Organising around international solidarity
ISOs are the voice of the Union’s international work on the ground, championing our key campaigns and issues in local districts and branches. Part of this requires organising members around international solidarity. Some ideas for organising include:
- Arrange a session in your workplace, branch or district to inform members about your role and activities
- Deliver an assembly to talk to students about your work or a specific campaign
- Utilise and build on links made on delegations (if you have taken part in one)
- Speak to your Organising Forum (OF) representative
- Consider twinning your district or branch with another education union internationally
- Encourage members in your workplace who are interested in international solidarity to sign-up and contribute to the Monday Morning Mail-Out
- Speak to colleagues on CPD and other training days
- Talk to other schools across your local area
There are lots of other ideas for sharing this work more broadly. Contact the office (email@example.com) for more ideas, and feel free to share any suggestions you have for organising around international solidarity.
The NEU organises the International Solidarity Learning and Development Course every year. This two-day residential course trains participants on the basics of international solidarity and global learning.
The International and Organising teams also organise, on occasion, one-day International Solidarity Officer workshops. These courses are introductions to international solidarity in the Union context and build participants’ skills and knowledge of international solidarity in order to empower them to take action on issues about which they are passionate.
For more information, including upcoming course dates, visit learning and events.
An important part of being an ISO is meeting and discussing international issues with like- minded individuals. Part of this is establishing ISO networks across the NEU regions.
Networks are an opportunity to meet with other ISOs; share experiences, tools and resources (why reinvent the wheel?); work together on key campaigns and projects; and help build a regional presence for international solidarity.
Currently, there is a firmly established network in London and the North West, with more groups developing. We encourage you to contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if your region has a network and, if so, when the next meeting will be taking place.
If there isn’t already a network in your region, here is a roadmap to getting started:
- Start by contacting your Organising Forum Representative to enquire about any existing contacts in the area and express your interest in organising a network. Not sure who that is? Email email@example.com.
- Contact other ISOs across the country to find out about their networks. What works? What doesn’t?
- Plan an initial meeting open to all members in your region, making sure you have specifically reached out to any key activists who would want to be involved.
- Use this meeting to identify key areas to focus on based on the interests of members in the region, using the four pillars of International Solidarity as a framework. Check key international solidarity communications such as the Monday Morning Mail-Out for ideas, if you’re not sure what to work on.
- Split activists into groups based on their key interest area. Each group can then use the campaign planning sheet at the back of this toolkit to get started.
- Report back to the wider group and set some goals to accomplish before the next meeting – and set the date of this meeting. Keep the momentum going!
When organising your regional network meetings or events, here are a few top tips to consider:
- Always seek approval from your district and/or branch for any events which will require financial support. Make sure key people are aware of the event or meeting, such as District Secretaries, Executive Members, regional staff, and the international team at NEU HQ. Being built into formal Union structures will also make spreading the word much easier.
- Arrange meetings and events well in advance so members can save the date. Plan ahead to ensure time for marketing and try to use a range of different mediums to raise awareness.
- Try to move the meetings around in terms of different days, times, and locations so you split the burden of travel among members.
- Consider reaching out to other networks that might be interested, such as Black Teachers, LGBT+, etc.
- Consider inviting a speaker to a meeting as a ‘hook’ for members to attend.
- Always make sure that venues are accessible to all members, taking into account physical, religious and other needs.
- Use the international section of the website to print off communications materials, policy guidance, reports and other information.
- Don’t hesitate to use the list of contacts should you require additional support.
Linking with your local Union structures
Unions are built on solidarity between people, be that nationally or internationally, and we encourage you to use this idea to support your campaigning work. Maximising your impact as an ISO means linking in with formal and informal structures, embedding your work within your district or branch. Make sure you report back to your district or branch after any delegations, events, or activities, and try to ensure international solidarity is on the agenda of every meeting and in every local communication output. Other opportunities for sharing with fellow members include (but are not limited to):
- Reps training days,
- Local CPD trainings,
- Regional Council meetings,
- Organising Fora and other activist meetings, and
- Speaking to Executive Members.
Engaging new members
International solidarity is a great way to engage new members, and to get less engaged members to take on an active role in the Union. Here are some ‘top tips’ for engaging new members, developed by the legacy NEU-NUT Section 2018 International Solidarity Activist National Organising Forum:
- Know your audience: are you trying to get new members, or re-engage existing members? What are their interests? Why are they in the Union? Could you engage other members, such as support staff?
- Context: what are the key areas for your geographic area? How can this be used to engage new members?
- Resources: are you making sure you provide relevant and accessible resources, and sharing these at appropriate times?
- Signposting: how can you help new members develop their interests and learn more about issues and campaigns?
- Activities: could you develop short starter activities, related to key subjects, that could give new members an easy way to get involved?
