HHow does a community like Homewood, PA tackle lead in the ground that harms children or the proliferation of vacant lots? Khalif Ali, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, a nonpartisan organization that serves as a watchdog against corruption and voter suppression for Pennsylvanians, says it starts with creating civic-minded spaces where people can learn more about the democratic process and unite with others who are going through the same struggles. .

He understood this a long time ago: his drive for social change began when he was a community organizer at Operation Better Block in Homewood, where his job was to form a civic association. He said he realized that “civic associations are really the building blocks of a strong democracy”.

“If you don’t talk to yourself, you can’t start to hold an elected official or a potential candidate accountable for these issues,” Ali says.

He joined Common Cause to address the issues raised by the 2020 election, namely attacks on the electoral process. According to Ali, there are antiquated processes at the polls in his state, “but nothing broad and pervasive enough to cast doubt on the outcome of the election.”

For him, it was crucial to send the message that it is not because you do not like who was elected that you can fight against the results. While Ali has the ear of elected officials, the average voter does not. He is committed to teaching people how to use the tools of democracy.

“I’m in a position where I can meet lawmakers face-to-face or virtually and talk about real issues, but anyone can do that,” Ali says.