Learn about public speaking and campaigning

This post is modified from its first appearance on the QMUL History Futures blog.

The Aegis Students training programmes enrol students to help campaign and raise awareness of the prevention mass atrocities. There are two training programmes on offer:

  • The Speaker Programme is designed to train students on how to teach others about the dangers of discrimination. During the programme participants are trained in public speaking and delivering Aegis school workshops before putting what they have learnt in to action in a school environment.
  • The Campaigner Programme offers students training in successful advocacy campaigning and the chance to put that training into action by helping to build a student-led, national advocacy campaign.

Each programme offers free training and requires a minimum commitment of about 30 hours over the course of an academic year from November 2015 to June 2016. While the programmes are open to students in any year it could be a great opportunity for first year students to get their CV’s off to a flying start.

So what is it about?

The campaigns are an opportunity for students to work in groups on mass atrocity prevention issues and, while they take the lead, get professional support from Aegis. The work you will do will raise awareness in parliament, in the media and introduce other young people to the topic. I spoke to Rebecca Usden from Aegis about the difference taking part in these programmes can make for students.

“The main thing,” said Rebecca, “that students say they take away from the programmes is the knowledge that they have actively promoted mass atrocity prevention and raised awareness about the issues. When students manage to enrol the former Head of the UN in Sudan for a speaker tour in the UK or see a group of year 9 girls set up an anti-genocide group in the wake of a school speaker visit they know they are making a tangible impact. Students take part in the Aegis programmes because they want to make these kinds of differences.”

aegis

How else does participation in the programmes benefit the student?

Students benefit in a number of ways.  Many of them use the experience to help them develop related careers. The skills that are gained from the programmes are hugely applicable to jobs across the NGO and human rights sector. Past participants often use Aegis as a reference when they are applying for jobs.  “We have had alumni of our programmes join The Red Cross, Save The Children and the European Commission, to name just some examples.”

Are there specific skills and knowledge students will get from the programmes?

The training programmes will help students to develop skills such as confident public speaking, the ability to influence decision makers, organising events and planning and evaluating campaigns. Aegis also briefs students on the issues they will be campaigning on. This year, the student-led campaign will be on the topic of the UN Security Council Veto and they will be campaigning for voluntary restraint of the UN Veto in mass atrocity situations. “It’s a fascinating and important topic and students will receive a full brief on the issues. Last year there were students who chose to write coursework essays on the topics that we were campaigning on.”

Of course the participants also learn a lot from the practical activities involved in the programmes.  “I’ve seen this with school speakers for example. After a day spent in a school delivering workshops the speakers are tangibly more relaxed, confident and engaging.  Similarly with campaigning, the actual act of putting on an exhibition, booking a venue, developing publicity and simply dealing with the logistics makes the students realise that they can make things happen.”

Another key take-away from the programmes is evidence of leadership. While Aegis will help to support the campaign, how it is run and what activities it involves is really down to the campaigners. For the school speakers, whilst Aegis will support them in arranging a school workshop, the students will be the main point of contact for the school where they will be speaking and will be representing Aegis Students there on the day. “Another good recent example is how one of our students set up an Aegis Student Society on their campus and became its President.” These kinds of things make really good evidence for a CV.

The other thing worth mentioning is teamwork. The campaigns are run in a nationwide team of over 100 students and the school workshops are done in partners or teams – so again it’s a great opportunity for participants or learn about how to get things done with other people.

What commitment does it involve?

After the training day there is probably about 30 hours worth of commitment. This is a minimum though and lots of students enjoy doing more.

And how do students apply?

Aegis have more of a registration process than application process.  “If students are enthusiastic and interested and we have enough space then we would love to have them come along.”  Aegis are open to new applications until the beginning of November so email studentprogammes@aegistrust.org for more information about training days or visit the website www.aegistrust.org.

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