You’re new to political organizing. You don’t have the experience or the networks, but you know you want to help somehow. You’re excited about the March 24 day of action that’s coming up, but don’t know where to start. You want to organize a Mobilization Committee, but aren’t sure how. Don’t worry; we’ve all been there. The only way to get good at organizing is to organize; there’s no trick, secret method, or anything like that. The RSM has created a small guide to help you out.
Any action begins with a plan. You should have some idea of what you want to accomplish. What sort of action do you want to organize? What are the necessary steps required to get there? But before any of that, you need to get people together, and that’s the point of a Mobilization Committee. The Mobilization Committee fundamentally is a committee that brings people together to organize an action, in this case the pan-Canadian day of action on March 24. The first goal in pulling together a Mobilization Committee should be to hold a successful first planning meeting, which usually means getting a decent number of people involved, developing a basic plan of action, and assigning responsibility for carrying out the tasks contained in that plan.
Begin by figuring out who you already know that would be interested in organizing a Mobilization Committee. Start with a meeting to plan the launch of your Mobilization Committee. Specific tasks should be assigned to specific people, and one or two of your most dedicated and reliable people should also be tasked with making sure everything is getting done.
In terms of getting a Mobilization Committee started, promotion is generally your most important task. There are a number of ways you can do this kind of outreach:
- Making posters advertising the date, time, location, and purpose of the meeting. These posters should be full-colour if possible, eye-catching and attractive. The RSM has a number of designs that can be modified for this purpose so don’t hesitate to ask for one if needed.
- Putting posters up everywhere on and around campus, including places off-campus where working-class students hang out. Every campus has rules about who can poster, what and where, and those rules are always a little different from place to place so it’s a good idea to find out what those rules are to minimize the chances that all your posters will be taken down and your hard work will go to waste. Often the local student association office will know, so ask them. That said, if it’s impossible to poster without breaking the rules, fuck the rules, do it anyway.
- Small handbills are also nice for face-to-face outreach. These can be sized as 1/4 of a standard piece of paper and should be double-sided. One side should be a smaller version of your poster, with the other giving a brief description of what the Mobilization Committee is and what it aims to accomplish, plus an invitation to the meeting. Hand these out in highly-trafficked hallways on campus, or approach people sitting on benches and tables with them to start a conversation.
- One-on-one conversations with people are your most valuable and important organizing tool. Most people are used to getting a wall of bullshit advertising thrown at them day-in-and-day-out; more often than not, people don’t even notice posters. One-on-one conversations are your chance to show people you’re sincere, have a plan to win, and aren’t full of shit. When you’re talking to people about the Mobilization Committee, try getting them pissed off – not at you, of course, but at the system that leaves them indebted, unemployed, and oppressed – and show them getting mobilized is how they can finally do something about it. Get their names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers for follow-ups and reminders.
- Professors will often allow students to make quick announcements before class. Find out where large classes are held, and where lectures are held that might have students who would be sympathetic to your efforts. Show up before the classes and ask the professor if you can make a quick announcement about a student activist initiative. Have a quick, 2-minute speech prepared (and practiced!) and pass a contact sheet through the class. Stick around until it’s circulated and collect it afterwards, then send a follow-up text or email to the people who signed up.
- Find out what publications are distributed on your campus. Most schools have at least one newspaper, and many faculties or departments will have one as well. See if you can get an announcement of your meeting in the paper, or write a letter to the editor about it.
The meeting should be in at least a semi-private place so that you can focus, but preferably on campus for accessibility. Ask the student association office and/or the Student Life department of the school about booking a lecture hall or study room for your meeting, and if that fails then pick a room on campus you can access freely without having to ask for permission. Worst case scenario, a table in the cafeteria or a common area works just fine.
Generally speaking, people should be given at least one week (ideally two weeks) notice before a meeting. Think about how much time you need to adjust your own schedule; everyone else faces the same challenges. Try and be accommodating to other people’s schedules.
So you’ve done all the promotion you’re capable of, and it’s time for the first meeting itself. First off, many of the people you talk to, even the ones who say they’re interested, won’t come to the meeting. Don’t be discouraged! People are busy; they work, have families, hobbies, etc. . The majority of people will not be able to be political organizers, and that’s alright. What *is* important is that you don’t adopt a self-righteous attitude, looking down at those that don’t show up; that’s a perfect way to isolate yourself. Some new folks will come, and anything at this point is progress. Often times the people who don’t get heavily involved will become part of the base of contacts you can call on for one-off marches, rallies, events, etc.
Be prepared for your first meeting in every way possible. Be there early to set up and greet people. People will show up late, so expect to start about 15 minutes after your scheduled time. Chat with the people who show up on time and try to find out what they’re all about.
When you’re ready to start the meeting, do a quick go-around for people to introduce themselves and maybe say a little about why they want to be involved in a Mobilization Committee. This helps people become comfortable with one another. Then get down to work.
Before the meeting, you’ll want to have an agenda prepared. You’ll want to think about what you hope to accomplish in the short-term (the next weeks) and the medium-term (March 24 actions) and the specific steps to take so you can get there (what actions, what outreach strategies, what messaging, etc). Come up with this plan at the Mobilization Committee meeting.
The people who show up will probably have some ideas about what they want to do, but chances are they won’t have spent as much time developing a whole, cohesive plan. If somebody brings up something clever, integrate it into the plan! If somebody brings up something that’s a little hazy or half-baked, there’s often at least some kernel of truth in it. Your goal as an organizer is to find that kernel and integrate it into your plans. Not everyone has to agree on everything, but everyone should feel as though they had input into the decisions that were made. The best way for people to feel invested in the Mobilization Committee is for them to feel as though they have ownership over it; without that, people will begin to drift away, and will prioritize other things.
At the meeting you should set out the specific tasks that have to be completed – which at first may just be doing more wide-spread promotion for the next Mobilization Committee meeting using the strategies above. All tasks should be assigned to specific people based on what they volunteer for. You should also decide on one or two people who are responsible for coordinating tasks and making sure things are getting done. You should set the next meeting date and location, and get a contact sheet to collect people’s information so you can follow up with them.
From there, a lot of what happens will be determined by the specifics of your campus and the goals you set out for your Mobilization Committee. This basic guide should help you get to a place where you can figure that out. Of course, if you ever feel stuck or lost as to how you should proceed, contact the Revolutionary Student Movement, which has accumulated a fair amount of experience and might be able to point you in the right direction on the challenges you’re facing.
See you in the streets on March 24!