This weekend, I traveled down to the University of Miami with Mickey Jackson and Jenna Fox, STAND’s National Outreach Coordinators, and Daniel Teweles, STAND’s National Student Coordinator, for the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) conference. CGIU, started by the Clinton Global Initiative at Tulane University three years ago, drew over 1300 student activists, entrepreneurs, and organizers from all 50 states and 83 countries to network and share information about organizing strategies and project development. With few expectations about my CGIU experience going into the conference, I can confidently say that I have gathered a greater understanding of STAND’s role in the global context of student organizations, and the potential effectiveness of STAND’s vision for development and growth.
In order to participate in the conference, STAND needed to make a "commitment"–a project or campaign proposal for which we intended to use the skills developed at CGIU. Our commitment relied greatly on the grassroots constituency that STAND developed through the Pledge2Protect campaign: the 51,000+ students and activists who issued their "pledge" for genocide prevention last fall. We committed ourselves to working with our parent organization, the Genocide Intervention Network, to the passage of comprehensive genocide prevention legislation. We committed to mobilize the grassroots constituency developed over the past five years around the development of a coordinated, interagency genocide prevention policy, based on the guidelines provided by the Genocide Prevention Task Force. This weekend’s conference certainly assisted us in making steps towards that goal.
The CGIU conference served as a valuable reminder that we can continue to educate and learn from other activists about the tools we use for student empowerment and mobilization. I attended a panel session on the use of social media for democracy and human rights promotion, including such social media innovators as Oscar Morales, of One Million Voices Against the FARC, and Ory Okolloh, the crowdsourcing pioneer responsible for Ushahidi. The panel repeatedly emphasized the importance of social media technology as a tool of social change, and State Department Policy Planning staff member Jared Cohen addressed the potential influence that such technology can have on policy formation.
A panel on community organizing and grassroots engagement, which my colleagues Mickey and Jenna attended, served to reinforce the maturity that STAND has accomplished over the course of our five-and-a-half year development. We continue to work to empower activists throughout the United States, to grant students a voice in shaping this country’s foreign policy priorities. Through the Genocide Intervention Network, we advocate for genocide prevention and civilian protection, emphasizing those crucial human rights issues as elements of U.S. national security. Through our CGIU commitment, we hope to further develop that balance between grassroots engagement and organizational advocacy.
Our commitment to genocide prevention can only take form through the commitment of our activists. STAND has recently undertaken a significant structural review, which we hope will allow us to better empower activists and give a grassroots voice to our advocacy priorities. We, as activists, need to take advantage of these advocacy opportunities and take a crucial role in the revised STAND structure in order for our commitment to become a reality.