Build a Local Chapter

Local Roles

This section goes through local roles that you can create in your Student Action chapter to help set up your campaign and give people meaningful work to take ownership over. However, it may not be practical to organize a campus meeting over the summer. Feel free to skip straight to action steps if it’s the summer and you do not have a group to work with yet. If you do think it makes sense to start by planning a meeting, get in touch at studentactiontoolkit@gmail.com and we’ll provide you with a meeting agenda and other support you may need.

Roles:

At the first meeting, everyone chooses and commits to some kind of role. Every member of the group’s time and views are important to win free higher education, and this should ideally be reflected in shared responsibility for the group. The roles suggested below are one of many ways that a group could divide up responsibility, and emerging chapters are encouraged to be creative in how they divide up the different responsibilities within their group, so long as one or two people aren’t doing everything.

No matter how an emerging chapter decides to structure their roles, no role should ever be working in a vacuum. Just because someone is bottom lining something doesn’t mean they should do it all themselves, in fact they should often delegate these tasks. Delegating responsibility to and investing in newer members will allow for the chapter to grow sustainably.

Suggested roles for emerging chapters:

  1. Vibes and Support: This person’s job is to bottom line checking in with the members of the chapter to make sure they are doing okay and feel good about the work that they are doing. Their role could also involve planning or creating low stress and fun spaces, such as parties, hangouts, or social time before or after meetings. In meetings they are responsible for giving feedback specific to the general emotional tone of the meeting. Although they bottom line check ins, they are not in charge of anyone else’s general emotional wellbeing. This is a difficult and rewarding role which requires strong interpersonal skills.
  2. Logistics: This person is in charge of bottom lining the logistics of events, things like reserving rooms, making sure materials are in the right place at the right time, and monitoring the group’s budget. This role requires strong organizational and time management skills.
  3. Membership Outreach: This person is responsible for bottom lining bringing new members into the group. They will work closely with the logistics person to plan events, and will be in charge of bottom lining turnout and the internal email list of the chapter.
  4. Coordinator: This person is responsible for making sure that everything is running smoothly and keeping people accountable to their commitments. They bottom line getting regular chapter meetings and evaluations set, and providing agendas for those meetings.
  5. Chapter liaison: This person is responsible for bottom lining relaying information from the emerging chapter to outside parties, like their regional or national staffer, the media, and other campus orgs. This person will develop good communication, writing, and persuasion skills. If one role had to be cut, it should probably be this one and these responsibilities would be divided between logistics, membership outreach, and the coordinator.

As more people join the chapter and want to take on responsibility, more roles could be opened up and roles could be divided. For example, the outreach role could be divided up into a social media and email role and a 1:1 role. Experienced members could also join national and regional teams, like a national fundraising team (see a list of national teams under Structure).

Springboard Action and Afterwords

Early on, the most important thing for a chapter is to bring in lots of new members, so that the chapter can grow and we can get closer to winning Free College for All. This process is called base-building, and it happens best through an action or event, using that action or event as a way to mobilize and energize new supporters (e.g. organizing one of the three types of actions in our take action section). Remember to always be thinking about base-building whenever the group is organizing anything, whether it’s a meeting, action, or other type of event.

After the first meeting, people will set goals for themselves in their new roles to plan for the action. There should be another meeting two or three days before the action to make sure everything is in place, double check that folks are following through on their commitments, and check in on how people are feeling.

After the springboard action, plan a debrief and next steps meeting. You can have a national organizer call into this meeting to help evaluate the action and get the chapter in the loop about upcoming national days of action and strategy.