From base building to developing leaders
We walk you through how to use on-campus organizing to identify your constituency, build your base, and provide your members an opportunity to develop as leaders.
Decide what issue you want to address.
Before you start to organize your group, establish what issue you’ll be addressing. Approach this as you would a research question or a thesis statement—it shouldn’t be too broad or too specific. For example, homelessness is an important issue, but addressing every aspect of homelessness would be an impossible task for any organizer. At the same time, just trying to provide food to people who are homeless is too specific as it limits the scope of work. A potential sweet spot without being too vague or too particular could be something like “LGBTQ+ youth homelessness.” There are several (but not countless) ways to address LGBTQ+ youth homelessness while still relating these unique problems to the larger structural issue of homelessness.
By addressing a specific (but not too specific) issue that falls under a larger structural problem, you’ll be able to address a wide variety of issues your constituency faces and provide ways for your group members to develop as activists and leaders.
Define your constituency.
In terms of organizing, the people affected by the issue you are addressing make up your constituency (also called your base). These are the people you should reach out to whenever you are organizing actions and events to bring attention to your issue.
It is extremely important that you be as specific as possible when identifying your constituency. You want to make sure that the constituents are directly or somewhat at risk of facing the issue you are organizing around. Allies who want to help are important with organizing even if they are not personally affected by the issues. However, you are trying to encourage the people in your constituency to become leaders, because they are the ones who actually face the issues.
Help constituents become leaders.
Once you have established your constituency, you want them to become active participants in your organizing efforts. A good rule of thumb is that if anyone comes to one of your events, they are automatically an active member for one full year. Events can be meetings, demonstrations, or practically any activity you can think of that relates to your organizing efforts and allows people within your constituency to get more involved.
The more events active members attend, the more invested they will be in your organizing efforts. Remember that everyone has unique qualities and leadership skills that they can apply, discover, and develop, and these events provide key opportunities for your active members to figure out how to exercise those qualities and skills to benefit the organization.
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