It is notoriously difficult to make change happen in Cambridge - but not impossible! The first, and often one of the most difficult, steps to making change happen is to realise that you can make an impact!
Your College Student Union is there to help you, so locate the relevant officers (and the ones on your side) and talk to them about what is worrying you. They may have some good ideas about who to talk to, or what approach to take. Speak to other students in College- maybe there is a society that can give you some backing (a film society can do a film screening on the topic you are campaigning about, for example). Also, building support in the student body is part of student activism- we're a lot louder when we speak out together.
The Women's Officer (and other CUSU Officers) is here to give you the support you need. They can provide you with information, materials and admin support. They will also probably be more familiar with the University and College structure so they can clear away the haze that obscures how the University works.
2) Know Your Allies
It's really important to find people on all levels of college who support you. This includes not only College and CUSU representatives, but also fellows and administrators. A friendly fellow can tell you who can help you out with a particular concern and can point you away from people who won't help your campaign. Also, a lot of fellows are really excited by students taking up causes! Far too many really good campaigns have fallen flat because they weren't able to penetrate the senior ranks and build partnerships among college and University fellows and officials.
That said, grassroots campaigning is incredibly important to raise awareness and create an engaged college. Restricting campaigns to senior level negotiations won't achieve the widespread social change and awareness we need: we need to build aware, engaged and active movements which coordinate with all levels of the University.
3) Where's the Power?
Sometimes it's easy to find out who should be the target of your campaign. But more often than not bureacracy successfully obscures the path you should be taking. You can be passed along from the Bursar to Housekeeping to College Council to Development... Especially because terms are so short, it's easy to find yourself confused and feeling ineffective. So it's really important to find out who you should be talking to: and if they refuse to listen, you can launch a campaign to hold them accountable.
Campaigning is about engaging people, which means that there's a lot of potential for fun activities! Whether it's an acoustic night to raise money for a women's organisation, a picnic for Love Your Body Day, or a film night to raise awareness about an issue, there are endless possibilities for making campaigning fun.
Here are some ideas:
- Film nights are a relaxing, easy to organise and low-budget way to get people informed about an issue and excited about doing something. If you want to make the evening even more educational, think about getting a speaker who can talk for a few minutes about the subject of the film and field any questions the audience may have about it. Don't be nervous about emailing professors or organisations about speakers- even if they're not able to do it they're usually more than happy to point you in the right direction. Discussion after the film is great- it often helps to have a few questions to start people talking. Sometimes getting people to move their chairs in a circle makes discussion feel a more natural. Film suggestions here.
- Acoustic or poetry evenings in the college bar are a bit more work to organise but can draw in a larger crowd, and can be a bigger event in themselves.