Featured Q&A

With Joel Weitzman 


Q: Could you explain the process whereby you brought into collaboration partner student groups, if any? 

A: From the very beginning, we knew that we had to make the Challenge itself a movement. There is a very low limit on how much knowledge, how much skill, and how many resources a single individual or single group can bring to bear. The global and local problems that remain unsolved need new sorts of skills – the sort that we can only develop by drawing together a broad sampling of perspectives and approaches. The Stanford community already has all the pieces of this puzzle; it’s awash with schools, departments, student groups, and centers, each with their own worthy missions. We wanted to find the overlap, and find a new way for them to reach their existing goals, together.

Social-M was launched by three student groups: BASES, FUSION, and SSS. All three groups strive to innovate and all three know that collaboration like this broadens their impact. The Challenge belongs to them and to their members.

Q: What has the project taught you from a communications standpoint? 

A: The most important lesson is that it’s far wiser and far more satisfying to help others reach their goals than to try to coerce them into working toward your own. Social-M was conceived as a vessel to transform aspiration into action. When people can see their own objectives fulfilled through your efforts, they can more easily see the value. This gives them all the more reason to lend a hand.

Q: In a nutshell, what is the greatest individual benefit this project has imparted to you? The greatest individual challenge? 

A: Without a doubt, the greatest benefit to me has been the opportunity to work with such a passionate and dedicated group of student organizers. From Freshman up through PhDs, the Social-M team has been the most exciting crew of individuals I’ve had the chance to be around.

That said, it’s been a tremendous challenge to conduct a project of this scale while simultaneously pursuing a Ph.D. My background is not in social movement theory, management, or in organizational behavior. Nor does Stanford graduate work include my time for hobby pursuits. I’m thankful for the time the Social-M team set aside to make this effort such a huge success.

Q: Is there any advice or tips you would like to give to future applicants of the Mel Lane Student Grant Program? 

A: Don’t make your project just for yourself. Think about what your community, your friends, and your potential funders would like to see accomplished. Try to find a way to weave those objectives together. If you can pull that off, you’ll have a broader, more engaged, and more stable base of support.