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What is a watchdog?

___A watchdog is an individual or group (generally non-profit) that keeps an eye on a particular entity or a particular element of community concern, and warns members of the community when potential or actual problems arise

___A watchdog may operate on the local, state, federal, or global level, and may deal with any issue or range of issues

___You can decide what kind of watchdog to be by considering:

  • Your resources
  • Your philosophy of activism
  • What or whom you’re watching
  • Whether you have opponents and who they are
  • Your goals
  • Whether you’re the best individual or organization to take action

What are the areas you might choose to monitor?


___Corporations and business


___The environment

___Human rights

___Hate groups

___American freedoms and civil rights

___Public safety

___Consumer affairs

___The general public good

Why act as a watchdog?


___To defend those with little political or economic power, and help them learn how to gain and use that power

___To keep citizens aware of what is happening in their community and their world

___To maintain power in the hands of the community, rather than of those who have money or power or connections

___To prevent bad consequences that could cost the community economically or socially

___To promote social justice and social change

___To maintain democratic ideals

___Simple justice

Who can act as a watchdog?

___Agencies or organizations concerned with a particular issue

___People affected by an issue or condition, or organizations that represent them

___Professional organizations

___Organizations that represent the general public interest

___Agencies, organizations, and individuals concerned with the economic consequences of policies, practices, and actions

___Those who are members of minority groups or represent minority interests, and want to make sure they aren’t discriminated against, and that their concerns aren’t ignored or forgotten

___Those concerned with the maintenance of democratic ideals

When should you act as a watchdog?

___When you’re seeking to institute or change laws or regulations

___When a new project or venture is starting or about to start, and you have doubts about its impact

___When you believe the public interest is threatened

___When an entity or individual – government or a government official, a corporation or industry, a police department, a human service program, etc. – has proven untrustworthy in the past

___When you receive information about actual, planned, or likely harmful or questionable actions or practices

___When democracy is actually or potentially under attack

___When simple justice demands it

How do you act as a watchdog?

___Do your research:

  • Learn everything you need to know to be able to explain and discuss the background and history of the issue(s), situation(s), and entities that you’re concerned with
  • Gather the facts about the current state of the issue, and/or about the current policies and practices of the entities you’re concerned with
  • Build a network and cultivate sources

___Decide what you’re going to do with the information you have:

  • Nothing
  • Go public
  • Use it as leverage
  • Take official action

___Keep up your watchdog stance for the long term