As a student of politics, I’m incredibly interested in how the world works and why people do what they do. However, I’m also interested in taking the knowledge and skills that I’m continually developing and harnessing it so that I can actually apply it to the real world. This passion of mine has led me to join numerous student groups on campus, yet it also left me craving more.
There are a multitude of student groups on campus, and many of them find themselves somewhere in the political arena – student groups that focus on advocacy, awareness, debate, and everything else in between. If a student is passionate about an issue, such as poverty or the turmoil in the Middle East, they have access to like-minded peers and an avenue in which to further the cause of the group.
But, if a student, on their own, has a spark go off in their minds – an idea – there existed no real mechanism in which their idea could have impact. Upon joining the average student group, you’re immediately thrust into the workings of the organization and set to work on tasks delegated to you, in a manner that can sometimes be very much “top-down”. There was a gap on campus.
But that’s no longer the case! As of last year, a group of students, including myself, founded SNAPP, the Student Network for Advocacy and Public Policy – the first student-run public policy organization in Canada.
Through the process of starting and slowly developing SNAPP I’ve come to learn a great deal about the public policy process and the value of directly participating in it in a way that students, especially undergraduate students, may not traditionally be accustomed to.
But why policy? Why not protesting or letter-writing campaigns?
Both tactics have their legitimate place in the public policy realm, but frankly, protesting for or against a cause is simply not enough. We need to build on this by putting forth concrete solutions, and this is definitely a unique form of activism. Policy builds a bridge between communities and stakeholders. Policy is actionable.
As students, especially those interested in politics, we are asked to contribute our time, our money, and our energy to campaigns. But never our ideas.
And that is unfortunate, because we have tremendous potential to bring our ideas and solutions to the table. In fact, that’s what we are constantly trained to do in class when digging through books and articles so we can form reasonable arguments for our many research papers and experiments. Yet as soon as we get our marks back, we don’t have a use for that mountain of information we’ve collected and prepared, besides the few who get their work published or presented. That is an inefficient use of our talent and time.
Problems and solutions always present themselves in shades of grey – never black and white. As students, we know, or should be in the process of learning, how to think critically, and as students, we have a lot of potential to contribute to debate and discussion in this country. And frankly we need more of that – we need intellectuals and idealists, we need realists and pragmatics, and we need passionate, young people to lead our country – not in the future, but now.
This is direct civil society engagement, and if you care about fixing something, there is likely a policy solution, no matter how big or large the issue may be.
SNAPP’s vision is to engage new generations of students in a form of activism that empowers young people as leaders and promotes their ideas for change. The purpose is to educate and train members on how to write policy and to put their writing to action by lobby training.
To me, this is extremely exciting! This organization is a network of students, other organizations, professors, and community leaders. Ideas, good ideas, can elevate people, and we need innovators, forward thinkers, and motivated individuals.
If this seems up your alley, consider attending SNAPP’s inaugural general meeting on September 26th. We’re looking for students from all disciplines and backgrounds, so spread the word, and start talking policy!