How Do You Take Action After Watching A Documentary? / by Amy DeRosia

CC photo by Paul Dufour

We generate fears while we sit. We overcome them by action. Fear is nature’s way of warning us to get busy.
— Dr. Henry Link

Most of us have been in situations where we hear about something terrible that has happened and think, "Someone should really do something about that!" We'd love to get involved but don't know where to start.

A documentary often serves as an incredible call to action for an issue. These stories make you want to get to work. But they can be frustrating because you don't know what to do about a problem. 

I've seen two excellent documentaries recently- Making a Murderer and Shape of Shreveport.  In Making a Murderer, I learned about corruption and how unfair the justice system can be for the average American.  Shape of Shreveport taught me about our local history and how much potential we have to evolve as a city.

Both of these stories were told extremely well but left me wondering, "What can a normal citizen do after watching this?"

Getting involved with the efforts in place is an important way to create change, but this can be a slow process with petitions, meetings, paperwork, and lots of infrastructure.  We can create our own grass-roots movements but might have trouble gaining the support we need to make any sort of sustainable change. 

We, ideally, find a way to use our full scope of influence to make an impact on the world around us -using our interests, skills, and resources.  Some people find creative ways to do this, like Catherine Bracy who is a coder and an activist.

And so what you see in all three of these places, in Honolulu and in Oakland and in Mexico City, are the elements that are at the core of civic hacking. It’s citizens who saw things that could be working better and they decided to fix them, and through that work, they’re creating a 21st-century ecosystem of participation. They’re creating a whole new set of ways for citizens to be involved, besides voting or signing a petition or protesting. They can actually build government.
— Catherine Bracy

We can participate in initiatives about causes we are passionate about AND find our own problems to solve that we don't need permission to fix.

Keeping Your Own Side of the Street Clean

I don't have easy answers about how to solve  complex problems happening around us. But I do know that we can choose to focus on what we have control over. When we do this consistently, we are too busy to worry about what anyone else is or isn't doing.

Here's an exercise to help you take action

  1. Get a piece of paper and write down everything you wish you could change in the world/your life for a good 10-15 min.
  2. Cross out all the things you have no control over.
  3. Get to work on what's left.


What are some steps you've taken to help solve big problems?