Are you ready to form a local chapter, dedicated to the fight for justice in Bhopal? The guidelines below will be helpful you set up a local ICJB chapter. Although these guidelines are catered more towards student groups, non-student groups are more than welcome to join ICJB!
Be sure to let us know that you’re involved – you’ll have access to our international network of supportive activists who can provide guidance to your group.
How to Build a Chapter
1. Start Your Chapter
Step One: Found the Group
To start with, how many of you are there? Try to round up a group of at least 3 – 4 like-minded people, who are dedicated to the struggle for justice in Bhopal. While we can offer advice and support from afar, it is this core group of peers that will be central to your success in forming the group.
Step Two: Register Your Group
If you’re starting this chapter from your high school, college or university, you should register your group. Registering as an official organization can be critical to your group’s success. By doing so, your campus group may be entitled to a wealth of campus resources such as:
- Office and meeting space
- An organizational email account
- An organizational mailing address
- Access to computers and other technology
- Possible funding
Step Three: Write a Constitution
You may want to have a constitution that lays out the name, purpose and mission of your group. These are some elements to keep in mind when drafting your constitution:
- Mission Statement
- Officers, elections and voting
Step Four: (If Applicable) Choose a Faculty Advisor
Certain institutions require student groups to have a faculty advisor as a precondition for official recognition and access to funding. Even if your school does not have this requirement, having a faculty advisor is a good idea. Involving one or more faculty members can help ensure continuity and stability, in addition to providing guidance. After your current leaders have graduated, an advisor can help ensure that the group continues.
Step Five: Find Funding
Procedures vary widely from one institution to the next, so be sure to ask how your group can request funding as an official student organization. Generally you will be required to draft a budget. You should be realistic, but ask for as much as you think you will need to spend. Don’t worry about including lots of budgetary items, as budget committees frequently strip down requests anyway. It doesn’t hurt to aim high!
Items that you may want to request funding for include:
- Copies for flyers and literature
- Materials for signs and banners
- Food and drinks for meetings and events
- Travel money for delegates to the annual ICJB North America conference
- Travel money for bringing speakers to your school
2. Create a Group Structure
In the initial stages, you should decide on the structure of your group. Do you want to be highly regimented, with officers and a chain of command or more amorphous? Do you want your meetings to follow strict procedures or to be more unrestrained?
Here are some desirable characteristics to consider when determining you group structure. Your group should be conducted in a way that will:
- Welcome the involvement of new members
- Welcome the involvement from people with varying levels of commitment and various points of view
- Make everyone feel comfortable enough to share ideas and concerns
- Encourage and empower people to become confident, powerful activists
- Respond creatively to new issues and situations
- Allow decision to be made in a democratic manner
- Get things done!
It is important to lay out the ground rules for how you will be working together. This way, you all know what to expect from one another and can avoid a lot of unnecessary conflicts. You should work on the group dynamics as early as possible and make sure that everyone has access to this information.
Some questions to think about include:
- How will you organize your leadership/decision-making structure? Will you have elections, where members are assigned to leadership positions or will you operate without defined leaders? Here are some possible decision-making structures, and a guide for collective decision-making.
- How will you keep in contact with one another?
- Do you have a space available for you all to meet? Will meetings be virtual (via Skype, conference calls)?
- When, where and how often will you meet? How will you ensure that meetings are fun and dynamic, rather than routine and boring? Here is a great meeting guide!
- Do you have any rules around meeting attendance?
- Who will be facilitating meetings? Here is a great facilitation guide!
- Who will draft the meeting agenda?
- Who will be taking minutes?
- What should members have prepared before each meeting?
- How will you spread the word about your upcoming meeting, to encourage new participants?
- Will you use hand signals during meetings, so speakers are not disrupted?
- How will you decide on possible actions?
- What duties will people need to take on?
- How will you share the workload? Will you create Working Groups?
- How will you ensure that the group is inclusive?
- How will you ensure that more experience members train newer members?
- How will you ensure that the group is a safe space for new and old members to share their ideas and concerns?
3. Make a Plan for Group Continuity
Some members may need to lessen their time commitment to the group for various reasons. If you are a school chapter, your members (including yourself!) will eventually graduate. It is important to plan ahead so that your group continues even if the founding members leave and so that it can build its power over the long haul.
Here are a few suggestions for building your group’s long term health:
- Pass your skills and experiences on to the rest of the group.
- Document your tasks so that others can pick up where you left off.
- Maintain a good archive of the group’s activities so that new members can read about the group’s achievements. Examples include keeping a newsletter, scrapbook, annual report, folder or website. Include all your past posters, newspaper clippings, pictures and meeting minutes.
- Keep a list of useful contacts in your school/community, so it can be passed on to new members.
- Give new people opportunities and meaningful tasks that will build their confidence and commitment.
4. Discuss Your Commitment Levels
Be honest and open about how much time you can commit. It is better to take on a few tasks successfully rather than many tasks that you do not realistically have the time or energy to complete. The group should be able to rely on one another, but no one in the group should feel overwhelmed and have to take on too much.
5. Encourage New People to Join
One of the best ways to recruit new members is by running a dynamic campaign that draws people into your group. Large numbers of people will learn about your group, attend events and sign up if you hold a variety of actions –from rallies to tabling– and invite media coverage.
Some techniques that you can use include:
- Have personal conversations, phone calls and e-mails to reach out to more people.
- Table in a public place where people can stop and talk to you. Be sure to have resources you can hand out (and maybe some candy or other goodies) that will encourage people to.
- Hand out flyers, ICJB newsletters, and fact sheets.
- Conduct a banner drop.
- Go to other meetings with like-minded groups to make announcements about your group and connect with allies.
- Ask professors if you can speak about the campaign to their classes.
- Connect with journalists to get your group and the campaign on the radio/in the newspaper.
- Reach out to like-minded people via social media, such as on Twitter and Facebook.
6. Build Solidarity Networks
Take advantage of other like-minded groups in your community/school. You may want to develop your campaign action plan prior to connecting with these groups, so that you have more concrete suggestions as to how your groups can work together.
- Research potential allies in your community/school
- Contact the leaders or representatives of these groups
- Have an in-person meeting with the leaders/representatives regarding how your two groups can connect.
- Request time to speak at the potential allies next meeting. Make sure to have information on the campaign and visual aids to pass around to members
- Determine how the two groups can work together.
- Keep in regular contact!
7. Need More Help?
Many of these documents will help you learn more about how to create a structure and decision making process as a group. Most were written or prepared by Randy Schutt of The Vernal Project.
- PDF: A Checklist for the Consensus Process
- PDF: Consensus Decision-Making Booklet (by Jason Diceman)
- PDF: Notes on Consensus Decision-Making
- PDF: Consensus Is Not Unanimity: Making Decisions Cooperatively
- PDF: Toward Collective Decision Making – Some Guidelines for Activists (compiled by the Prison Activist Resource Center)
- PDF: Facilitation: The Secret to Smooth, Synchronized Meetings
- PDF: Getting Unstuck: Common Problems in Meetings and Some Solutions
- PDF: Decision Making Structures
- PDF: Organizational Structures for Cooperative Groups
- PDF: Rising Consciousness: Typical Steps People Take in Recognizing the Need to Work for Fundamental Social Change