I took a great trip out to Rutgers on Saturday for their “Practical Guide to Changing the World” conference — a really sharp, really well-conceived, really well-executed daylong event.
If you’re a student activist or a student government type looking to kickstart organizing on your campus, you could do far worse than to follow the “Practical Guide” model. They started with a keynote and Q&A (your humble servant, in this case) over lunch, then broke for four one-hour workshop sessions. There were about a dozen workshops in all, with five slots per hour, so almost all of the workshops were offered twice.
And that was it. A rousing speech, a slate of practical trainings — everything from how to run a meeting to legal rights of demonstrators to using social media in organizing (me again) — and done. Six hours in all, everyone still fresh at the end, very little flakeout at the end of the day. It really was a model of a one-day, campus-based organizing training conference, and if anyone would like to hear more from the folks who put it together — or bring me out to your campus do my thing — just let me know. I’d be happy to hook you up.
But the conference itself, as it turns out, was just the beginning. Afterwards I was invited to tag along to an organizing meeting with Rutgers folks and various organizers from other NJ public campuses, and without giving too much away I can definitely say that spring 2012 is going to be an interesting season for higher ed organizing in the Garden State.
Also, New Jersey students have been in the process of setting up a statewide student association (SSA) for a while now, and they’ve just received a major grant through the United States Student Association to fund a full-time staffer for the next two years. SSAs are a crucial part of the student activist infrastructure in the United States, and this one seems to be off to a great start.
Oh, and that grant? It’s one of three. Similar projects are underway in Michigan and Colorado as well.