Friday 05-02-2016 - 09:45
This is a guest blog by Michael Abiodun Olatokun, Campaigns Manager at Bite The Ballot, who are working with NUS to empower students as part of the National Voter Registration Drive, building #GenerationVote.
You might have heard a little bit about #NVRD already; a UK-wide week of action from 1 - 7 February. Through taking political action and talking about community issues, we hope for a generation that is equipped to participate in public life. A generation one that can craft a political system that serves us all; one that is known as #GenerationVote rather than Generation Rent. In light of this, I put out a simple challenge to the students’ union world:
Take power by registering your students to vote this week.
A year ago, I was a students' union officer worrying about a political assembly I was organising. The 2015 general election was an opportunity for my SU to pressure local politicians to put better housing, transport and finance initiatives on the table for young people. We did it. By securing a higher number of student registrations that year, we were able to show that we cared about our communities, and couldn't be ignored. The council made changes to its strategic plan solely as a result of the work that we did.
Taking part in NVRD was a big responsibility, but also a lot of fun! Students that had previously disregarded politics as irrelevant began to engage with policy issues that they realised were interwoven with their lives, the campaign gave me a huge sense of accomplishment being a part of something that really matters.
At Bite The Ballot, we are firm believers in empowering young citizens to create more equal representation, and a more accessible democracy. Registering to vote is a key step towards this. Recent reports suggest that 800,000 people have dropped off the electoral register, and the most dramatic changes were shown in areas with a high student population. We often say that we should be the change that we want to see - and right now, we need to see change quite drastically.
In 2015, SU Officers employed a wide array of tactics to lead an epic #GenerationVote campaign running up to NVRD. These included:
• Student media groups holding 'register and nominate' competitions between themselves to see whose show could secure the most registrations.
• University intranet/digital screens displaying registration messages
• Political assemblies where politicians are held to account on issues that arose through consultation with students
• Door-to-door canvassing in student areas
• Blogs about the importance of taking an interest in politics and registration by sabbs
• Political action- having a day for lobbying the university on issues
• Getting any unregistered 'BNOC' students to talk about why they are registering before this round of elections.
Any one of these actions would make a massive difference to the lives of your students.
You can get involved with NVRD online this year, too. We have produced a social media briefing that can be found here that can be shared with your union comms team. In collaboration with Unilad, we will be producing videos on housing and education policy, to get our students discussing the issues that they face on a daily basis that need to be mentioned more often by politicians.
Reach out to us on our website to tell us if you are able to organise events, and we can add them to our heatmap to show students where activities are taking place around them.
Once an event is complete, we would love to celebrate student activists by accrediting their activities with our Level 1 Changemaker Award. Evaluate your activities here to receive it.
Happy NVRD and welcome to the movement! Together, we can take power!