How to make change in your community

By Andrew George, NOWSA Community Impact Intern

Throughout the history of professional sports, athletes have utilized their platform to advocate for social change. Whether it’s Billie Jean King and Venus Williams working to close the gender pay gap in tennis, Maya Moore pausing her career to focus on criminal justice reform and the wrongful conviction of Jonathan Irons, or most recently, Simone Biles being vocal about the importance of mental health.

In the social media era, their voices have the ability to reach billions around the world at the click of a button and affect people’s opinions and actions. There is no question that athlete activism can be an incredible tool in cultivating social equity. While athletes use their large followings to be motivators for change, what we do with that motivation
at the community level is equally important.

Whether or not we realize it, we have our own substantial platforms, from our social media accounts to day-to-day interactions with personal and professional networks. Even small efforts can trickle down and impact a wide audience.

Being mindful of this allows individuals to find their voice and lead with greater authenticity, vulnerability, and compassion.

Andrew volunteering in Selma, AL during a Baldwin Wallace University Alternative Break Service trip.

Many people struggle, however, to harness this power, largely due to the confusion of where to start. Being overwhelmed by topics such as racial and economic equity, mental health, and gender equality is okay, but it’s important to know that having millions of followers on social media or being in the national spotlight is not required to be an advocate.

At the individual level, there are several tangible ways to make a incremental differences that have an exponential impact. Below are three avenues people can take to elevate their voices and make change in their communities.

  1. Educate yourself: Be intentional about acquiring knowledge from reputable sources surrounding issues you are passionate about. Learning about individuals’ experiences, the right language to use, and historical context provides a strong foundation and enables you to more confidently communicate with others. Activities could include attending workshops and webinars, listening to podcasts, starting a book club, etc.

  1. Educate others: Share your new-found knowledge with others. Repost an interesting article on LinkedIn or speak candidly with a friend about your findings. When you recognize someone exercising behavior that either intentionally, or unintentionally, degrades another person or community, gather the courage to speak up. In doing so, approach the situation in a way that seeks to educate, rather than vilify others.

  2. Focus on what you can do locally: Familiarize yourself with organizations in your community and the work they are doing to implement change in a particular area. Don't hesitate to connect with them if you have additional questions. NOWSA’s community resources page is a great place to start to learn about various resources throughout Northeast Ohio.

About andrew george

Andrew George is a senior at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, OH and former Community Impact Intern with the Northeast Ohio Women’s Sports Alliance. As a double major in sport management and sociology, he has had the opportunity to be a part of many diverse experiences that include working at the Super Bowl, coaching athletes with physical and cognitive disabilities, and engaging in nonviolence training in Selma, AL while on a trip learning about civil rights in the U.S. Following graduation in Spring 2022, Andrew hopes to secure a career that uses sport as a platform to empower communities and advance social equity.