The Argument For Greater Institutionalization

You cannot build a successful organization and you cannot build a movement if every year new leadership completely begins building the organization all over again from scratch and redefines what the organization does. There is a limit to how big your organization and your events can grow with only a few months of planning. You cannot build a movement if the movement starts over again every year.

An organization needs some events and programs that run consistently from year to year. These are the events that become part of a campus’s annual tradition, where attendance grows because students look forward to the event all year around, where people compete for the privilege of organizing this year’s event to make it even better than the last one. This is how your organization gains power; by showing that consistently from year to year it can mobilize hundreds or even thousands of students to get active.

Institutionalization can also protect your organization from bad leadership, and since college leadership turns over almost every year, there is a high likelihood that the organization is going to end up with a terrible leader. If you have some organizers picked every year to organize specific events then you can make sure future bad leaders don’t destroy your organization because there will always be a base level of activity that won’t go away.

It’s important to make clear; this is not an argument against change in organizations. Change is important, but it’s important to differentiate between growth and reinvention. Most change in clubs is not change at all; it is just rebuilding institutional memory to bring the organization’s operations back up to where they already were, reinventing the wheel over and over again. It is important that some leadership in charge of some specific events doesn’t want to reinvent the wheel, and in fact, is specifically excited about creatively making the wheel bigger and better.

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