:: Prepare before you try and organize
So, you want to make a change, make some waves or a few enemies. Well, there are a few things to know before getting started and a couple of things to remember along the way.
I have been organizing around Elon for a few years now and have lessons to share with aspiring activists. I donít mean to tell you what to do, but just tell you what has worked for me in the past and what should be avoided. Here is a course to organizing a campaign at Elon.
For our example purposes, we are going to do something about noisy trucks disrupting conversation on the Acorn Coffee Shop patio.
You must formulate your ideas and organize your colleagues.
A good foundation is absolutely crucial, so we should spend a bit of time thinking about how we want things to play out. Are we going to work with an already active group or start one of our own? Whichever way we decide to go we need something official because we canít get flyers/posters/spaces approved without the signatures from the president and adviser of an Elon organization. A good brainstorming session amongst interested parties is a good way to start. Listen to everyone, make sure they contribute and have a job. If everyone has a responsibility they will stick around, whereas if someone is kept at the fringe theyíll bail never to return.
Twenty people handing out fliers are necessary, but 20 people planning flier content is frustrating; five people are usually enough for crucial decision-making.
How leadership is handled should also be decided early on; voting, consensus and dictatorships are all valid and useful in turn, just make sure the vision is shared and not lost in semantics.
Our imaginary campaign has now decided that we are going to petition the Elon University administration and local government to do something about noise on Williamson Avenue.
What are we going to do about it? I have a rule, those who are not willing to act for change have no right to complain. Itís time to set limits and goals, we might find at the outset that our ideas are well received and instantly implemented, itís possible, but not to be anticipated.
We talk to important deciding bodies about what it is going to take to meet our demands, letís say 1,000 signatures and faculty member interest. Knowing what you need to get the job done is really useful in setting goals.
A thousand signatures may loom daunting, but a few good sessions at a table in Moseley could get you a lot of that and you can always address classes and confront people on the street.
Confronting people on the sidewalk just requires a sales pitch and a bit of courage and gets easier with practice.
Members can ask faculty members for support and feedback. We now, have our signatures and our interested faculty members on board, so we go back to our original administration and government contacts to present our results and wait for change to happen.
It might not be over yet so we need to stay active and push, frequent update e-mails are recommended. It is always helpful to be positive, thereís a win-win situation available and there is no need to butt heads. Thank you notes are a very good idea upon successful completion of a campaign because we want these people on our side for next time.
Finishing up: Our campaign was a resounding success, student and faculty member interest was high and we feel good about what we have accomplished.
Now where do we go from here? Whatever we decide, we do need to stay in contact and reflect on what we have learned, just because everything is paid off in the end does not mean things could not have gone better.
A debriefing session at the end is a good idea to see where people stand and what people learned.
I hope this was helpful; I donít pretend to know everything, but I have found enough things out the hard way to know that a little good advice can make things go a lot smoother.
If you want your new campus movement to succeed, you need to first plan it out, and then take the appropriate steps to ensure success
Columnist: Grady Rose - 03/08/07