Setting up a Medsin Branch or Activity: You are Needed!
Local branches are the foundation of Medsin and all of its linked activities; the energy, talent and idealism of our branch members the beating heart of the network.
It can be easy to lose sight of this at a big Medsin conference, as we are subsumed into a single body of delegates and representatives from the national committee and organising committee take the stage. In the whirlwind that ensues we meet people from a seemingly infinite number of different groups and organisations. And once we disperse – many of us back to exams – it’s easy to forget a great deal of what we saw and heard, retaining only an impression of the vastness and diversity of Medsin.
I mention this because it is a misleading illusion, and risks breeding complacency. Medsin and its linked activities are not bigger than the sum of their parts. They rely upon individuals to drive branch-level activities and developments. So be in no doubt that you are needed. You are needed to attend your branch’s events and help create interest, presence and momentum. You are needed to help organise the fundraisers, events and publicity which are Medsin’s mission in action. You are needed to help look around and into the future, to the needs that go unmet today and what can be done about them tomorrow.
* * *
This leads onto the second part of my blog. If you are interested in setting up a branch of Medsin or a linked activity you may find the following thoughts useful. They’re not meant to be comprehensive, and they’re not meant to replace strategic planning or SWOT analysis. They’re simply a reflection on what a small group of us have learnt over the last 12 months as we tried to set up a branch of Crossing Borders in Sheffield.
1. Find a friend! If you’re interested in setting up a branch of Crossing Borders – or any other activity – the very first thing to do is find someone else who is also interested, enthusiastic, and has the time to help you. As GK Chesterton observed, there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally.
2. Do your homework. Find out as much as you can about what else is going on in your area of interest. What are the relevant student organisations, charities, voluntary or statutory bodies, and what do they do? What needs go unmet, and what problems could you help solve? This will all help concentrate your good intentions upon a real-world problem that needs you.
3. Communicate. Build relationships with as many of the organisations you talk to as possible, drawing upon their knowledge and experience. Don’t be afraid to write out of the blue: in Sheffield, we found everyone we approached to be astonishingly enthusiastic and happy to advise us. If you possibly can, go and meet people face-to-face.
4. Plan. From the very start you will have had an idea of what you’d like to accomplish, but it’s only by exploring the field thoroughly that you will come to understand what is required and how it can be achieved. Now that you’ve done some research and made some contacts, it should be possible to conduct a SWOT analysis and draft a strategic plan of SMART goals. Mr Littrell’s stomach-churning “shoot for the moon: even if you miss you’ll land among the stars” does not apply in this situation (or whilst we’re at it any other that I can think of). Be realistic.
5. Publicise. You’re now in a good position to start getting more people on board. You know what you’d like to do and roughly how to do it. Decide who your audience is, design a cracking poster or presentation, and go and talk to them. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about a sales pitch. At this point it really is a matter of quality rather than quantity, and anyone who is after points on their CV or a shot at some sexy elective is probably not worth your time.
6. Launch. Your first event – whether it’s a speaker night, a charity gig or a sponsored event – needs to be meticulously planned, effectively advertised and flawlessly executed. Make sure it goes with a bang! Approaching your Student’s Union for help with this may be very helpful, so make sure you know what they can offer you. On the night make sure you signpost how people can find out more, and make yourself available to talk to people.
7. Consolidate. Shout about your success, but don’t bask in it for too long. You need to maintain momentum and enthusiasm, and the best way to do this is by rolling on into planning your next activity.
The last thing to say is that setting up a new group can be a real challenge. Be prepared for setbacks. Make a conscious effort to think flexibly. Keep reminding yourself of why you started in the first place: because you are needed to help turn Medsin’s vision into a reality. Start today!
You can find resources to help you at www.medsin.org/resources. If you’d like to find out any more about Crossing Borders, please email our national committee at [email@example.com].