For many years, exercising your democratic right to vote felt enough to ensure a strong and more perfect union. After the 2016 Presidential election, many felt more was required, but what? Voting in a presidential election seemed akin to being a High Holiday Jew, or a Christmas and Easter Christian, someone who attends the big events, but doesn’t practice much outside the voting booth.

Many of us grew up on idealistic musicals including How to Succeed Without Really Trying. We knew there was a proverbial corporate ladder we could choose to climb with the Chairman of the Board being the top rung.  We also grew up on Sunday School tales of Jacob’s Ladder connecting heaven to earth. We believe in climbing higher. So if ladders are a metaphor for the climb, could there be one for democracy?

We took a shot at creating one here at LittleHinges. It presumes citizenship, which some are born into and others work toward achieving. It recognizes that some rungs may be skipped, and not everyone will aspire past a certain rung. It assumes that regardless of label, the rungs are not as important as knowing where you are on the ladder, and which rung may be next for you. Finally, it assumes that staying put on one rung forever is likely not the best way to grow as a citizen, or help democracy grow.

Here are the rungs from low to high:

  1. Study  (History, Social Studies, Civics, Political Science, Law, etc.)
  2. Stay Current (Read, Watch, Listen to current events)
  3. Participate (Petition, Lobby, Volunteer, Write to Legislators)
  4. Vote (Register, Vote in various elections)
  5. Donate (Put your Money on the Line)
  6. Teach (History, Critical Thinking, Debate, Political Science, Law, etc.)
  7. Practice (Civil Rights, Journalism, Law, etc.)
  8. Serve (in Office, on the Bench, in the Military)
  9. Put Your Body on the Line

LittleHingesUSA was started to help identify ways more of us could tap into our extra 20% and increase civic engagement. We’ll continue to explore marches, petition drives, donations to causes and other ways to rise from an arm chair citizen to higher rungs on the ladder. We hope the ladder helps you consider ways to increase your own civic participation and invite you to comment on rungs we may have missed, or how you might reorder them.