On September 17, students and alumni of fossil fuel divestment campaigns from across the U.S. launched the Divest Fossil Fuels National Student Network by forming the National Student Spokescouncil.
The National Student Spokescouncil is a space for student divestment campaigners to connect, build alignment, and strengthen our movement. A strong student divestment network can more successfully collaborate with off-campus divestment and the larger climate justice movement, and can work to strategize and coordinate collective action independent of and alongside our ally NGOs.
The launch followed months of discussion, outreach to student leaders, and a proposal sharing process. Our work began at the Power Up! Divest Fossil Fuels Convergence at Swarthmore College, and continued through national and regional calls and convergences including the Divestment National Town Hall Call (April) and G.R.O.W.Meet-ups (July-August). In August, we began planning for the launch of the Network, which we will bring to a huge national student audience at Power Shift 2013
As part of the planning process, we distilled and made decisions on national network proposals – ideas for projects, tasks, and actions submitted by divestment organizers from across the U.S. Although we outreached to students prior to September 17, we recognize that those involved with planning still represent a small subset of the national fossil fuel divestment movement. In light of this, the National Student Spokescouncil was launched as a transitional structure for the national student network; the Spokescouncil is an open and flexible model subject to change with increased participation from the student divestment movement and allied staff organizers.
The National Student Network is designed as a place for students to dream big about the changes we can make as youth organizers when working together in concert. How long would fracking last if students from every university in the country blocked drilling operations? How many community energy projects could emerge if a core of universities reinvested fossil fuel money into the local community-owned energy projects? How long could administrations hold out if every student divester from a region flooded each school’s campus and took action? The possibilities are endless, and it’s up to us to make them a reality.
National Working Groups
The National Student Spokescouncil is the hub for student “working groups,” affinity groups organized around particular projects and tasks. As working groups grow, they will elect a number of spokespersons to participate in “spokescouncil calls” to coordinate and align with other working groups. The current working groups are:
Solidarity/Frontline Connections Facilitate outreach and relationship-building between student organizers and those on the frontlines of the fossil fuel industry and climate change. Work to develop mutual partnerships between divestment campaigns and other struggles for energy and climate justice.
Training/Mentorship Encourage and facilitate mentorship and organizing skills-sharing between divestment campaigns. Create/share political education and alignment work around climate justice and theories of change.
Events Propose and plan for national/regional gatherings, convergences, action camps, etc
National Publication Edit and distribute web/print publication created by and for the student divestment movement, including analyses, campaign reportbacks, interviews, announcements, etc.
National People of Color Caucus Provide a place for divestment organizers who identify as people of color to meet, share experiences/analysis, and engage with the broader national divestment network
Strategy Distill national strategy proposals that were generated over the summer; work with other working groups and allies in the climate justice movement to propose collective strategies for divestment wins and climate justice.
Power Shift Planning Plan and coordinate the national student divestment network spaces at Power Shift 2013 including outreach, facilitation, logistics, etc.
Facilitation Organize and convene spokescouncil calls, facilitate communication and alignment between working groups
Working groups are preparing for Power Shift 2013, where they will have an opportunity to share their projects, get feedback from divestment organizers, and workshop national strategy ideas.
Each working group is open to new members and collaborators. In fact, an important next step in forming a strong national network is to involve more student divestment organizers in working groups and the spokescouncil. Check out studentsdivest.org/nationalnetwork to get involved.
We are aware that fossil fuel divestment extends beyond colleges and universities and that divestment is one tactic among many in the climate justice movement – however, due to the shared experiences of the campus context and existing affinity of campus campaigns we see the formation of a student network as a strategic building block for broader coordination. Alumni of divestment campaigns and NGO staff organizers are welcome to join working groups as equal collaborators, but not as representatives of other organizations.