For the past month, the nation has sharply focused on a decision about who will lead the country for the next four years.
In that same time, in our voter engagement initiative, we’ve been working with people who, every week, come face to face with decisions in the public sector that have enormous consequences for them. Our job has been to figure out how make it easier for them to make their own connections between decisions they see in front of them, and the decisions that elected officials make.
We recently did a workshop with a group of women in a support group not far from our office who have faced crises such as homelessness and domestic violence. They have many pressing, immediate needs and concerns; an upcoming date in court, a meeting at the housing authority, an appointment at the community health center, and a meeting with a child’s teacher. A lot of challenges and not much patience. One of the women was irritated by our workshop. What could a workshop connected to the election possibly offer them?
But as the workshop went on, she started learning new skills for asking her own questions. She began to look at a range of decisions that affect her, and realized that there’s a whole lot of questions that she needs to be asking: “This can really help me with all the housing problems I got.”
Another participant, when reflecting on what she had learned, asserted clearly that she didn’t want others to “always make decisions for me.”
By the end, she and other women in the group had very strong feelings that they need to have a say in decisions that affect them on a “micro” level where they try to secure housing, health care or education for their kids. More than that, they also named new connections they now see, especially about the need to have a say in the election as well, a big decision that affects them in so many ways.