Student organizers nationwide are working to improve the lives of people in extreme poverty. They are volunteering overseas, advocating for political and economic change, raising awareness on campus and in the general public, fundraising for leading development organizations, and much, much more.
But in 2009, after surveying over 300 student organizers from across the United States, the Millennium Campus Network (MCN) determined that the vast majority of student organizations working to reduce extreme poverty suffered from low membership, low attendance, and inadequate funding. The MCN discovered that an equally vast majority failed to coordinate or collaborate with similarly-focused organizations, even if they were located on the same campus.
So we asked: what if student groups working to end extreme poverty came together regularly? What if they worked together to raise awareness, share ideas and best practices, pressure policy makers, and take collective action, instead of working in their usual, isolated bubbles?
The answer surprised us: Virtually all student leaders demonstrated strong support for the MCN's student organizing model, explaining that an infrastructure to connect student-led development efforts on a national scale would be empowering and effective.
Student Organizing 1.0: Divided Until Now
The usual model of student organizing is simple: a student or a larger organization has a mission, and then it creates one or more student chapters to work on accomplishing that mission.
Student Organizing 2.0: Facilitated Networking
Instead of creating its own chapters, the Millennium Campus Network (MCN) takes a different approach by working to improve student groups that already exist. Existing student organizations--both independent groups and chapters of larger organizations--attend regular networking meetings each semester, where they meet other student groups in their district. If a student organization is working to achieve one or more MDGs, they are eligible for membership in the MCN.
When a group becomes a Member Organization, they convey their mission, goals, strengths, weaknesses, membership, leadership, and financial situation to MCN District Staff, which then organizes these data online. MCN District Staff then connect student groups with one another according to their relative needs.
By coming together for regular networking meetings, sharing information, collaborating on projects and events, and connecting with other student leaders to share advice, ideas, and best practices, MCN Member Organizations hope to become more effective and sustainable in their work.