A participatory newsletter project I started after the 2016 election to encourage and challenge my friends to stay politically and civically engaged for the long haul
I started Last2Weeks less than 10 days after the 2016 election. Like a lot of people, I felt upset, scared, isolated, and mad as hell. I already considered myself to be a pretty informed, civically engaged person, but I knew there was more work to do — more to learn, more to rethink, more to contribute. I also knew that this was going to be a marathon, not a sprint. And I wanted company.
The idea I had was simple (kind of): I would crowdsource my peers’ activism. Every two weeks, I’d send out a simple survey, asking people to share something they’d done, read, or learned in the last two weeks. Then I’d go through the responses and send a digest out to everyone who filled out that round’s survey, “pay to play” style. It was part encouragement, part inspiration, part challenge.
I had no idea what the response would be like, or if anyone would stick around beyond the momentum of the women’s march. But in the first year of Last2Weeks, 50+ people submitted 300+ surveys, containing 200+ actions, 400+ links, and donations to 100+ different organizations.
It’s not by coincidence that I started Last2Weeks the same week I deleted Facebook. I wanted to invest my time and energy in a different kind of community. I invited dozens of friends across the country to join — friends from high school, college, past jobs and lives.
The people who ended up participating aren’t necessarily all my closest friends, but they are kindred spirits. They’re teachers, artists, parents, freelancers, and 9 to 5-ers. They work in government, tech, media, insurance, music, and more. For some, activism was already part of their day job. Other people were wanted to be more engaged, but weren’t quite sure where to start.
“Last2Weeks is a little ray of sunshine that there are other amazing people out there, who are living in the same reality, but finding ways to resist and sustain themselves and their community.” — Meghan
An interactive email list to help you keep the momentum of the resistance moving forward. — Jay
“[It’s] part confessional, part support group, and part conscience.” — Malcolm
The beauty of Last2Weeks is that it meets you where you’re at, then nudges you to do a little more. Some people participate every round, others every few, or less. Sometimes the actions people share are big: organizing fundraisers, knocking on doors, phone banking, volunteering, starting a mentorship program at work. Sometimes it’s making a donation, going to a panel, signing a petition, or having a meaningful conversation with a friend or family member. Sometimes it’s just reading or watching the other things people have shared: books, articles, films, and art, on topics like race, gender, identity, government, and history. People share deep dives, primers, poems, and podcasts. They amplify the work of marginalized voices and communities the rest of the people on list may not be familiar with.
“It has held me accountable and kept me engaged! I have read a lot of interesting articles I might not have and thought more critically about my media intake.” — Marina
“It’s given me lots of resources to make contacting state and local legislation easier and more effective. There’s a lot of people out there making it as easy as possible so there was no reason not to do it and make my voice heard.” -Jen
“I really think last 2 weeks is actually what got me out to vote in last week’s election!” -D
“[I’ve learned] that it is not enough to shout into the echo chamber of social media. Taking meaningful action takes time and is hard and inconvenient, but so is democracy and the fight for social justice and equality. Staying on the sidelines makes you complicit in the status quo.” — Malcolm
I naively worried when I started the newsletter that everyone would share the same things — the same Ta-Nehisi Coates articles, the same protests and petitions, and the same donations to Planned Parenthood and ACLU. Instead, round after round, everyone continues to surprise me with the diversity of actions they take and media they consume. Some have focused on local politics, getting involved with orgs like DSA and New Kings Democrats. Others have doubled down in other areas that matter to them: teaching, criminal justice reform, reproductive health rights, Asian American artist communities. They’ve started public access tvshows, radio shows, and activist organizations. They’ve collaborated on film projects. They’ve talked to their parents about privilege. They’ve called their representatives for the first time.
“It encouraged me to keep on the lookout for things to do, even if they were small. I also really enjoyed seeing how many of the responses from other people involved initiatives they started in their own workplaces or communities. It’s easy to think of activism as something you go out and do or something you sign up for, but I appreciate the reminder not to overlook the people and places I come into contact with every day.” — Stefan
“Last2Weeks has been a nice thing to come back to (and look forward to) in a year where it has been hard to find balance (internally and in the world around me). In weeks that were especially hard, I looked forward to seeing how people were coping, resisting, and coming together. I also found that when I was too busy to do anything other than consume the news, it was nice to be able to share how I had been feeling or what I had been reading with a kindred community.” — S
Two weeks has turned out to be the perfect time increment. A week flies by. A month is too long. Two weeks is long enough to have done something meaty, like volunteer or make headway on a project. It’s also plenty of time to do something small, like read an article or go to an event. Especially in today’s climate, two weeks is enough time for news to break, for there to be things to process and make sense of and act on.
“I didn’t realize how much it was something I looked forward to, as a way to help me process / understand events, until one of my first thoughts after reading about the Las Vegas shooting was — I wish this was a Last2Weeks week.” — Laura
“I love how consistent it’s been even though I’ve been VERY inconsistent in participating. Knowing that it’s going to arrive in my inbox feels like a source of stability and comfort in a time when everything feels unstable.” — Veronica
We’re entering year two of Last2Weeks with a crew of about 25 regular participants, plus a few dozen less-frequent members. Each round, I get feedback from the list so we can make the newsletter better as we go. On the slate for this year: more recommended actions and reading from me, more in-person activities, and recruiting a few more kindred spirits.
Want to join the Last2Weeks newsletter? Subscribe here.
Or, email me at email@example.com if you’re interested in starting your own version of Last2Weeks with your friends, family members, or co-workers. I’m happy to help.
More about me: talisachang.com