What kind of activist are you?

1) Stay at home parent / retired: They often are the strength and the wisdom of the activist movement. At their best they are the ones who keep things together when all seems lost; the ones who can keep us all focused on what must be done. At their worst they neglect their families and themselves and become so fanatical about their cause that their physical and mental health deteriorates.

2) Full-time worker: This is the most common one. This is when your job is not part of your activism. You can get involved in evening events / weekend outings. You have money to donate; a willingness to learn more about the issues. At worst you write a check to the sierra club once a year. At best you build supportive relationship with the local activists in your community. Many full-time workers on rare occasions can even lead campaigns in their “spare” time.

3) Career activists: They often evolve to be the establishment of the movement in that it’s the job they are employed / paid to do. There is often an unspoken division between volunteers and employees. Employees tend to have a lifestyle that allows them to get away from the campaign; whereas volunteers have lifestyles that are often trying to find ways to free up more time to work on the campaign. These contrasting objectives between careerists and volunteers often leads to misunderstandings and unnecessary conflicts.

4) Youth Activism: They bring wildness to the campaign! They also bring a willingness to completely immerse themselves in a campaign. They often take on the identity of the campaign to such an extreme that they “dedicate their lives to it.” At their best they make bold moves that inspire large numbers to support the cause. At their worst they become a credibility risk, or a source of worry because they are viewed as young and knave.

5) Data-gathering activists: These are the ones who are highly skilled at getting a great deal of work done in a very short period of time. They are the activists who lead the litigation and outreach efforts. They also show themselves to be consistently dedicated to the cause year after year. They tend to do more listening and studying and prefer to empower others to lead. But when detailed explanations are needed they’re the ones who have all the answers… At their best they provide long-term persistent challenges to the status quo via well-sorted mountains of information, argumentation, litigation, policy guidance. They are the ones who keep campaigns based more on facts and less on sensation. At their worst they became arm-chair quarterbacks with plenty of opinions but no willingness to take action or support those who know less than them.

6) Business activist: They’re the ones with significant funding to throw around. More often than not they offer the largest amount of long term backing for a campaign. Essentially, there the ones who end up having to pay for the cost of the communities activism. Much like career activists their interest in the campaign is not just a concern about the issues, it’s a conern about how they invest / spend their time and money. At it’s worst business activists call for a ‘balance’ between profit motive vs charitability, and give absolute favoritism to the profit motive. At its best it can feed large scale expansion of social entrepreneurship enterprises.