How to start your own society

If you’ve got an idea and you’re ready to make it happen, forming a student society is your next step!

Two smiling women stand behind a table for the "Dalhousie Accessibility and Inclusion Society". They are talking to a woman on the other side of the tabel. When we're on campus again, this could be you!

This year, I launched the Ninety Percent Society (NPS) at Dal, aimed at supporting students who are living with eating disorders. I wanted to use my own experience to bring attention to eating disorders, while making care more accessible for other students. I knew that I wanted to create a society because I’ve seen the impact that other societies can have at this school.

Before this year, I was a member of two societies within my faculty: the Dalhousie Health Promotion Society and the Student Association of Health and Human Performance (SAHHPer). My favourite part of being a member of those groups was the sense of community that came with them. With the NPS, I wanted to create the same thing. If you’re looking to make your own society, here’s what it takes.

The first step to creating a student society is making sure your idea is new! There is a huge list of existing societies on the DSU website. Take a look through the groups and their descriptions to make sure you aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel.

Next, take a look at the ratified society application and gather the information you need. You will need a name for your society, a purpose, a description, tags, social media links, a list of executive members, and the names and banner numbers of at least 10 general members.

When I was starting the NPS, I first brought the idea to my roommates, then my friends, and then friends of friends. People were eager to be involved and share the idea with others. It helps when the mission of the society is something that people feel passionately about.

It took me a while to gather everything I needed to submit the application, and during the process, I corresponded with a member of the DSU. They were incredibly helpful and were a huge catalyst for the society.

Finally, after submitting the application, you’ll just have to wait! Keep in mind that the DSU is a busy organization.  If you haven’t heard back in a while, send off a follow-up email. I did just that, and received the confirmation of ratification not long after.

Since becoming ratified, the Ninety Percent Society has grown exponentially in terms of members. Our community has quadrupled in size since being launched in September! We also have access to grants and resources of all sorts, creating the opportunity for us to further support students with eating disorders.

As someone who’s endured the depths of an eating disorder, it’s empowering to see the positive impact that our society has had so far. Whether you want to start your own charitable initiative or have some other idea in mind, I wish you luck with your own society!

Do you want to check out other student societies at Dal? Watch out for the Volunteer & Society Expo that generally takes place in September and January/February.