What makes a Student Power Alliance?
Five key characteristics:
- State-wide and multi-campus – Usually on at least 5-10 campuses statewide, including covering major campuses and population areas, but ideally including private and community colleges too.
- Multi-Issue – From climate to LGBTQ to racial and economic justice to college affordability – they pick key issues to build broad, deep, powerful, passionate bases and alliances. They are intersectional.
- Multi-strategy – From non-violent civil disobedience to GOTV, issue lobbying to arts activism and culture, winning student government elections to divestment campaigns, they are driven by winning real change and power- -using all the tools in the toolbox.
- Partners with community and labor – Deep strategic partnerships with community and labor groups bring resources, sophistication, mentorship, infrastructure support, and institutional memory.
Other important characteristics:
- Diverse, racially and otherwise – Different in different places – but leadership and base generally reflects the diversity in each state.
- On and off campus – Organizes for local issues on each campus AND takes part in major relevant city and state-level fights.
- Ideology is bold and transformative yet practical – Has both a bold transformative or radical analysis of power, a sophisticated strategy to win concrete victories, bread and butter solutions, and “non-reformist” reforms.
- Focused on winning and building a broad power base – Much of campus activism is primarily symbolic and focused on organizing small cliques. The focus of Student Power Alliances is organizing broadly for concrete winnable systemic changes.
- Leadership development – Emphasis on developing younger leaders, and hard skills including organizing and management, political education, strategy, movement history, landscape, interpersonal skills, etc.
- Creativity and courage plus discipline and accountability – Emphasis on both creativity and courage to capture imaginations AND discipline and accountability to build strength and trust.
- Non-sectarian – Strives to be in relationship with multiple relevant partners and seeks to bridge progressive/radical divides.
- Beloved community culture – A culture of love, fellowship, team spirit, fun, respect and caring for each person, not just external goals. And definitely not a mean or judgmental culture that burns relationships and burns people out.
What does it take to start a Student Power Alliance?
- At least one committed and competent organizer –ideally a team (this is the hardest part!)
- At least one community group/union to support the organizer (preferably local as national orgs rarely have enough capacity to truly support)
- Understanding of the basic model and a vision.
- A state-wide problem and a clearly-articulated solution motivates leaders to come together, dedicate time, and recruit others who are affected.
- Ideally some money, buy-in from a range of ally groups, local and national, youth, labor and community orgs.