People First members and chapters face many issues and it is sometimes difficult to know which ones to choose to work on.  The following steps have helped others through the process of identifying an issue to work on and coming up with an action plan. The steps are part of a process called organizing for change which was developed by the Massachusetts Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities.

Step 1: Make a List of Things that Make You Angry

 Anger can be used in helpful ways to bring about change. The first step in organizing for change is to make a list of things that make you angry. Ask the members of your chapter questions to get people thinking about the things that make them angry and what they do to deal with their anger. These questions can include: 

        How many of you remember when you were last angry?

        How many of you were angry about something that happened to you because you were disabled?

        How many of you kept your anger inside of you? How many of you did something about being angry?

        What did you do? 

These kinds of questions are very helpful to ask yourself as you learn to focus your anger. Focusing your anger means that you understand where it is coming from and how and why you feel it. 

Step 2: Turn Your Anger Into Issues

The next step is to turn your list of things that make you angry into a list of issues.  An issue is a problem that can be solved by working together.  For example, many people are angry because they feel like they are treated like children.  The issue, or problem, is that many people donít think that people with disabilities are adults and treat them like children.  Once you have identified the issues, you are ready to prioritize them.

 Step 3: Identify the Issues to work on 

There is no way to change all problems at once even if you could identify them all. It is therefore necessary to list the issues and choose one or two issues to work on. Here are several things to think about as you make the list: 

In choosing an issue, it is important to bring power to the people. Power is the ability to get things done and therefore the issue that you choose to work on must be something that can be done by the people. People First members know the issues and needs that they have better than anyone else.

It is also important to remember that it takes time to clearly and understandably identify the issues. The process of identifying issues is very important because it can be used to involve all of the members and can make the difference between choosing an issue that brings power to people or choosing an issue that defeats people. 

Once the issues have been identified and prioritized, you can decide on a plan of action to reach your goal. 

Step 4: Decide on a Plan of Action to Reach Your Goal 

To reach your goals, you need a plan of action. A plan of action is a list of the specific things you can do to address the issue and reach your goal. A plan of action is a list of the specific things you will do to bring about change for the better.

  A plan of action has two parts: 

 Here is an example of a plan of action for an issue. 

Let's say your issue is transportation, and your goal is to get accessible buses for your community. 


Get the facts
Learn all you can about the buses, how many people could use the buses, what times of day they would use the buses, who makes the decisions about the buses, who controls the money for buses, etc.

Get support from others
Get support from others, such as other self-advocacy groups, churches, businesses, agencies that work with people with disabilities, public citizen support, and, if necessary, support from the city or county council, state legislators and other elected officials, unions, and groups outside your city or state.


Tactics are also very important. Some tactics are safe and easy to do, and some tactics are risky and harder to do. For example, writing someone a letter is usually easier than a face to face meeting. It is usually best to start with a safe and easier tactic and build to a riskier and harder tactic. This is called the Escalator Principle. 

Some tactics in our example might include:

It is important to make sure everyone understands and agrees on your strategies and tactics before  you put your plan into action. You can always change your tactics as you go along.

Step 5: Put Your Plan Into Action

 It is important to go through all of the steps before you put your plan into action. When you go through all of these steps, you will have a better chance at resolving the issue. Remember to start with small and winnable issues and build to bigger issues. 

It is also important to remember that sometimes the issues you are working on wonít get resolved the way you want them too. This is because it is hard to change systems. But working on issues is just as important as resolving them. When you put your plan of action to work, you feel good about yourself because you are organizing for change and working together to get things done. A good issue and a good plan of action can make a stronger chapter.

People First of Oregon