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Book Review:
Becoming a Citizen Activist: Stories, Strategies & Advice for Changing Our World

HistoryLink.org Essay 11203 • Printer-Friendly Format

By Nick Licata

Hardcover, 224 pages
Additional reading list
Sasquatch Books, 2016
ISBN 978-1-63217-044-6

In his book Becoming a Citizen Activist: Stories, Strategies & Advice for Changing Our World, political activist and former Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata provides a mix of advice, knowledge, and experience that any future citizen activist can use to campaign for a cause. Whether it's explaining the skills and tactics that activists will need to know and use while promoting their goals or presenting examples of successful citizen-led campaigns for social change, Licata effectively teaches his audience how, as ordinary citizens, they can "change the world."

Reading through the information and examples that Licata presents, the overall theme of the book is very evident: the power that a citizen has in a democratic society. Licata tells his audience that "change begins with you." In order for citizens to start or help promote these social changes in society, Licata explains, "You just have to be aware of your surroundings and of the opportunities to improve your life and those of others."

The power of ordinary citizens campaigning for issues and causes is very apparent in the examples of successful movements that Licata includes throughout the book. In nearly every example, Licata highlights the fact that ordinary citizens who were concerned about an issue or interested in improving a part of society were behind the efforts to begin movements that campaigned for these causes. Whether it was women or LGBT groups pushing the Seattle City Council to pass anti-discrimination legislation during the 1970s and 1980s, activists demanding more public oversight of complaints about police behavior in the 1990s, or more recent campaigns by fast-food workers in Seattle for a citywide ordinance that would enforce an increase in the mandatory minimum wage, Licata shows that citizens started and led these campaigns and movements for change.

Licata also advises readers about skills and tactics that will help them successfully organize and campaign for their causes, such as how activists can interact with politicians in order to gain their support and different ways to research and gather data and information that could be used to support a campaign or movement. Some of Licata's more interesting advice includes comparing the advantages and drawbacks of different forms of media that citizen activists can use to inform the public about campaigns and a discussion about how to effectively protest for their causes.

One of the more important discussions Licata includes is about the need for activists to listen to people and groups who might have concerns or be opposed to their campaign. Licata explains that by hearing from potential opponents, proponents of a movement can learn better ways to reach out to a skeptical audience and gain support for their cause while also working to find common solutions that will please both sides of the debate. This skill might be the most important for a citizen activist to use, especially at a time where it seems nearly every debate over a social or political issue turns into a screaming match.

This book is highly recommended, in particular for anyone interested in starting or helping out with a campaign or movement to change and improve society but unsure where to start.

By Thomas Parker, March 28, 2016

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Becoming a Citizen Activist: Stories, Strategies & Advice for Changing Our World by Nick Licata

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