Do Helpful Things

Create An Outbreak of Humanity

This is one of 15 tools for doing helpful things and one of 5-parts of the Shift the Country strategy.  Help grow this shift at Patreon or on GoFundMe.

Overview Blurb

There are zillions of ways to get involved.  People are already involved in political action + volunteering.  We’re pushing to ramp that up like a thousand-fold.  The framework at Shift the Country is a roadmap to help people and groups figure out where they can plug in.  Everything here is designed for flexibility, adaptability, and scalability.  We’ve identified 10 structural areas for action anywhere to help point to functional areas of society that will need support, more work, and transformation through this disruption.  We’ve identified 15 tools for doing helpful things to get into more ideas and specifics for people and groups to take action.

Any person, group, alliance, organization, business or ad-hoc team can take pieces of any of this that resonate, combine them, mix them up, or come up with new stuff.  People can find existing initiatives or efforts, get involved with those, and expand them where needed.  Thousands of groups have been working for years on the wicked problems facing this country – all of which will be intensified in the next few months (things like food insecurity, housing access, economic equity, and law enforcement and justice system change).  More volunteers are already needed due to the pandemic.  People can find gaps that aren’t being addressed by other groups, and create something new.  There is digital activism, too.  Every person can assess their own unique skills, knowledge, capabilities, availability, situation, resources, and risk and figure out how to get involved.  Hundreds of thousands of us doing helpful things can make real shift happen in our everyday lives, help keep more of us alive, help us get through this, and also help us make transformation.  A groundswell of people helping people is inspiring, it helps us counter disengagement due to trauma, and it helps us power through shock and trauma together.  Plus, an actively engaged majority can better push back tyranny, power grabs, lawlessness, and oligarchy (more here).

This tool is part of the 5-part Shift the Country strategy.

How To Do Helpful Things

This tool is a little bit meta given that so much of the Shift the Country approach is actually about doing helpful things and creating an outbreak of humanity.  But, it helps to have specifics, and the tools are where we do that... so here we are. 

So how do you do that?  Do helpful things?  Engage somehow?  Get involved?

First of all, no one person can engage with it all.  We need all the people doing all the things.  Or at least a whole lot of the people doing a freaking ton of things. 

If we can get a whole heck of a lot of people each out doing something, we cover more ground.  Plus, all of that activity helps raise a ruckus that we can spread and amplify

So from a tool perspective, deciding to do at least one helpful thing is step 1.  Making the decision is a good starting point, and you can work out from there.

Second, you have to find how to do helpful things in a way that works for you.  It may be a unique thing that resonates for you.  Like what Lucy broadcasts to everyone at the end of The LEGO Movie: 

"All of you have the ability inside of you to be a ground-breaker.  And I mean literally - break the ground!  Peel up the pieces!  Tear apart your walls!  Build things only you can build.  Defend yourselves.  We need to fight!"

What does that mean?  It's kind of a combination.  One part of it is that you have to figure out what you can bring to the table.  Your skills, your resources, your availability, your time, your experience, your resilience, your supplies or equipment, your passion, your knowledge, or whatever.  You might find a combination of things that you can apply, too - like your knowledge plus your skills.  (We do coaching in this area if you want to dig deeper than what you can find on the website).

But what you do doesn't have to be unique necessarily.  It's important to point out that it could, be, though.  You might need to invent something.  This Shift the Country work right here is invented for this moment, created from unique knowledge and skills, and the sheer grit of persistence.

Doing helpful things can be as basic as looking after your neighbor, checking in on people stuck at home, or helping out with something no one else seems to be handling. 

In a crisis, there's always something that needs doing.  The principles behind the work here are connection, community, resilience, and problem-solving.  Those are great starting points for figuring out what you can do that's helpful.

Find a place to plug into.  A place in which you can bring and apply the things you bring to the table.  To include just you.  Yourself. 

To get more ideas, check out the 15 tools for doing helpful things.  Any of those are good starting points for figuring out the kinds of things that need to be done.

Or look at the 10 structural areas for action anywhere. to give you a sense for the kinds of things you can look for to get engaged in.  Those are areas likely to need the most attention given the unfolding chaos before us in late 2020 and early 2021.  They are designed to help us with the mission:  to hold civil society and institutions together, to help people help each other through several crises happening at once, to get people engaged in doing all of that, and to make transformation along the way.

There's a whole framework here for how the Shift the Country approach is set up, for more ideas.

Don't overthink it.  Find something that works for you.  Do it.  Keep at it.  Or find something else.  Do that, too.  Or separately.  Or in addition to what you're already doing.

Keep yourself at a stable operational level.  That's a fancy way of saying that you need to stay functional for the long term, here.  This is more than a marathon.  It's the biggest challenge this country has experienced in 150 years.  It's not going to be over fast.  Pace yourself.  As they say on the airplane, put your own oxygen mask on first.  You literally cannot help others if you yourself can't breathe. 

Don't deplete your resilience.  Resilience is our ability to bounce back when something unexpected hits.  Resilience is something we can build and increase and invest in, but it's also something we use and deplete when we're going through crisis and chaos.  Keep an eye on your own resilience, and in various areas - emotional, health, food, finances, family, friends, etc.  Recognize when you're stretched too thin, and cut back on the engagement until you can build it back up.

Don't activist-shame - and try not to be pressured by it, either.  We all have to find a path that works for us, that uses what we bring, and that fits with our own life challenges. 

