“Grassroots” is a term that has resurfaced in everyday language, particularly during the past couple of decades. In fact, most people may have seen this term referenced in multiple headlines during the 2020 presidential election. As more Americans took action to create the change they wanted to see in their political sphere, the success of grassroots fundraising made headlines.
But this concept isn’t new. Grassroots organizers have been leading and mobilizing their communities for centuries; historic movements like the Civil Rights Movement relied heavily on grassroots efforts to mobilize communities across the nation.
So what is grassroots organizing, and how can groups use it to create change? Here’s a grassroots organizing 101 for activists interested in making a change:
What is grassroots organizing?
As the name suggests, grassroots organizing is a method of mobilization that comes from the ground up — everyday people come together to address an issue in their community and take action to advocate for change. They can do this in a variety of ways, including fundraising, creating and sharing petitions, canvassing, and protesting.
For example, a group of parents may feel that students in their city should have access to free school lunches. To achieve this goal, they may go door-to-door to convince others to sign a petition, host meetings to decide on action tactics, and encourage attendance at the local governments’ town halls to insist on this initiative.
Activists use grassroots organizing for many reasons. They may want to pass a piece of legislation, raise support for a candidate whose policy decisions align with their goals, or increase overall awareness about their issue. Whatever their objective is, communities can leverage grassroots organizing to influence their political and societal environment.
Why is grassroots organizing important?
Grassroots organizing empowers those who are the most affected by an issue at hand and allows people to have direct control over how to improve their community. In a contrasting model of top-down change, an institution like a government agency may enact a policy that can neglect to center the voices of the communities they’re affecting.
Most importantly, grassroots organizing ensures that anyone can advocate for change. It emphasizes the power created by and for the activists involved, and power is always shared, amplified, and encouraged within the community. Even with a defined leadership structure, grassroots efforts are always led by those who are intimately familiar with the goal at hand.
Grassroots Organizing in Action
Community Change Action is a grassroots advocacy group that seeks to empower low-income people, especially people of color, to mobilize within their communities and improve public policy. Community Change Action and its affiliates use relational organizing and peer-to-peer texting to inspire collective mobilization for key measures like Medicare for All, relief for those impacted COVID-19, and more. In fact, Community Change Action and its affiliates documented their success with relational organizing in a study with the Analyst Institute, which found that outreach from a relational contact via Impactive makes a contact 6.5x more likely to sign a petition and 8x more likely to opt-in to an organizing event than peer-to-peer outreach.
Grassroots organizing is an inspiring act of community participation, and it’s more important than ever for communities to leverage people-powered change. It ultimately powers large-scale change, especially as organizing efforts can take place in local and national communities. Plus, each success only multiplies the likelihood of more community members taking action for progress — when one community harnesses the power of grassroots organizing, others are likely to be inspired to mobilize, too.
To learn more about ways to streamline grassroots activities, check out this list of grassroots software that can help activists take action easily.