Ask me anything: IGNITE Fellowship 411

Are you a politically ambitious young woman who is ready to deepen your expertise, expand your networks and activate other young women to step into leadership? If so, the IGNITE fellowship is for you! Our 2017-2018 fellows answer your questions about the fellowship program in this "Ask me anything" article. 

Can you still apply to be a Fellow in a region you’re not currently living in? I’m currently living in New York and want to apply for the position in Boston where I’ll be going to grad school.

Zeenat, Seattle Fellow: Yes! While it’s helpful to be already living in a region where you might be potentially working as a fellow, it is not necessary. We want young women who are passionate about the same things our organization is passionate about! I moved from California to Seattle for grad school and currently serve as the fellow for Seattle.

How do you present the idea of “IGNITE”?

Dalila, Southern California Fellow: IGNITE is a non-partisan organization that focuses on getting more women into elected office. Through IGNITE women have the opportunity to develop leadership skills, build connections with elected official and find sisterhood with other young women on this same journey. IGNITE works by supporting local college chapters, providing college councils which provide training for college leaders and multiple opportunities to be active politically on and off campus.

If I’m not selected as a fellow, how can I stay engaged with IGNITE?

Join a chapter! Start a chapter! Join the college affiliate program! Attend IGNITE events!

How do you balance school and the fellowship?

Kirsten, Atlanta Fellow: I am big on planning. I have separate planners for my IGNITE events and my school work/ events. Therefore I suggest planning ahead so your dates don't conflict. It is imperative to know that you are a student first. I would usually knock out my class assignments first then, send emails to members, reach out to speakers, and plan events after. Time management is essential! Also, please take care of your mental health. College can be stressful, and you can't perform well in the fellowship if you are always stressed out. Making time for yourself is OKAY! You will have so much support from previous fellows, the new cohort and our leaders at our headquarters if you need help just ask! 

How do you balance work with the fellowship?

Geovanie, San Antonio Fellow: I interned at a law office and I was a resident assistant at my school when I was a fellow. I am honestly lucky because none of my times or dates EVER conflicted due to planning! The work I do with the fellowship sometimes doesn't even feel like a job. I have a great time meeting young women, hosting events and teaching IGNITE's curriculum. It is a job that you can make your own, which is why I love being apart of this organization so much!

How do you contact City Council members to invite them?

Sam, Denver Fellow: Call them! You’d be surprised how responsive and excited elected officials are to speak with young women excited about political leadership (or really any constituent). Essentially every city council, school board, state legislature, political party, campaign, elected office period will have a website including contact information. You can send an email invitation, but emails can often get lost. Call the office, let the scheduler or aide know you are looking to invite the City Council member to an event, check that the elected has that date open, ask the best method to invite! That way the staff (who, more often than not, are truly in charge of an electeds schedule and will be the ones RSVPing) knows the event is coming and can get you penciled in quick! This applies to aides in City Council all the way up to schedulers for Congresspeople or Governors. And once you’ve got a staffer on the other end of the line, make sure you save their contact info!

How many hours per week do Fellows put into their work?

Zeenat, Seattle Fellow: This can vary, depending on the week or the day! If you’re checking in with college chapters or doing outreach, it might only be 5 hours a week, but if you have a big event coming up, you might be working 10 hours that week to prep. The great part about the fellowship though is you can choose your hours which allows for flexibility to take on other jobs and opportunities.

Is it harder to recruit elected officials or students to attend college training and events? How do you address the challenge?

Geovanie, San Antonio Fellow: Elected officials are the least of your worries! IGNITE has an amazing network of elected officials in fellowship cities. You will always have many options for speakers. It can be hard at times to get students to come to events because most of us have hectic lives while in college. However, I've learned not to get discouraged by low attendance numbers. At my first college council, I did not have the turn out I wanted. I became frustrated, however, I turned that frustration into action and passion. I changed my recruitment style. I started doing more tabling on campus. I went to more politically ambitious events to get the word out about IGNITE. You honestly have to figure out what works best for you, every fellow and every city is different. Just don't give up on yourself! 

What are your best practices for recruiting in new cities?

Zeenat, Seattle Fellow: Figure out where the colleges are and what organizations they have on campus where you might be able to recruit students for IGNITE (i.e. Political Science Clubs), reach out to faculty that might be able to support you, figure out who are the prominent members in the community (i.e. organizers, organizations, elected officials). One way I was able to do this was by joining a Facebook group of women in Seattle who are passionate about activism and getting involved in the community. Lastly, remember to be patient with yourself. Things may not fall together right away but as long as you’re doing everything you can know that you’re doing a good job!

Are most of the campuses close to where you work and live? How much travel is involved when working with chapters?

Dalila, Southern California Fellow: I work in Southern California, where our chapters are a little more spread out. My chapters range from being about 5 minutes away from my home to about 1.5 hours (with normal traffic). However, I do not need to drive to each campus every week; it is often more as it is needed and I try to arrange to see multiple chapters located in the same area on the same day so that I do not have to do too many trips in one week. 

What challenges do you face in starting IGNITE in new communities? In returning cities?

Zeenat, Seattle Fellow: Starting in a new community comes with a variety of challenges. Figuring out where to do outreach and find young women who might be interested in IGNITE, reaching out to community members and elected officials to get them involved with IGNITE programming can also be challenging and intimidating. The great part about of starting in a new community though is the fact that you are bringing something to young women who have never had the opportunity to participate in something like IGNITE before. You are also the one building these relationships from the ground up, and there is something very empowering about that.