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Some University of Michigan students have partnered with other students and organizations across the country to create a guidebook for young people to create change in their community called “From the Ground Up: A Guide to Changemaking.” According to the website, the 85-page guidebook includes resources and case studies in collaboration with dozens of other student-led professional development organizations across the country. 

Business and Information sophomore Abby Liang, graphic designer for the guidebook, said the guide provides changemaking resources and tips that are often not available for young people looking to create change in their community.

“Anyone can be a changemaker,” Liang said. “We really go into everything, including financing and networking. It’s very comprehensive. (We want to) encourage people to think about their community and the ways that they can make a positive change.”

Stanford University freshman Victoria Ren, one of the authors of the guidebook, said the group started writing the book in Dec. 2020 after she launched an after-school STEM outreach program and wanted to learn more about how to expand her idea. 

“It wasn’t until I reached out to someone who was near me locally … that my understanding of service and this type of work changed,” Ren said. “It was just a 15-minute conversation but I was able to find a community and (learned that) there’s so many people rooting for me.”

Ren said she wanted to replicate the support and mentorship she received when trying to create or join an organization … . The guidebook is a sort of comfort and support for anyone to access, Ren added. 

Prior to accessing the guidebook, individuals are asked to fill out a pre-survey that collects demographic data. According to Ren, the guidebook was initially intended for high school and college students to maneuver their ideas. However, Ren said pre-survey data showed that those who downloaded the guidebook were evenly split between young and middle-aged adults. 

“I think at this point, whoever finds it helpful is more than welcome to use it,” Ren said. “We’re happy to work with everyone and allow any organization to tailor it to their specific needs.”

Liang said optiMize, a University of Michigan student group, was a big help in creating the guidebook. Liang said participating in the optiMize Social Innovation Challenge allowed the team to gain insight into ways of improving their guidebook.

“(OptiMize) had an event where students can share their projects and I received a lot of feedback,” Liang said. “I met with (Jeff Sorensen), the director of social innovation at optiMize, and he gave me ideas of the best ways to distribute and expand the project.”

Tanvi Challa, a guidebook user and a junior at North Allegheny Senior High School in Allegheny County, Pa., said she has an interest in creating a difference in her community and wasn’t sure where to start.

“The guidebook answered every question I had, including everything from getting your brain thinking about potential ideas to mapping out logistics,” Challa said. “(The guidebook) helped me take a step back and laid down clear questions to help me figure out what exactly I want to do.”

Challa said the content in the guidebook is not something you can just search online and appreciated that the guidebook was written by students who have experience creating and conducting changemaking projects.

“They answered every question that I could come up with,” Challa said. “I have already brainstormed so many ideas that I hope to start in the future.”

Ren said the main takeaway of the guidebook is for users to remember that everyone is still learning about service work and whatever happens is okay.

“Community work is not linear,” Ren said. “There are a lot of things that seem difficult and that you think you could have done better, but we’re all still learning, so you have to give yourself space to make mistakes.”

Daily Staff Reporter Sejal Patil can be reached at sejpatil@umich.edu.