Becoming a Branch Leader

See how to start a CTD branch, and learn our time-tested strategies that make for more productive meetingsPublished On:

Getting Started

Note: all official CTD leaders must have filled out our join form. Once you do this and get approved, your name will be added to our team page.

Once you have joined as a leader, the first thing that you should do is familiarize yourself with the rules of discussion listed below. You should also reach out to a teacher and get your club officially registered with your school. To save time and make your job easier, we have prepared email templates and presentations, which you can find here.

If, at any point, you have a question, reach out to Emiliano García-López by emailing

Rules of discussion

  • The Principle of Charity: When approaching a new idea, attempt to understand the idea sympathetically and in its most persuasive form. When you then critique the idea, focus on the argument itself, not the person who said it. Do not attribute bad motives to others' beliefs that they themselves do not claim to have. When disagreeing, work towards unity and towards keeping the conversation going. This means we do not cancel each other in this class. Rather than "calling out," we will "call in," which should be apparent in both the content and tone of our comments.
  • The Principle of Sacrifice: Acknowledge the weaknesses in your own arguments and privilege the pursuit of truth over "winning" the argument.
  • The Principle of Humility: None of us are infallible, and all of us surely hold beliefs that are wrong, though we don't know which ones. Remember this when discussing ideas with others who hold different views.


As a leader, you are responsible for the moderation and facilitation of the discussion. There will be a sitting moderator who asks the topic questions during every meeting, calls on people to answer, and occasionally replies to an argument with a specifying question. The moderator should, at all times, remain impartial and assign speaking time evenly between participants.

When moderating, it is best to take a neutral tone and nod when someone is giving their opinion; this will indicate your cognitive presence in the conversation and make whoever is speaking feel like they are engaging others' minds. Another useful tip is to practice steel manning another's arguments; this means that after they say something, you should reply with "it seems like you are saying that ..." and best summarize their position on a topic. This will ensure that you understand them correctly and make them feel heard; it will also have the added side effect of clarifying for anyone else in the meeting who might have misunderstood. Also, make sure to have all of the participants involved in the meeting read the appropriate topic brief before attending the meeting. This will make sure that everyone has reasonable baseline knowledge of the topic at hand, allowing for more sophisticated and thoughtful conversations to take place.

Meeting structure

  • Introduction to the topic, frame the discussion.
  • Ask the first question.
After asking the first question, you should go around the room and make sure that everyone who wants to talk has the opportunity. You should also let the conversation move fluidly and step back when possible. You do not need to rush and should let people make counterarguments to whatever claims are put forward. If the conversation dies down and no one has anything else to say, you can move on to the next question.
  • Repeat steps one and two for however many questions there are for the given topic.
  • End of the discussion.
When ending the discussion, thank everyone for coming; you should end by saying something positive or something interesting you observed. You should remind people to vote on the next topic and invite them to the next meeting. After ending the session, send out the email with the google form to vote on the next issue.

First Meeting

It is up to each branch how they do the first meeting, but we recommend that you start by following the First Meeting 6-in-1 brief, which is different from all of our other topics since it has no required reading and covers a variety of topics. The benefits of starting off with this brief are twofold; firstly, it allows you to evaluate the political makeup of your branch and see how knowledgeable your members are on politics generally. Secondly, it serves as a trailer for the rest of the year, exciting your members by talking about the most controversial issues, but only briefly — leaving them wanting more. This is, however, up to you, so if you think it would be best to start with another topic, say, taxation, then it is your prerogative.

Topic Progression

When you first start your branch, make sure to only talk about topics in the Phase 1 section since they are less likely to bring out strong feelings in the participants. Once you have established a relationship with everyone in your branch and people are more comfortable with respectful disagreement, feel free to move on to Phase 2 or Phase 3 topics.

Phase 1

  • First Meeting 6-in-1 First Meeting
  • Capitalism vs. Socialism
  • Capital Punishment
  • Gun Control
  • Healthcare
  • Climate Change
  • Criminal Justice
  • Electoral College
  • Automation
  • Drug Legalization
  • Free College
  • Minimum Wage

Phase 2

  • Abortion
  • Affirmative Action
  • Removing Statues
  • Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Phase 3

  • Race & Policing
  • Critical Race Theory


As a club leader, you should aim to send two or three emails before each meeting. One email should contain the google form to vote on the following discussion topic (right after a meeting), another email should announce the results and set a date for the next meeting (5 days before a meeting), and the last email to serve as a reminder (the day before). It would help if you also created a channel for your club on an app like Slack, Discord, or MS Teams, which can serve as a quick way to disseminate information.


To improve the engagement of your club, you should try to send out a school-wide pitch email to inform the student body about your club's existence. We have also drafted some posters which you may choose to use. Finally, you should make sure to spread awareness about your club by using word-of-mouth marketing; this is to say, make sure to tell all of your friends and have them tell all of their friends about the club.

Getting more involved

If you want to go above and beyond and help bring Crossing The Divide to the next level, then you could do a wide variety of things to help the cause. This would be anything from just telling a friend at another school to start a branch or joining the leadership team to work on marketing/outreach, design, brief writing, grant writing, legal compliance, or web development.

If you want to get more involved, apply to join our leadership team.

If you've read this far:

Consider joining CTD! You can start a branch, join our team, or learn more about about Crossing The Divide.