grease in political circles. So go out and squeak!
#3: Network with other CS professionals through your CSTA chapter.
Revolutions aren't usually started by the actions of a single person. When people passionate about a particular subject get together they create an energy that can spread and cause change. You'll find like-minded members at your local CSTA chapter. If you aren't a member, then join. The cost is free! Then reach out to the group and start creating a buzz. It may take a while to pick up momentum, but once you get going you'll be a CS juggernaut and implement the change you are seeking.
No chapter in your area? Grab some CS buddies and look into starting one. You will find more information on what is involved at the bottom of the chapter listing on the CSTA website.
#4. Contact the computer science department chair at a nearby university or college.
Computer science departments need students to stay in business and keep their funding. You are their direct conduit to students. Reach out to them and ask them how you can work together to build interest in and support for computer science in your school or district.
#5: Write a letter to your governor or mayor.
Do your pitch in the first paragraph. Since politicians are bombarded by high demands for their support, you have to catch their (or more likely an aide's) attention in 30 seconds or less. Provide them with one hook that is important to their platform. For example, you could talk about the number of jobs that will need to be outsourced by 2018 if we don't have enough computer science majors to support the growing CS job market. Point out how the impact of the loss of these jobs will affect your city or state. No government official wants to see companies relocate because they can't find qualified workers.
After your hook, ask for a meeting or a call. Tell them what you want to discuss and why. Then provide additional supporting information but be sure to keep your letter to a page (or two at most). You won't be able to state your case in a letter. It just won't get read. It is really about getting that aide to read it and react to it. Your goal is to get that 5-15 minute meeting so you can do your pitch face-to-face.
Don't worry if it doesn't work the first time. Change up the content and write again. Or draft the next letter as a group. Again, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
There are more advocacy actions you can take in under 10 minutes. Those I have mentioned are just a few. In truth, sometimes just getting started is the hardest. Set aside 10 minutes once a week, and you will find that over a course of the year, you will have made a difference.
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