In America now, too many of us treat the choices by which we decide our common future as the territory of others. We feel that we don’t know enough to act on issues that concern us, and that our actions will make no difference, our voices will never be heard. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.
— Paul Rogat Loeb
Most Americans don’t believe that they can have a meaningful role in the decision-making of their government. Their voting habits demonstrate this view: according to Federal Election statistics, in the 2000 elections, only 51.3 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, while a mere 36.4 percent took part in 1998 Congressional elections. Sam Daley-Harris, RESULTS’ founder and the author of Reclaiming Our Democracy: Healing the Break between People and Government, has declared a crisis in democracy that will not be solved until ordinary citizens come off the sidelines and assume our role as citizen leaders.
For 20 years, RESULTS has explored methods to transform ordinary, sometimes even resigned, people into citizen activists. RESULTS has succeeded in training citizens and former cynics to use their voices to influence the choices our legislators make. We focus on hunger and poverty because we know that hunger will not be ended until the political will is there to make it a world-wide priority. The methods we have developed for overcoming resignation and making a difference are applicable to all areas of democratic citizenship.
Mark Satin’s New Options newspaper said in 1984, “The strategy of many citizen’s groups has been to convince people that government doesn’t work. The idea is to empower people by making them angry enough to want to take power ‘for themselves.’ But too often this strategy backfires: leads to feelings of powerlessness and despair. And people are easily co-opted when they discover that, hey, this is a democracy. [RESULTS’] approach is the polar opposite. It’s to convince people that government does work, but we’re too ill-informed or fearful — too caught up in negative self-images or lack of self-worth — to make it work. In other words, the onus is on us — rather than our supposedly antagonistic institutions.”
RESULTS Educational Fund provides citizenship training through conference calls, training conferences, and seminars in powerful public speaking, nonpartisan approaches to resolving common problems and concerns, navigating the waters of state and federal governments to make citizen voices heard, and other proven methods of citizen advocacy. We use the media, public forums, and educational meetings to inform the public and encourage citizens to speak out about issues that concern them. Participants become active citizens who voice their opinions with their legislators, and know that they make a difference by doing so. At the same time, such an approach educates legislators about specific issues, and allows them to make policy that reflects the will of their constituencies.
In order to add impact to our regular work with adults, Results Educational Fund works with educators through the RESULTS Educators Network to generate curricula and methods for introducing students to the power of active citizenship.
Apollo Astronaut Rusty Schweickart once said, “We aren’t passengers on spaceship earth, we’re the crew. We aren’t residents on this planet, we’re citizens. The difference in both cases is responsibility.”
RESULTS Educational Fund is committed to developing and promoting best practices in citizen activism to build a mass movement for the end of hunger and the worst aspects of poverty, but the impact of an active citizen does not stop there. RESULTS Educational Fund is committed to citizens having a say in the actions of their government on all issues.