PIRG! is a case study that highlights some successes in engaging post-high-school and postsecondary-aged youth (18-30) in social change. It discusses the following successes: immersion in a program; inclusivity; accessibility; the power of shared experiences; chapter or club recruiting; peer-to-peer relationships; as well as skills, capacity, and confidence building.

One highly successful model for engaging students enrolled in postsecondary institutions are Public Interest Research Groups, or PIRGs. A PIRG is a membership-based group, usually centred on the local campus, whose student and community volunteers work to expose and confront systemic injustices that have been overlooked or ignored by governing bodies. PIRGs believe that the health of a democracy is measured by the level of participation of its citizens.

Each PIRG is student-funded and student-led. Students take up positions of leadership and responsibility and, through consensus, decide which projects, initiatives, activities and research fit within their debated definitions of social and environmental justice.

Contributing to the success of PIRGs is the fact that they have stable financial resources, one or several paid staff to manage the day-to-day operations, and serve as an access point, or gateway, of the institutional memory and to introducing or maintaining students’ interest and motivation in a variety of justice causes. In addition, it is advantageous to have professors as volunteer resources to support the PIRG and its succession.

Each PIRG is organized slightly differently. For example:

Vancouver Island, BC – vipirg.ca

Simon Fraser, BC – sfpirg.ca

Alberta – apirg.org

Regina, SK – rpirg.org

Ottawa, ON – opirg-gripo.ca

Guelph, ON – opirgguelph.org

Kingston, ON – opirgkingston.org

Laurier, ON – lspirg.org

Toronto, ON – opirgtoronto.org

Waterloo, ON – wpirg.org

York, ON – opirgyork.ca

Concordia, QC – qpirgconcordia.org

McGill, QC – qpirgmcgill.org

Related indicators of success:

  • Determining group norms;
  • Social space;
  • Knowing what you are going to get out of it;
  • Successful marketing and promotions;
  • Alumni of programs organize own event or project;
  • Providing a framework to support; evaluation; follow-up.