INTRODUCTION

         

          Grassroots organizing is on the rise. Dedicated individuals are uniting and participating in causes and initiatives around the world. Their coming together generates a focus and group energy, that when developed properly, holds great power and potential.

Grassroots groups come together for a broad range of reasons. They can resolve growing needs in the community or support community self-sufficiency. They can bolster co-operative businesses or protest injustices by big corporations and government. Grassroots groups can center on social activities, religious matters, or personal support systems.  

       

          Regardless of the form or cause, these groups have the potential to create great change. Grassroots organizing is the principal mechanism for changing societal systems that no longer work or that function poorly because they are corrupt or lack sustainability. History is filled with inspiring recounts about grassroots efforts around the world that have won freedom and justice from oppressive governments and corporations. Providing a community network can heal and develop local areas so they prosper, despite stress from a faltering economy. Developing grassroots groups is a way to empower people locally to take action and achieve common goals.

Community empowerment does not necessarily require a big commitment of time or energy. Holding meetings and following up on tasks for even a few hours a week can rid a neighborhood of crime, change repressive laws, and establish greater community self sufficiency. A pot luck meal before the start of a grassroots meeting, where everyone brings a dish of food they enjoy preparing, can produce a feast.  One person does not need to contribute much, yet a collective bounty always appears. This same principle applies to initiatives where small contributions results in big change.

 

All grassroots groups share fundamental commonalities that can impact their success or failure. The laws of group dynamics, organizational development, physical, social and spiritual sciences pertain to all. Application of these sciences increases the synergistic forces at play in all community groups and amplifies effectiveness, generating an environment in which people want to participate simply because they get much more than they give.

Successful grassroots community development requires a range of personal, interpersonal and organizational skills that go far beyond recruiting a few members, planning a protest, or taking a creative action.  To have an effect on its community a grassroots organization needs to retain talented people, and must also have a strategy and process for engaging the community at large.

 

Grassroots groups perform best when they adopt a holistic approach to the wide variety of required skills and activities such as: conducting factual research, defining and instilling your groups’ goals and core values, developing collaboration and teamwork, raising consciousness in the community, inspiring and mentoring others, building a brand image, and generating financial support and media attention.

Owing to the increasing demands of social needs in a declining economy, individual community groups do well to reach out to similar or complimentary groups for coalition building.  Collaboration is often more appealing to a funding source as an investment because they realize their contributions will fulfill many community needs simultaneously. Visit www.grassroute.org for more information on establishing a coalition in your area.

The topics and questions covered in this manual can apply to both established groups and start-ups.  Frequently asked questions will be addressed, such as:  How do I engage and enroll my local community? How do I maintain participation? Is there a way to tap the power of community? How do I prevent or handle conflict?  What are the best approaches for marketing my group? What is the optimal organizational form? What does it mean to be an organizer or leader of a group? How can I fully utilize available resources? What is the best way to run my meeting or hold an event?

The Grassroute Guide answers these questions and more. A handy reference for addressing the many needs and skills of grassroots organizing, this book provides essential tools and steps to accomplish effective initiatives and develop a thriving grassroots group. The Grassroute Guide will inspire, educate, and empower your grassroots efforts by accessing insights from leaders and approaches of past successes.

Community groups are valuable not only for what they can achieve but also for how people feel when working with others on community initiatives. A high energy emerges when people pull together and tap the power of community. In these moments, we feel buoyed and uplifted by our colleagues and companions; we're more creative, more responsive, more engaged and more at ease. In these moments of empowerment, communication and collaboration flow freely and easily, and celebration springs forth naturally and authentically. The energy of every individual member of a group contributes to and merges into a collective energy, a synergistic force around which anything seems possible - and often is.

 

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"When spiderwebs unite, they can tie up a lion."  ~Ethiopian Proverb