College Climate Organizing Toolkit
A guide for university students
ABOUT THIS TRAINING
This training is an introductory guide to organizing climate campaigns at university. This manual was originally published by earthday.org and modified for NooWorld.
This training is a 14 Minute read.
HOW TO LAUNCH A CAMPAIGN
STEP 1: PROBLEM
The first step to any campaign is identifying a problem you want to solve. Perhaps you’ve noticed waste from the way your cafeteria operates. Or maybe you are distressed by fossil fuel emissions and poor energy efficiency standards in campus buildings. Whatever the issue, it is important to define what exactly you want to change before starting a campaign. The narrower the scope of your campaign, the easier it will be to explain the issue to potential supporters, opponents, and other community members.
STEP 2: PROPOSAL
Once you have identified a specific problem in your community, you can work towards crafting a solution to that problem. This may be a solution you’ve seen other schools use on their own campuses, or it may be an idea you had on your own. Regardless of how you come up with your idea, the solution(s) should be straightforward so that it is easy for you and your volunteers to explain it to potential supporters. It should also be backed by research in order to gain legitimacy from your campus community. Researching your proposed solutions ahead of time (through internet searches, interviews with group allies, and conversations with your supporters) also allows you to learn from the experiences of others before finalizing your proposed campaign solution(s).
STEP 3: LEADERSHIP TEAM
Once you have identified a problem and a solution to focus on, you have to assemble your leadership team.
Note: It is easy to fall into the trap of doing everything yourself, especially if it is an issue you are passionate about.
However, campaigns are intended to be shared efforts organized by a team of dedicated organizers. This is because campaigns involve a series of complex activities that require time, expertise, and resources. A campaign also derives power from those who are a part of it. As a result, students who attempt to handle all aspects of a campaign alone will likely find themselves overwhelmed and unable to meet campaign needs. Their efforts will also be less impactful. Drawing from the skills of multiple student leaders, leadership teams are always more powerful, effective, and successful. It is helpful to recruit individuals with different skill sets to your leadership team. That way, there is always someone with the expertise you need to complete the different tasks your campaign will require. Skills you can look for in potential team members include experience with social media, digital design, public speaking, research, and canvassing.
STEP 4: RESOURCE AUDIT
The next step of any campaign is to conduct a “resource audit” with your new leadership team. Every movement needs resources to succeed. Unless you are starting your campus group “from scratch,” you will already have some resources at your disposal. A resource audit will help you and your team get a better understanding of the resources available to you.
STEP 5: RESEARCH
Next, you can use both your leadership team and your resource audit to plan out a research plan. All campaign strategies require some research, but you can divide research topics amongst your team members. Think of campaign research as the foundation from which your campaign will grow. Without a good foundation, you risk the chance of the campaign falling apart. Below are some tips to help you and your team navigate the research process.
DEFINE YOUR RESEARCH GOAL
What are you researching and why? This can also be framed as “What is the main focus of the campaign?"
For example, if you're trying to start a composting program at your college, then the research goal is "Create a successful composting program."
IDENTIFY YOUR DIGITAL RESOURCES
Identify the databases you can access for your research. Look at your school or local library databases. These are often free! Consider using public resources such as Google Scholar.
CREATE AN ACCESSIBLE RESEARCH DOCUMENT
Once you start reading through materials, take detailed notes and make sure to keep track of your sources as you go.
DEVOTE TIME AND EFFORT TO YOUR RESEARCH
Plan how much time to devote to your research. The more research the better, but be sure to set a deadline for research completion. It can be tempting to devote too much time to this phase, but having a deadline will keep you and your team from burning out.
MAKE SUGGESTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS BASED ON RESEARCH
As you collect ideas from your sources, record suggestions, and recommendations for achieving your campaign goal.
PUBLICISE YOUR RESEARCH
A good rule of thumb is that you can measure the influence your research had by the number of people you share it with.
Sharing your research is what gives your research its POWER. Distribute research documents to campaign supporters, prospective allies, and to the student body.
Find cool ways to publicize your research such as creating social media posts or writing a short, easy-to-read blog post. You could even share your findings with an influential college newspaper.
TIPS FOR NOTE-TAKING
Organize your notes for both yourself and for others! One of the easiest ways to organize your notes is using an outline. An outline will help structure the information you find in your research. Notes can be varied. Some notes can be summaries of the big ideas and other notes can be quotes or case studies. It depends on what you need and how you will use the notes. Make sure that your notes make are clear and legible. You never know when you might want to share them so make sure they are readable.
STEP 6: CAMPAIGN STRATEGY
Before you can begin to share your message, recruit supporters, and lobby for change, you need a campaign strategy. A campaign strategy guides your actions and should take into account the resources available to you, as well as the potential obstacles you will encounter along the way. As you work towards developing a campaign strategy, it is important to consider the three components of a campaign: the students who volunteer, the processes you use to volunteer and the structures you volunteer within.
