What does it mean to organize?
In YCD terms, organizing really means to form a club or group. You may feel strongly about making positive change, but having a group of peers who feel similarly and are committed to this work will make your efforts that much stronger.
This page includes some key considerations in not just starting new clubs or groups, but also ideas for existing clubs on how to make their ways of meeting and working more inclusive and effective. For more comprehensive guidance and advice, download the YCD Guide.
How big should our club or group be?
Your group can be of any size; typically it’s helpful to aim for a minimum of 8-10 group members, but even if it starts small with just two or three, that’s okay! Often, new clubs and groups need a year to gain traction and build a larger membership.
On the flipside, groups larger than 30 tend to need additional organization and communication support. If your group becomes too large and you don’t make adjustments, it can become impersonal and you may find members losing focus of your purpose. If you have more than 30 teens interested in joining your group, that’s a good problem to have! Feel free to reach out to YCD for advice and guidance on how to organize a large group.
What should our club focus on?
The more important question to ask is, what inspires you and your peers to form the club? What are your goals? What is your purpose?
As you wrestle with these ideas, it may be helpful to review the foundational concepts of the YCD program, as this can inspire how you want to frame your club and its purpose.
- Do you want to focus on bonding and coming together around a single identity? Examples include a Black Student Alliance, Muslim Student Alliance, etc.
- Do you want to bridge differences focused on one major form of oppression? Examples include a gender-sexuality alliance, or an anti-racism club.
- Do you want to focus on fighting oppression in all its forms? Examples include an anti-oppression club, an inclusion club, etc.
Each of these approaches are valid and can serve a good purpose in advancing inclusion and justice. With that said, YCD generally recommends the third approach — a club focused on fighting oppression in all its forms — to create a broad group that is accessible to all students across all identities.
Keep in mind what clubs and groups exist when forming your new group. Don’t expect your club to replace existing groups, especially ones that focus on a single identity. Instead, try to build connections so your club can stand alongside and in alliance with those clubs when fighting oppression.
What should our club name be?
This is the fun part where the club founders get to be creative! The YCD Guide contains a list of example club and group names, but every group is encouraged to come up with their own name that is meaningful for them.
Below is a list of major principles YCD promotes for student groups as a way of working and meeting. The YCD Guide provides details in each of these spaces, and we also offer virtual trainings on each topic that students and their advisors can attend.
Authentic youth leadership
Too often adults take over youth spaces in order to “make things more efficient” or to direct efforts in a way that suits … the adults. YCD provides guidance and training for youth leaders to be 100% in charge, with adults playing a supportive but secondary role throughout the process.
Intentional recruiting steps for diverse group membership
We challenge student groups and clubs to work hard at recruiting a diverse membership so that the whole community is represented. This also means taking extra steps to encourage participation from students who may not appear interested at first, reflecting on barriers to participation, and taking steps to remove those barriers.
Groups need to establish rules for meeting and sharing brave spaces together, especially when sensitive or important social issues are discussed. YCD provides guidance on how to collaboratively create group norms, and what to do if and when the norms are violated.
YCD promotes consensus as a better, more inclusive decisionmaking model for groups, rather than the traditional majority rules approach. The YCD Guide outlines what consensus is, why it’s better than majority rules, steps to build consensus, how to tell if you’ve achieved consensus, and what to do when you are stuck.
Conflict is inevitable whenever a group of people come together. We provide guidance and training on how to use restorative principles to address and resolve conflict, so that nobody is shunned or excluded from the group, and conflict is handled in a healthy and transparent manner.
Find an upcoming virtual training on any of these organizing principles
After Your Group has Formed
Once you have created your new club or group, it’s time to begin meeting and working on how to make your school or community more inclusive and just. But how do you start?
The YCD Guide provides a detailed process for student groups to walk through over a school year calendar, refined over 25 years of organizing youth for positive social change. The Guide includes sections on:
- Group bonding
- Setting group norms on ways of meeting and working
- Developing a sense of group purpose
- Sharing personal stories that bring members to this work
- Exploring the foundational concepts for inclusion and social justice work
- Identifying local examples and sources of oppression or marginalization
- Clarifying the group’s focus and prioritizing issues that need addressing most urgently
Next Step: Educate
Once your group has formed, set norms, bonded, become familiar with the foundational concepts, and identified sources of marginalization and oppression that need to be addressed in your school or community — that’s a great start! You’ve accomplished a lot and should be super proud!