Over the last 6 months we have created a ONE Leeds student society at Leeds University. We – a small but dedicated and vibrant group of about ten students – met every Monday to discuss campaigns and event ideas that we could make happen on our campus.
To launch our society, and in support of ONE’s campaign urging the government to keep its commitment to spend 0.7% of GNP on international aid, we held an “Aid Debate”. We had a ‘Question Time’ style debate with four of us acting as panellists: playing the role of a Government Minister, a journalist, and two opposing economists. About thirty people came along to participate in the debate, drink some of our LemonAID, and learn about ONE. We used this event to demonstrate to the University Union that we were serious about creating a society.
With new recruits on board we held a letter-writing session for ONE’s Trillion Dollar Scandal campaign, where we wrote to two key European Members of Parliament (Arlene McCarthy and Klaus-Heiner Lehne) urging them to ensure that tough new laws are passed requiring all oil, gas and mining companies to publish their payments to stop the secrecy surrounding trillions of dollars paid to governments across Africa. We also did our best to circulate the online petition and some of us also went around the students union asking people to sign it.
In line with this transparency focus, one of our members came up with a great campaign idea for campus, based on the fact that certain African Heads of State are living in luxury while their citizens suffer. We made posters with pictures of their extravagant lifestyles – yachts, mansions, sports cars – next to the question “Whose life is this?” We put these up around campus and then at the end of the week we had a stall in the students union. We decorated the stall with the posters, ONE T-shirts, and painted baked beans cans black to represent oil cans (very convincing!).
We wanted people to be intrigued to know whose life it was and come over to learn more. We got hundreds of people signed up to the ONE petition whilst also promoting our society. We handed out ONE Student leaflets and advertised our meet & greet event, which followed the stall, to attract new members for next year.
A group of us also went into first year lectures to promote our society and the opportunities for training with ONE, while encouraging people to come along to our final meeting and get involved on the committee for next year. This proved a really effective way of recruiting members as several people came along and we have managed to ensure there is a core group of people who will carry on the society in 2012/13. To finish off the year, the Union told us we had successfully filled all of their (quite demanding) criteria to become a fully-fledged society!
It has been wonderful to be involved in a truly student-led group, whilst also receiving support from the ONE office for ideas and resources. I hope campuses all over the UK can set up successful ONE Student groups too.
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