Great! You’ve decided that you want to get involved with Amnesty International, that you want to do more than write letters and sign online petitions. You’ve also figured out that there isn’t an active Amnesty chapter in your area, and you want to take the initiative and to start one in your town (or revive a dead chapter). It’s not easy to start an Amnesty International chapter from scratch, but it’s not impossible either. Here’s how to get one started:
- Find Other Core Members – You may be starting the chapter as one person, but one person doesn’t make a chapter. Find between three and five others who are interested in making this work with you.
- Decide on the Issues – Once you have your core members, you then need to figure out what sort of activism your chapter will do and which issues you wish to take on. The issues could depend on what’s big in your state or area (for example, death penalty abolition is a great issue if your state still has capital punishment), what you and your core members are interested in, or maybe what Amnesty USA is currently pushing on their agenda. Of course, you don’t have to pick your issues in one meeting. Use this time to also set up a regular meeting schedule as well as to recruit additional members.
- Create a Plan – After deciding on the issues, you then need to create an action plan, a plan on how to build awareness on those issues and to accomplish something awesome. This could include planning your first event, writing letters, partnering with similar organizations in your area, or building a public presence with a petition drive. Of course, you’re not limited in the types of events you want to plan or how you want to get things done. Fortunately, Amnesty has a lot of activist tools to help both new and old chapters as well as resources for each of their campaigns.
- Get Chartered – Now that your local group has a solid foundation of members and activities, it will have the opportunity to get chartered for official AI recognition. At this time, your group will be offered the opportunity to take on an individual case, receive a local group number and a set of orientation materials to deepen and expand your activism and connect you to other groups. To get chartered, you may need to talk to a Field Organizer or Area Coordinator, which is discussed in the next step.
- Stay Committed – It can be easy for things to fall apart and to take a back seat, but don’t let that get you down. If you need any help along the way (or even if you don’t), then make sure to contact one of Amnesty International’s Field Organizers or Area Coordinators to see what it takes to start a local group and what they can do to help. That’s their job, so they want to know that you’re making the effort to start a chapter and to be active in human rights. To get in contact with a local organizer or Area Coordinator in your state, contact 866-A-REGION (866-273-4466).