Wesleyan Doula Project

start a project

Some things to think about when implementing the college doula project model...

What abortion clinics, birth centers, and hospitals are in your area?  

Building community partnerships:

A strong clinic partnership can be the foundation of a doula project – but how do you begin developing one?

  1. To start, do some research: what medical facilities are near your school? For security reasons, it can be difficult to find out details about abortion services or contact information for staff at abortion clinics. In addition to a thorough Google search, try reaching out to your campus health services and asking them what places they know about and if they have any connection to or contact information of people who work there.
  2. Draft a thoughtful email pitching your organization and full-spectrum doula services and asking if the location would be interested in working with you. Have a friend who knows nothing about doulas look it over – does it make sense to them? If so, send it off to everywhere you’ve identified. If you haven’t heard back in a week and you have their phone number, follow up with a phone call.  It’s okay to be persistent as long as you’re also polite!
  3. See who responds! Try to meet in person to talk more about a potential partnership – this can help ensure strong communication and make your project appear more concrete and personal.  In setting up a relationship, make sure that you are clear about your expectations and the expectations of the medical institution so that you will be filling a role that is satisfactory to both of you. Try to put the terms of your partnership in writing so it is easy to revisit over time and go from there! 

Managing logistics:

Geography and transportation play a critical role in the success of a doula project.  How are volunteers going to get to a clinic? How far will they have to travel?  These are details you should try to work out as soon as possible.  Do enough interested students have cars? Is there any school-provided transportation that could be put to use? Or school funds that can reimburse students for gas? It’s also important to be strategic about your commitments – start small and build up so you are always able to meet the commitments you make to clinics. This will probably mean focusing on one type of doula care first and expanding over time.

How will this project promote or challenge campus values?

What is the political climate of your school? Regardless of how your school’s administration and student body feels about abortion and doula care, it is totally possible to make a project happen.  That said, it’s good to go in with a realistic sense of how this project will resonate with the campus community: How can you best pitch your project to students, faculty, and staff so that they will get excited about it? Are there groups on campus who are likely to publicly support or oppose the development of a doula project that provides abortion care? Is there an active conversation around reproductive rights on your campus that you either want to start or change by introducing a doula project?

Who are your potential allies?

Working with the administration:

Every school has a different system for providing student initiatives with funding and for running programming that supports community engagement.  Find out how all that works! Are there administrative offices with mission statements that prioritize student-run community volunteer work?  Are there specific staff or faculty members who can give you good advice or connect you to student workspaces, funding, transportation services, etc.? Set up meetings with them. It’s important to maintain the project’s autonomy and student leadership as the project develops –look for the kind of administrative support that will allow you to do this.

Working with student organizations:

Ask your classmates for help! Are there other student organizations on campus that you could work with or learn from? Coordinators of other health organizations on campus will probably have a lot to share, but also look at groups whose focus is different but whose model may be similar – groups that coordinate students working in the community, whether through tutoring, mentoring, food service, etc.  Building strong partnerships with other student groups and leaders can also be helpful for navigating funding policies, co-sponsoring speakers or events, and getting moral support.  

How will you gauge interest and recruit members?

Not many people have heard of full-spectrum doula projects and even fewer realize that they can exist on college campuses.  How you explain the work of a doula and recruit your first members will set the tone of your group! Building a thoughtful conversation and community around these issues on campus is just as important as building a relationship with a clinic.   One successful tactic is to hold events related to reproductive health and doula work on campus – show a movie, bring a speaker, or facilitate a coffee talk about current events in abortion access or birth politics. Pitch your project at the end of the event and have a sign-up for people who are interested in joining.  You can also take a more direct approach and hold an informal info or planning session for your project, which can be a great time for people to ask questions or brainstorm together.

What resources might be available to you off campus?

This country is full of thoughtful and dedicated reproductive rights and justice activists who care about this work and want to see new initiatives succeed – so how do you find them?

  1. Reach out to other organizations in the Full Spectrum Reproductive Support Network (like us!) – each of these groups has navigated the challenges of training doulas, negotiating clinic relationships, and creating sustainable volunteer organizations.  Until you have your own experienced doulas and campus-specific training curriculum, think about partnering with other full-spectrum doula organizations to bring trainings to your campus.
  2. Go to conferences on reproductive issues, and bring as many interested students as you can! The Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) Conference at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts and Take Root: Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma, are both amazing opportunities for learning and relationship building.  Colleges will often fund students to go to academic conferences—look into it.

Have more questions or ideas? Email us at doulaproject@wesleyan.edu

We would love to talk to you more about your process.