We have talked at length about the problem of money in politics. We now want to turn to next steps. Your job is to work with your peers through a three-phase program: (1) organize and educate a core group of your peers, (2) develop and run a series of campaigns designed to raise awareness on campus, and (3) activate people to move off-campus to work with community members at a local, state, and federal level on initiatives to deepen democracy.
The next three modules will help you generate some ideas for great organizing. The material is from these two handbooks, and it is well worth it to go to them and browse for a wealth of information on organizing.
1. The Organizing Guide by the Center For Campus Organizing
2. The Organizing Guide by Student Environmental Action Committee
We have purposely not developed a Democracy Matters manual because we believe that you cannot become a good organizer by following a manual. Good organizers develop their own skills, their own voices, and their own styles.
But there are lots of “tricks” and “helpful tools” to organizing that these excerpts can help with. And also your weekly conversations with Democracy Matters staff are an important way to think out loud about what you are doing and to get feedback.
A) What are the initial steps for building a base on your campus? Starting a Democracy Matters chapter requires recruiting a core group of students and educating them on the issues. The best way to do this is to recruit a few people (2-3) to be launchers and then, with them, recruit other students who will form your core group.
Start by reading the following pieces:
1. “How to Start a Group” in Campus Organizing Guide for Peace and Justice Groups
2. “Initial Planning Outreach and Kick-off Meeting” pages (pages 11-12) in the Student Environmental Action Committee Organizing Guide.
Note: For the SEAC guide, you can only pull up one page. For example: you have to pull up page 14. Then go back to the index and pull up page 15.
II: Understanding Your Campus
What does the political landscape look like at your school?
How is your school organized? What other activist groups are on campus? How are other groups organized? Who are the campus leaders? How might you start to work with them (what sorts of resources do they have)?
What is the culture of your school? Who joins groups? Who gets left out who might join a group under the right sort of circumstances? Where do groups meet? How do other groups recruit students? How well does it work? Where does it fall short?
What is the formal structure of student life? Is there a student activities office? How is student government organized? Is there a student government office that can help you answer questions about recruiting students and becoming a formal organization?
III: Finding Launchers
You need to locate a small group of 2-3 people who will help you launch. You can do this in a variety of ways: ask some friends, speak/recruit at a meeting of a sympathetic campus group, or identify a few campus leaders and recruit them (ideally, these should be people whom you know and trust). Use campus activity fairs to recruit new people.
IV: Planning Your Launch Meeting
You need to develop some basic ideas for running campaigns to recruit people to your launch meeting. Your goal is to let as many people as possible know about the launching of this national organization on your campus. This means more than posters (though they can be effective). You should also write an article in school newspaper (or letter to the editor); speak at meeting of other groups; talk in dorms (check with RA’s about opportunities); speak in classes; table with information about DM and about your launch meeting; and lots of other creative ideas you can think up (see the next module for more ideas).
Next – Module #6: Running a Meeting