HOW TO START A LOCAL CHAPTER OF THE U.S. GREENS ABROAD
HOW THE U.S. GREENS ABROAD IS ORGANIZED
The U.S. Greens Abroad currently has a Clearinghouse in Tokyo, Japan, which handles all administrative functions for the group as a whole, including keeping an up-to-date membership and mailing list, handling all finances, publishing the USGA Newsletter, and providing other information, such as info about how to vote by absentee ballot overseas and Green candidates. Members living in any country can either register directly with the USGA Clearinghouse in Tokyo if they choose, or they can form themselves into autonomous local groups in a specific area, which can be either a city, country, or other region. Local chapters may engage in independent activities on issues which concern their own local areas, although any actions which affect the USGA as a whole (e.g., issuing official policy statements and endorsements in the name of the U.S. Greens Abroad) must be decided on by the full membership. The guidelines below for starting a local are fluid and can be modified as necessary to fit the local situation. For example, a local may be initially started in a particular continent, with new locals being established in separate countries and cities as more members join.
STARTING A LOCAL CHAPTER
First, get in contact with the U.S. Greens Abroad Clearinghouse about your intention to start a local (contact info for the USGA Clearinghouse is given below). The Clearinghouse will be able to provide you with whatever help you need to get started. We will send you the names and contact info for other members and supporters living in your area (after getting their permission), and you can then contact them to see if they would be interested in joining your local. You can also publicize your group through local networks (e.g., word-of-mouth, bulletin boards, local English-language media, etc. -- whatever works in your local area). If your intended membership lives in close proximity with each other, you can also consider having an initial organizational meeting.
MEMBERSHIPS AND FINANCES
The USGA Clearinghouse can provide you with a master application form (either via e-mail or by regular post) which you can then copy and distribute to prospective members. Completed application forms should be returned to the USGA Clearinghouse in Tokyo. Members who wish to join the Greens / Green Party USA should send their dues directly to the Clearinghouse either by cash or by a check drawn on a U.S. bank made out to "Richard Evanoff." The USGA will only handle money and keep financial records specifically related to the USGA, but locals are welcome to raise their own money by asking for donations and / or engaging in other fundraising activities. (Accurate records should be kept of all money handled by your local, although it is not necessary to report this information to the USGA Clearinghouse.)
COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE USGA
The USGA will send copies of the USGA Newsletter to all members in your local, although locals are of course welcome to start their own newsletters and establish whatever form of internal communication best suits their needs. Members of your local are welcome to join the USGA listserv, although local groups may wish to set up their own separate listservs. It is possible that the USGA can also provide space on its website for your local group; your local can also set up its own website if it chooses, in which case it would be good to establish links between the two sites.
It is often possible to get free publicity through the local English-language media. It's a good idea to collect the names, addresses, and contact information of local media outlets to help publicize your group, and to update this list periodically. To send a press release to the media, simply write at the top: "PRESS RELEASE FROM (THE NAME OF YOUR GROUP) -- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. Add the date and then start the headline several spaces down. At the end of the text write - 30 -, followed by complete contact information for the person sending the press release. Some publications may have their own specific procedures for submissions, so check the publication itself before sending information to them.
It is often possible to get in contact with Americans living overseas who may be interested in Green politics by networking with organizations and NGOs working on specific issues and campaigns. Often these organizations will be willing to exchange information with you, including announcements for events, membership drives, fundraising activities, etc. In exchange, your local group can also help to publicize the activities of the organization you are networking with.
Americans living overseas often can get involved in activism through local groups and NGOs in their area. Local chapters of the USGA can also organize their own campaigns around specific issues, of course. At present the USGA as a whole conducts most of its activist work through the International Green Network, a separate non-political organization started in 2001 by Greens from the U.S. and the U.K. living in Japan, which is open to individuals of all nationalities living anywhere in the world. The advantage of doing activist work through the IGN is that many of the issues and campaigns we are involved with can be particpated in by anyone, not just U.S. citizens living abroad, and the IGN facilitates networking with a wide variety of individuals and groups in our host countries and throughout the world. The IGN publishes a separate newsletter, which will also be sent automatically to all USGA members.
MEETINGS AND EVENTS
Depending on the geographical proximity of the members in your local chapter, you may want to conduct your own meetings and events. In Tokyo we have a regular monthly meeting called the "IGN EcoStudy Group," which is affiliated with the International Green Network. The participants themselves volunteer to give presentations and lead discussions on various themes. The USGA has also helped organize and / or participated in other events, such as the International Green Forum, in which we invited representatives from various local groups and NGOs to give presentations on their activities.
The USGA can provide local chapters with all the information necessary to help Americans living overseas register to vote, as well as information about specific candidates and issues. For more information about voting overseas by absentee ballot, see USGA Infosheet #10, "Information about Green Electoral Work and Candidates." You can also get voting information from the American Embassy in the country in which you are living. Ask them to send you (for free) (1) a copy of the current Voting Assistance Guide; (2) a stack of Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) forms (the main form you need both to register to vote and to request absentee ballots); and (3) copies of the leaflet, "How to Do It: Vote Absentee."
HOW TO CONTACT THE USGA CLEARINGHOUSE
Don't hesitate to get in touch with us if you need more help setting up your local! You can contact the U.S. Greens Abroad by either writing to Richard Evanoff, 1933-8 Hazama-cho, Hachioji-shi, Tokyo 193-0941 Japan, or e-mailing <email@example.com>.