Step 1: Build Your Base
Begin by having conversations with other parents about the changes they would like to see at your school. We suggest scheduling one-to-one conversations and hosting house meetings with people you already know – friends, family, and neighbors who are also parents at your school. Talk about the problems you have faced at your school in the past and the hopes that you have for your school and community. What would an ideal school like? What are the barriers to creating that environment? After your one-to-one conversations and house meetings, ask the attendees to host their own house meetings and to invite their network of friends and neighbors to learn about starting a Parents Union chapter.
step 2: Establish Your Chapter
During your one-to-one conversations and house meetings, try to identify parents who demonstrate an extra level of interest and would be able to serve in the chapter’s leadership committee. Most people who want to help don’t want to go to a lot of meetings, but unless enough parents step forward to lead then the parents union won’t be effective.
We recommend convening a leadership committee of 5-10 people. Serving on the leadership committee will require more time and commitment than being a member, but it will also be a unique leadership opportunity and a chance to support the growth and development of your chapter and your school. Once you have identified the members of your leadership team and about twice that many willing to become members of the chapter, invite all the parents you have met to your first membership meeting. Here you commit to formally starting the organization, commit to a kids first agenda, identify membership, approve the Steering Committee, and decide whether to affiliate with Parent Revolution or a similar organization who can help you with materials, training, organizing expertise, etc.
step 3: Pick Your Focus
The first task of the chapter is to decide on a focus for your work. By this point, you have spoken to dozens of parents about their concerns and hopes for their school community. You can circulate a survey or host a series of forums to find out more but eventually patterns will emerge and you can begin to analyze the information you have compiled develop the focus for a campaign.
Perhaps you want a stronger supervision policy at the school or a more academically focused after school program. Or perhaps the parents want an actual full-scale transformation of your school through one of the Parent Trigger options. We usually recommend starting with a goal that is easier to attain so that you can learn more about organizing to win, build your strength and develop deeper connections in the community, but every situation is different. One rule though is that you will not win real change if you can’t eventually build a strong majority.
step 4: Launch Your Campaign
Once you have picked the focus of your campaign, organize a “kickoff” event that mobilizes the entire base that you have been building – perhaps it is a large membership celebration, a family picnic, or evening potluck. Be creative. At the kickoff announce the focus of your campaign and the change your chapter’s leadership is fighting for. The most important outcome is that your members are excited and eager to work on the campaign and that the focus you choose has a strong likelihood of improving results for kids. Make sure you give them options for how to help with the campaign. Can they make calls? Knock on doors in the community? Could they donate food or supplies to a campaign fund? Make sure that you have clear goals (e.g. 100 petitions signed by next week), that members and other volunteers know how they are contributing to those goals and where you stand.
After you have won an initial campaign, celebrate your victory, assess what you have learned and set a new, more ambitious goal using the same methods.
At every step of this process Parent Revolution is here to support you in your organizing journey. Some of the materials we can provide are sample house meeting agendas, canvassing guides, pamphlets and videos explaining the Parent Trigger law. We can also help to brainstorm ideas with you for effective campaign events. If an organizer has been assigned to help with your chapter they will provide trainings, leadership development tools and techniques and help with media, political and even legal matters.
We are here to help, so keep in touch and always let us know how we can support you!