After the shocking, emotionally charged election we had in 2016, many people are approaching the New Year with one resolution in mind: become more politically active in 2017. But like many New Year's resolutions, a general one like political involvement can be hard to stick with over the course of the year without a specific plan of action — which is why we've mapped out 12 months worth of ways for you to embrace your political side in 2017.
For every month of the new year, take charge of your political destiny with a different (non-intimidating) step that will inform and involve. Are you ready for the challenge?
January Challenge: Go Beyond Just Watching the Inauguration
Like it or not, the 2017 presidential inauguration is set to happen on Jan. 20. To start off this yearlong challenge, commit to doing more than just watching it on TV. If you disagree with the election, no matter your gender, you can take part in the Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21, which is in protest of the hateful rhetoric circulated during the 2016 election cycle. If you're not in the DC area, you can join a march in another community near you to show solidarity.
And however you feel about the election results, you can invite others to join you in watching the inauguration ceremony and discussing the four years ahead. Start the conversation about your hopes, fears, concerns, and predictions for this new era in Washington. Either way: don't sit stagnant and let the inauguration pass you by — be involved, regardless of political views.
February Challenge: Follow Your Elected Officials on Social Media
This month, make an effort to connect with your elected officials directly. Find out who your elected representatives are, then follow them all on social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram. This is a quick, easy way to become more connected politically, and to hear updates directly from the people who represent you in every level of government.
March Challenge: Educate Yourself About a New Issue
For March, identify a political issue that you could learn more about: for example, climate change, reproductive rights, or the prison system. Make it your goal to dive deep into research on your chosen topic — and make sure that it's coming from a reliable source. Look up multiple sides of the issue to discover why people are for, against, or concerned about the issue. By the end of the month, strive to have a solid, well-backed opinion about the topic that you're comfortable defending with legitimate resources and forms of proof.
April Challenge: Attend a City Council Meeting
While it's easy to get caught up in state and national politics, local government is often what affects your day-to-day life the most. In April, attend a city council meeting for your community, and get to know the people who are calling the shots in your own town. If what you hear concerns you, channel it into motivation for May's challenge.
May Challenge: Phone Your Local Lawmakers About an Issue That Matters to You
It doesn't matter if your chosen issue is something like Planned Parenthood funding or electing a new member of the local school board . . . use your voice during the month of May. Calling lawmakers is the best way to incite real change in government, so put in a phone call (or several) to make your feelings known.
June Challenge: Donate Time or Money to a Cause You're Passionate About
For this Summer month, put your money (or time) where your mouth is: lend real support to an issue that you care about. That might mean making a donation to a group that protects immigrant rights or volunteering to teach kids about the dangers of climate change at local schools. Confused about how to get started? Try using a free service like Volunteer Match to find opportunities near you.
July Challenge: Subscribe to a Daily Newsletter or Newspaper
Increase your daily news intake by signing up for a free daily newsletter or subscribing to a new paper in July. If you're leaning toward a news digest sent to your email every day, we recommend The New York Times Morning Briefing or Mother Jones email updates.
August Challenge: Visit a Preservation Park or Historical Museum
By visiting a state or national park, you're supporting our government's vital effort to preserve the natural beauty and history of this country. It's also an opportunity to see up close how climate change is affecting our planet. If you're unable to make a park trip in August, spend a day at a historical museum — whether it's a huge one like the Smithsonian or a small local museum, you'll be investing your time and money into the preservation of our history.
September Challenge: Attend a Political Event, Rally, or Protest
There are always events for politically minded folks to attend, whether in solidarity or in protest. While you can often find information about political rallies on social media, you can also use resources like Eventful to discover new opportunities to participate politically. Get out there during the month of September!
October Challenge: Run For Office or Encourage Somebody Who You Believe In
Use the month of October to reflect on who which newcomers could best affect change in your political sphere and act on it. If you've got great ideas, the passion and resources to make them happen, and are motivated, run for political office yourself! Or, if you have somebody in your life that possesses these qualities, encourage them to run — bonus points if they're a woman, because we're in desperate need of more women in office.
November Challenge: Vote in the Off-Season Election
The year 2017 might not have a general election, but that doesn't mean there aren't elections happening. Many municipalities will hold local elections, like city council and mayoral races, in November 2017. . . which means you've got the chance to cast your vote. Keep up to date with municipal government updates online and via local news to ensure that you're informed and prepared when the time comes to fill out your ballot.
December Challenge: Engage in Healthy Political Discussion With Loved Ones
The Winter holidays can prove stressful when politics are on the table, but use this December as an opportunity to engage in healthy political dialogue (read: not in Facebook comments) with your loved ones when the opportunity arises. Dive into those reliable sources you discovered back in March, recall the news you read starting in July, and bring your own discoveries from the whole year to the discussion . . . December is the perfect time to see what you've learned over the course of a politically active 2017. Congratulations on making it this far!