Greenpeace USA is taking a new tack with its student network for the first time this year, empowering student volunteers to take ownership of issues they’re passionate about, says Greenpeace national organizer Dan Cannon.
This fall, through the Greenpeace Student Network, core teams of student volunteers on campuses are building individual campaigns from the ground up, supported by Dan and fellow national organizer David Pinsky.
This is a breakaway from the traditional approach, which saw volunteers in individual campus networks combining efforts to implement one core campaign as directed by Greenpeace.
Things are different this year.
“We told them the research, messaging, campaign planning, theory of change was up to them to design and layout,” Dan explains. “We, at Greenpeace, would simply support them in their efforts.”
The only stipulation as this new approach rolled out is campaigns are to support the youth climate movement by taking on dirty energy and supporting green energy solutions.
Dan says new relationships with other organizations have already come to light since work began.
When a University of New Hampshire student volunteer decided to organize a divestment campaign on her campus to take on dirty energy, for example, she opened the door to a few of these new connections.
Dan’s job is to support and coach core teams on campuses in terms of tactics and strategies, he explains, but as for the finer details of divestment, he chose to connect the student with another organization that has a better understanding of its use as a tool to catalyze change.
He’s now connecting with groups like As you Sow, 350.org, and the Responsible Endowments Coalition because of this interest in divestment, and he’s learning much more about how the strategy can be a tool for affecting change.
“That was kind of cool for me because it helped build relationships on a higher level,” Dan says.
“If the students that we are supporting had never done that, then we wouldn’t be in these conversations; it’s getting us involved with a piece of the movement that we probably wouldn’t be involved with.”
On top of that, students are taking ownership of the process rather than simply implementing a top-down strategy, as in previous years.
It’s part of a larger trend that Dan and his colleagues are seeing in successful mobilisation work — by engaging activists in a wider range of issues that local groups and organizers care about, they are likely to remain engaged more deeply and for longer in Greenpeace campaigns when the moment arise.
He says it’s still too early to tell what insight will be gleaned from this shifting approach, but Dan looks forward to watching the various campaigns unfold with the school year and learning what the greatest successes were and where things could be done differently.
Follow Dan: @DanEnviroCannon
– Kristian Partington
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