No one else knows your challenges, risks, panic level, family situation, financial situation, work situation, or any other number of things that impact your ability to engage with things.  You don't know their situation, either.  We'll be better getting through this if we're able to meet each other where we are.  Yes it's urgent and we all want everyone doing all the things... but pressuring people to help when they can't or shouldn't is super counterproductive.  Plus it definitely does not meet the spirit of helping each other through and being supportive.

Raise an absolute ruckus if it fits what you're engaging in.  Bring attention to it.  Create spectacle.  Make a fuss.  Make it clear that you and maybe others are doing the things - whatever they are.  Invite others if that fits. 

Work your social networks to spread that ruckus if it applies.  Make a fuss.  Tell everyone you know.  Get them engaged, too, in doing helpful things.  Get that shift to spiral.  Create tipping points - in the real world, or online.  If you're in tight or small social networks in the real world, spread information by word of mouth (in pandemic-safe ways) or however gossip moves where you are.  Tons of ways to spread ruckus online, too.

Find a gap and fill it.  Do your own thing, or get a team together for it.  Make something up. 

That's what this work here at Shift the Country is - it's filling a gap that's not addressed elsewhere.  Here's another example... check out Sara Anne Willette on Facebook, who is voluntarily tracking Iowa's COVID-19 situation as the state, local school districts, and others are either obscuring information or doing a questionable job of tracking.  A similar effort has evolved in Florida.  People just finding something that needs to be done - and doing it.


This is a random list of examples of people doing helpful things.

As we get stories via our contact page, we'll pass some of those along, too.  Hopefully this gets so huge that we can't keep up with it.  A phenomenon is the plan.

  • Find out what's going on with public health where you live - especially if it's totally out of line with appropriate public health guidance.  Figure out who has authority and jurisdiction over what.  Leverage federalismRaise a ruckus.  Write letters to the editor.  Get media coverage of concerns through remote or outside interviews.  Write emails to elected officials.  Set up meetings.  Tell the stories of what people are dealing with because public health guidance or requirements are insufficient.  Demand changes. Spread the ruckus far and wide.
  • Check your local newspaper, church sources, or other spots for volunteer opportunities, and get involved if it's a fit.  Especially if it's a critical area helping people survive - helping with access to food or housing.  The 10 structural areas for action anywhere may help narrow down your volunteer area focus.
  • Run for office, or help someone run who is.
  • Use any of the 15 tools for doing helpful things, as one place to get started in figuring how to you can get engaged.  Get a group together - or an alliance of different groups - and see what you can do with one or several of the tools.
  • Take your existing volunteer group and apply the framework here to work that needs to be done urgently over the next weeks and months to help with critical and priority issues in your community.  This could be anything from a church group to a knitting group.  See if members are interested in a mission-shift for the winter as we get through the crises ahead of us.
  • Find ways to do digital activism.  There are meme-development and message-development activist groups that help spread and also counter disinformation.  This is also a way to take existing online groups and do more with them.
  • Fight misinformation and disinformation by using media literacy and critical thinking where you have the patience to do so and to engage with people.  There are a ton of ways to do this.  Some are as simple as flagging troublesome social media accounts or posts.  Or verifying information as reliable from multiple sources prior to sharing it.  Other options are more complex, and there are groups and initiatives working on digital activism strategies.  We'll be ramping up digital activism operations here, too, as we get funded.  It's on our sign-up list.
  • Get to know your neighbors.  Say hi.  Be friendly.  Build relationships.  Check on people in safe ways, especially in tricky situations, bad weather, an outbreak, or if you know they do not have people looking after them. 
  • Look into building neighborhood resilience in more formalized ways, to help with the various structural areas or just to help people help each other through.
  • Support other humans working to survive this.  Getting through the ubiquitous, persistent trauma of the pandemic, other disasters, the government failing to serve its citizens, elected officials actively making it difficult to survive, etc. all at the same time is is no small feat.  Help people keep their wits about them.  We'll likely need to take turns.  The crises are everywhere.  Connection and community will be invaluable.
  • Do things that can build build community resilience in some way.  As system interruptions and failures cascade into each other, the most resilient communities will have a better shot of making through this and having a more functional society on the other side.
  • If you're in an area with an election happening soon, find out who's doing what to help with local elections, poll-watching, volunteering at the polls, and other things that need doing to get involved.  The local Democratic party committee is a good place to start.  Your local county, parish, or tribal voting entity should have volunteer opportunities, too.  Other activist groups will also have activities.


The list keeps going.  It's as long as humanity is complicated.  We can just figure out how to be helpful.  You can just make it up.  Any of us can.

We can also raise a ruckus about whatever it is we do decide to help with, and spread that ruckus far and wide.   We can totally create something like a phenomenon.

Good luck.  Be safe doing it.  Light it up.  And try not to get dead.


LINKS.  || Shift the Country || I'm In! Sign Me Up || How Can I Support All This Shift? || 15 Tools For Doing Helpful Things || 10 Structural Areas For Action Anywhere || Printable Shift the Country Framework || FB || Twitter || Videos & Broadcasts || YouTube || Workshops & Scheduled Livestreams ||

MORE RELATED STUFF IS BELOW.  PATREON and GOFUNDME support help us make more shift happen faster.  Tagged resources below have more examples & stories for this tool.  This framework here has flexible ways to use the 15 tools and to mix + match them with the 10 structural areas.  Help us share this stuff everywhere with everyone you know & totally raise an absolute ruckus.  Thank you.  Good luck.

tool - do helpful things
VIDEO: Powering Through Upcoming Chaos & Loss

The world between now & the inauguration in the US is going to be like nothing we've ever seen. It's going to take everything we've got to get through it. This is a bit of how to do that. 9/25/20.