Introduction: What is this all about?
The Blue Print is an experimental wiki-handbook designed to help students build liberal institutions on college campuses across the nation. It offers advice for how to overcome the biggest hurdles to the progressive movement, is based on the collective experience of the Columbia Dems, and is meant to be a resource for progressive activists everywhere.
Table of Contents
1. Why build a liberal organization on a college campus in the first place.
The below three assumptions offer the foundation upon which student activist institutions are built - it is an outline of the proof connecting the building of a liberal student institution on a college campus to the building of a liberal movement across the United States. Here is the outlined reasoning behind these three points.
- A liberal movement can be built in the United States.
- This movement can be built (most) effectively from college campuses.
- It can most effectively be built out of College Democrat institutions on individual campuses around the country, if each is running at its full potential.
2. The argument for greater institutionalization.
Through the promotion of institutionalization and the collection of institutional memories of solutions to the perennial problems of college liberal institutions on a wiki, it is possible for every college campus around the country to have a powerful liberal student organization.
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 this point 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. This cycle of reinvention has to be broken if you want to build the long-term organizations that will power the progressive movement.
3. The big problems faced by student liberal organizations and their solutions.
Problem 1: Liberal activism is complicated.
Activism is hard, but it becomes harder when you mix in liberalism's storied history with this medium for making change. This section includes advice on how to overcome both the activism's inherent difficulties and those difficulties brought about by its relation to liberals in particular.
Problem 2: People are difficult.
Humans are difficult creatures. This has nothing to do with being liberal. People are often just difficult to work with and teamwork is necessary for a succesful activist organization. Indeed, personality conflicts can hurt organizations more effectively than anything else. This section includes advice on how to overcome problems related to working with other humans.
Problem 3: Liberals disagree.
Liberals disagree, and yet we have to work together to make change. This section includes some advice on how to build an organization that can include more than one ideological brand of liberal, allowing us to be more easily united around our common goals.
To read more about the future of this project go to What is the point of this handbook?