A student-led coalition is providing a platform for sustainability and social justice-focused groups at the University of Minnesota and the local community.
The Sustainability Network Coalition is a network of 12 student groups that share resources and receive support from other groups in the coalition. The network came out of a project within the Minnesota Student Association to increase collaboration between sustainability-focused student groups. If a student group is working on an initiative, they can be backed by others in the coalition.
“One group may not have as much voice on their own,” said Jessica James, a facilitator for SNC.
The three-year-old coalition received funding last month to develop a website for students and community members to find and share information about the groups. The website will also promote poetry, art and events from members within SNC.
Part of the reason for the website is to make it easier for students who want to become a part of a student group to find sustainability and social justice-focused groups on campus.
James said students often learn about a student group they are interested in while attending the University’s Welcome Week activities fair during their first year and do not have many opportunities afterward to find other groups they may be interested in.
The group branched off from MSA and became an independent group in 2018 in an effort to be more inclusive for groups outside the University community.
“At the time, MSA had the resources ... and platform … to help get the coalition off the ground,” said Will Macheel, an SNC facilitator and former director of MSA’s sustainability committee in an email.
While rolling out the program, SNC facilitators met with groups to gather input on what they wanted from the platform, Macheel said. These meetings helped shape the coalition to the resource hub it is today.
MSA’s Sustainability Committee is now a member of SNC and communicates with University administration on things SNC groups want, James said.
“We are a community [student groups] can lean on if they need support on something,” James said.
Voices for Environmental Justice, a member of SNC, sought help from the coalition while planning its upcoming Earth Week celebration. The group worked with other SNC members to share resources and help plan the event.
SNC also helped the group build relationships with other sustainability and social justice-focused community groups.
“The work of building movements is building healthy relationships. That is the core of it,” said Nick Knighton, a facilitator for Voices for Environmental Justice.
Facilitators of SNC help connect groups and spread information, but do not think of themselves as leaders.
“We provide speed. You don’t need to contact 10 different groups about something,” James said. “You can contact one group and we can connect and spread the information to everybody.”