THE STUDENTS WHO VOLUNTEER:
- The leadership team
THE PROCESSES YOU USE TO VOLUNTEER:
- Building relationships: Meeting with key students, faculty, and staff
- Telling stories: Sharing experiences to convince other students of your mission Devising strategies with your team: Planning events and activities to engage supporters and share your message
- Taking action: Gathering signatures, protesting, or earning votes
THE STRUCTURES YOU VOLUNTEER WITHIN:
- Organizations: your student group or network of student organizations
- Time: the timeframe you've given your campaigns, such as a semester or school year
ORGANISING YOUR TEAM
- Hours: Determine how many total hours you want each team member to spend campaigning or engaging the campus.
- Create a Spreadsheet Include days, time, and location.
- Have each person sign up for their delegated hours and remind them the day before and the day of their commitment via text or email.
Praise your team for their hard work! If you have data that shows the progress you've made, share those results with your team.
ENGAGING YOUR COMMUNITY: ACCESSIBILITY
- Make sure you and your supporters visit places with high foot traffic.
- Be sure to approach each table to introduce yourself and the campaign.
- Make it easy for students to engage with you by providing campaign materials and by keeping your pitch as clear and concise as possible.
Incentives should be very cheap; these can include stickers, pencils, pens, pins, raffles, etc. Incentives can be distributed at events to motivate people to engage with you and your campaign.
SPEAK IN CLASSROOMS AND AT EVENTS
- Reach out to professors and ask to speak in their class. Get people excited about the cause.
- Get many organizations to promote.
- Collect emails of students that would like to be on the campaign team. Use social media!
Why building strong relationships with administrators is vital to your success
Administrators have already built relationships and worked with the president, head of finance, and other leaders on campus. They can give you advice on what type of communication has been most successful for student activists in the past. They can also recommend new contacts, saving you valuable time and effort.
You should also ask administrators what steps must be taken in order to properly implement your campaign proposals. Questions can consist of, "What is our timeline for presenting this to the president and student government?" or, "Which administrator can you connect us with next to help us achieve our goal?". They will help you figure out the most realistic timeline and give you information on campus policies, procedures, and expectations. Finally, they can help advocate for you in the meetings you are unable to attend and will serve as the point person for anything related to the campus administration.
As students, it can be difficult to make sure our voices are properly heard. The main goal is to create long-lasting relationships with the staff, faculty, and students at our universities — thus gaining their respect and support.
While emails are good at the beginning, Zoom calls and in-person meetings will be the most successful. In every email you send, determine the next time they can meet and ask a few questions that you hope they can answer at the next meeting. Always remember to thank them after the meeting.
START CONVERSATIONS EARLY
Once research has begun, get in contact. Do not wait until all the research is done and everything is in perfect order. Show that you have started work on the project and want to meet to ask questions to discuss the end goal, timeline, and how they will be able to help you. Student-run campaigns are time-sensitive as your team is only there for four years, so the earlier you start building relationships with key campus stakeholders, the better.
When creating these relationships, be sure to show how excited you are to work with them. The tone of voice you adopt — polite, professional, and friendly — is highly valued. Make them feel appreciated for their work and for agreeing to meet with you.
While your campus is the best place to run a campaign, that is not always possible. Whether you are away from campus because of unforeseen circumstances, study abroad, or for any other reason, you can still act as a valuable member and leader of a campaign!
STEP 7: KICK OFF
After you’ve worked out your strategy, you can formally launch your campaign with a “kick-off” (Ganz 2008:8). This event will serve to introduce your campaign, your organization, and your mission to your community. It may also attract new supporters who can assist you and your team in future campaign efforts.
STEP 8: PEAKS
After the kick-off, your campaign will experience a series of “peaks,” including a larger peak during which a major campaign goal is reached. Following each peak, you should celebrate successes with your leadership team, volunteers, and supporters. Celebrating successes is key in acknowledging your volunteers’ hard work and dedication (Ganz 114).
STEP 9: LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
Leadership development is key in sustaining a campaign’s momentum and building power within an organization. After all, two of the three main goals of a campaign are to “identify, recruit, and develop [student] leaders” and “build a community around those leaders” (Ganz 2008:8). Devoting time and resources to leadership development efforts within your campaign will create competent, experienced organizers who can take on key tasks and build leadership capabilities in others. This is especially helpful if your campaign lasts longer than you had originally hoped. For example, as members of your original leadership team graduate, having a group of supporters who are already familiar with the campaign and are trained in key campaign activities will make the leadership transition more seamless. It also helps to ensure that your efforts succeed even as key strategists and supporters exit the campaign.
STEP 10: RESOLUTION
At the end of the campaign, you should reach a resolution to the problem you aimed to solve in step 1 (Ganz 2008:8). This resolution should be marked by the adoption of your proposal laid out in step 2. As the final step in your campaign, the resolution should also involve a celebration to thank the individuals who joined in campaign efforts.
BEYOND THE CAMPAIGN: MEMBERSHIP TIPS
Ultimately, a valuable member of a campaign is:
- Actively involved
- Proactive in completing tasks and coming up with new ideas for the campaign
- Communicative with leadership Cooperative with other members
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