- PHR Toolkits - http://phrtoolkits.org -

Forming a Chapter

How to establish a new PHR Chapter at your school

Form a Core Group

Most Chapters start off with just a few dedicated students.  Start with your own contacts: ask your friends and classmates help launch a PHR Chapter. Ask faculty who teach relevant topics and attend pertinent events to reach out to participants.

Consider reaching out to other schools or departments within your University system.  If you are at the medical school, connect with the schools of public health, nursing, dentistry, or pharmacy. For example, at Boston University, the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health created a joint chapter.

Host an Introductory Meeting

Encourage attendance by providing an informal informational session where you can articulate your Chapter’s vision and purpose, and offer a preview of the work you’d like to do this year. Structure your meeting and provide substance, but be open to attendees’ input. Some of the materials in this Toolkit make it easy to explain PHR’s mission and how students can contribute, like this presentation. <<link to intro ppt>>.  Bring a few handouts. Collect the contact information of attendees. Ask those who commit to becoming a member of the Chapter to bring a friend to the next meeting.

Register with PHR

To be recognized by PHR, complete the Student Chapter Registration [1].  The National Student Program will contact you to provide information, resources, and support.

Each member of your Chapter should sign up to receive PHR news [2], action alerts, and invitations to various opportunities though our online action center.  Students also have the opportunity to become a member of PHR [3] at a discounted annual membership fee of $15.  Consistent connection with PHR will help your group stay up-to-date on crucial human rights issues and alert you to the opportunity to participate in PHR campaigns and training sessions.

Register with your School

You will most likely need to work with the office of Student Life or Student Activities to become an officially recognized student group.  Here are a few pointers:

Completing paperwork in a timely manner may affect the funding or support available to your Chapter and the chance to recruit members at school functions. In addition, gaining the support of other organizations and faculty on campus will also significantly assist you in establishing and sustaining a strong chapter.

Recruit New Members

In addition to planning, member recruitment and retention are vital aspects of building a successful chapter. The more motivated and committed individuals in your group, the more you can accomplish. Use every opportunity to recruit new members.  Stay in touch with individuals once they express interest.
As a PHR student chapter leader, it is important to recognize that your involvement and the involvement of others requires commitment—especially so because as a student in medical, nursing, or graduate school, time and energy are very precious commodities. Be direct when you ask for an action or commitment, such as attending a meeting, staffing a PHR table, or getting 15 others to sign a petition. Be clear to your fellow students that you are relying on them; encourage students to let you know in advance if they are unable to fulfill their commitment.
Ideas for recruitment include:

Find a Faculty Advisor

Your faculty advisor should be someone with whom collaboration would be beneficial to both your PRH chapter and the advisor. You might identify a prospective faculty advisor based on what they teach, their role on campus, or their demonstrated passion. Professors that teach relevant classes, such as medical ethics or classes on international medicine are valuable resources. Mentors or professors you work closely with are also a good resource for support.

Having a faculty advisor helps your chapter navigate the bureaucracy that comes with registering as a new campus group or initiating change, like introducing health and human rights education. Advisors may help find new members for your group. They can help plan events or offer advice on fundraising and school funding opportunities, and will have contacts and connections with the school. Faculty members who are not your Chapter’s Advisor can help with these topics, but it is ideal to have at least one professor on whom your group can depend for advice on strategies and long-term goals. Advisors can also offer institutional memory and continuity from year to year.

Faculty members are often looking for ways to get their students engaged in dialogue about how to operationalize academic topics outside of the classroom. Your PHR chapter provides a channel for students to discuss and realize how many aspects of their studies are intrinsically connected to human rights. From a faculty perspective, you’re helping enrich what they teach in their classroom by broadening the horizons of a typical school curriculum. Some professors may even be interested in integrating health and human rights issues into their coursework.

Charting your course

Once your Chapter is established, determine your shared priorities.  Do the members of your Chapter want to educate the campus about a particular human rights issue? Build advocacy skills? Start or improve a clinic? Introduce a health and human rights education initiative?

Once you’ve established your priorities, plan events that will promote them. You may use PHR’s National Conference, Regional Advocacy Institutes, and National Actions as anchors, as well as planning local events or actions. Many Chapters find that educational events that prompt further discussion – like a film screening or a speaker’s panel – offer a strong foundation for later advocacy efforts. Put together a calendar of events for the year to avoid scheduling conflicts and facilitate the planning process.