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U of M Twin Cities/Core Model

The Core Model: An Overview

STLF operates entirely with a self-created leadership structure called the Core Model - a system based on functionality and collective action, rather than hierarchy and position. A Core is a group of 3 to 5 people who work together to accomplish an identified purpose.

STLF's Core Model has ultimately resulted in significant responsibility and meaningful leadership experiences for a large number of college student volunteers. Student leaders in STLF acquire proficient skills in organizing, working in teams, decision-making, public speaking, and group facilitation.

As a testament to the Core Model's success over time, the work of the volunteer student leaders in STLF was highlighted with the awarding of the Social Entrepreneur's Cup in 2008, recognizing Minnesota's most innovative solution for social change. A panel of judges cited STLF's innovative leadership structure as one of the primary reasons for the award.

The Core model: In Practice

All programs and initiatives are organized and led by Cores of dedicated college students. At the University of Minnesota, the chapter is led by 4 to 6 current students who form our Chapter Core. These individuals take the place of a traditional student organization board or a set of executives at the college level, and are responsible for strategic planning, budgeting and finance, administration of other cores, and the day to day operation of the chapter.

Unlike traditional student boards, the role of Core members are not preassigned (president, vice president, etc.), and all individuals who are on the same core have the same authority. This allows specific roles to be assigned based on interest and knowledge e.g. a Core member could work with both marketing and program development. This approach allows individuals to better utilize their strengths, and ensures that all viewpoints and concerns (financial, marketing, strategic, etc.) are considered when a decision is made.

STLF has developed a set of guiding philosophies to increase the success of this model. These are called staples, which encourage practices such as good communication, individual and collective responsibility, and shared expectations. For a complete list and explanation of STLF's staples, click here. In addition, a successful core is guided by the following:

  • A No Surprises Philosophy: Meetings begin with personal updates. Everyone has a chance to voice their own strengths, weaknesses, and outside commitments. For example, a core member would share that she is having a difficult week of classes, and therefore isn't able to take on a project. This allows for someone else to take on more of the responsibility that week, letting the project thrive. Honesty is encouraged and supported, and failure is planned for. It is alright for one member to struggle with a task because it won't come as a surprise. He will have previously expressed this to the group, so they can better support him. This creates a community based on mutual trust, support, and growth. Core members are able to take risks, stepping outside of their comfort zone, learning while being supported.
  • Intentional Transition of Leadership: No one serves on a Core for life. Everyone who begins work knows when they will be finished. With this in mind, procedures are created so that responsibility and knowledge is transitioned intentionally.
  • A Supportive Community of Friends: A Core does more than just work. It is STLF's belief that in order to be a successful leader one must feel supported in their role and feel as if they are part of a community. Core sleepovers, day trips, and other Core bonding opportunities are encouraged and occur regularly. This develops trusting, supportive, positive, and fulfilling relationships among Core members. This is so important to Core success that a set of opportunities are provided to all Bus Cores called Core Quest.

In many cases, specific programatic and administrative activity is run by other Cores of college students, established by the Chapter Core, which take on specific responsibility, independence, and accountability for the development and facilitation of activities that they control. These cores include a Bus Core for each Pay It Forward Tour that the chapter sends out, as well as a Recruitment Core for the entire Pay It Forward Tour program. These Cores are supported and guided by Chapter Core and trained through a series of retreats organized by the National office. For more specific information about specific cores, the core creation process, working on a core, or the interdependence between cores visit the Lead section of our website.



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My Story - Ayoola "Ay" Okuribido

STLF shaped Ay's college experience and prepared him future leadership skills

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