- Events: how can you make it FUN? Could you organise socials, quizzes, dinners or other fun ways to get members engaged?
Events, Seminars and Conferences
As well as training, the Union organises and supports a number of ad-hoc events, seminars and conferences throughout the year, including for World Teachers’ Day, Srebrenica Memorial Day, and more. These are excellent opportunities to learn more about key issues and network with other ISOs, members, and activists.
The current ISO priority campaigns are Cuba, Palestine, Quality Education for All, and Human and Trade Union Rights. These have been highlighted to help unify the ISO voice across the country, giving key points around which to organise the network’s advocacy. However, if there are other key issues about which you or your district/branch are passionate, please do explore them. This is a starting point for ideas and not intended to be prescriptive.
Cuba is a developing country, which has been under a US blockade for over 55 years, with few natural resources. Despite the scarcities and difficulties caused by the blockade, the Cuban people have created a society based on health, education, social justice and internationalism. The country has a near 100% literacy rate and school meals and uniforms are free for all children. The Union works closely with the Cuba Solidarity Campaign to fight for an end to the blockade and to support and learn from Cuba’s achievement of near universal literacy.
What ISOs can do:
- Organise and raise awareness around the Cuban model of education and challenges facing children and teachers
- Affiliate to CSC, both personally and as a district/branch
- Share the 2018 Cuba Delegation Report and other resources
Quality Education for All
In September 2015 the United Nations agreed the Sustainable Development Goals, the new agenda set to guide the world’s work to end poverty, mitigate climate change and build a better world for all global citizens. The 17 Goals were envisioned to affect every country equally, with all leaders and governments striving to achieve every goal by 2030. SDG4 focuses specifically on education and seeks to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. Targets of the Goal include 100% completion of free, high- quality primary and secondary education, eliminating gender disparities in education, promoting access to early childhood education and vocational opportunities, and substantially increasing the number of qualified teachers globally, among others. A major barrier to implementation of the goal will be securing the financing required for change, as education is chronically underfunded across the world. The Union works through the Steve Sinnott Foundation and the Send My Friend to School Campaign to advocate for the realisation of SDG4.
What ISOs can do:
- Organise and raise awareness around the campaign for quality education
- Get your class involved in the Send My Friend to School campaign
- Support the Steve Sinnott Foundation
- Raise awareness of the importance of the SDGs in your classroom and within your district/branch
Human and Trade Union Rights
The Union supports various campaigns that focus on human and trade union rights. Often, the Union works in partnership with other unions or organisations advocating on a similar issue. Over the years, we have supported campaigns in Bangladesh, Cuba, Turkey, Iran, Colombia, Venezuela and more.
What ISOs can do:
- Organise and raise awareness around the campaign for human and trade union rights across the globe
- Write letters to leaders in support of trade union and unionist rights
- Affiliate, personally and as a district/branch, to solidarity campaigns in affected countries (such as Nicaragua, Venezuela, or Colombia)
The international team publish and contribute to a series of communications throughout the year. These include:
ISO Monday Morning Mail-Out
Global Matters e-newsletter
As an International Solidarity Officer, you may wish to produce or contribute to similar communications for your district/branch, or even work within your regional network to produce a regional newsletter. This will help to spread the message about your work and galvanise interest in your projects, events and campaigns.
Organising Forum (OF)
The Organising Forum (OF) was established in 2018 as a representative body of international solidarity activists. This body comprises two representatives from each of the regions/Wales and four from London. The OF has the remit to: promote and develop the engagement of members in international solidarity; share, utilise and build on effective practice; share and spread good practice in engagement and involvement of members; develop the regional network structure; and advise on policy priorities in relation to international solidarity work. Speak to your District Secretary if you are interested in joining the International Solidarity Activist OF.
Working through partnership is one of the best ways to maximise impact and reach the most people while operating with a limited resource base. The Union works with a number of key partner organisations, including:
You may also wish to consider working with local organisations in your area on an issue that has particular significance in your community. It is important to ensure that any organisation you work with is within the values of the Union. If in doubt, ask the international team.
Some organisations have the option of affiliation. As an ISO, you are encouraged to consider which organisations your district or branch could, or should, affiliate to and raise this at your next meeting. Affiliation helps keep small organisations alive and is an excellent way of pledging your support for certain causes.
Do’s and Don’ts as an ISO
- Job Share – it can be an overwhelming task.
- Be creative – test out different ideas and think outside of the box.
- Engage with your district/branch
- Network – try to make ISO network meetings and go to other meetings where you can share your ISO message.
- …whatever you can. Anything helps!
- Engage with people who are abusive, aggressive, or manipulative, whether in person, in the media or on Social Media.
- Feel intimidated – it will take time to build up your support.
- Get overwhelmed – there are many issues you could be working on. Just do what you can.
- Make promises you can’t keep.