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How to Start a Successful Grassroots Campaign

Two days in a person’s life are arguably the most important– the day you are born and the day you figure out why. Many individuals strive to make their lives meaningful by learning about issues that matter and bringing awareness to them. Whether that is dismantling the practice of unjust police brutality, working toward environmental justice, or galvanizing women to tell their survival stories during the #MeToo movement, all these efforts matter and make the world a better place today, tomorrow, and every day after. Every direction one turns, there are communities working hard to interrupt the ‘status quo’ and bring attention to people that are overlooked, communities that are underserved, or narratives that are silenced.

To gain such momentum is not simple, however. It starts with people who care, an idea for change, and intense dedication to change for positive good. From there, grassroots movements can change the world. Below we provide concrete steps to make this happen.

Definitions

To begin, it would be most useful to understand what these terms mean:

Grassroots: the most basic level of an activity or organization; the core of an organization and its meaning.

Grassroots Advocacy: change that comes from the people, not from political elite. Citizens and organizations elevating their voices to impact issues they care about. Such campaigns tend to build widespread support to shape their dialogue and get clear messages across to intended audiences. 

It Starts with You & Grows Outward

Think of yourself as standing in the epicenter of the world and reaching further out to reach successive rings of influence. This is not an overnight process, and could take weeks, months, or years depending on the effectiveness of the campaign and its relatability with others. Taking it step-by-step and developing a plan for action will help identify realistic goals and achievable outcomes.

Individual

This is where the “call to action” matters most. Be a captain, not a passenger. Be an active citizen, not a mere subject. Assume a role of responsibility and begin to tailor your personal story in an appealing or reminiscent wayAsk yourself why your story is compelling and why you care deeply about your idea.

Community

Split up efforts between interpersonal members and encourage them to each find more interested parties in order to grasp the attention of neighborhoods, religious organizations, schools, social networks, places of work, and many more. In earlier stages of organizational action, work on developing intimate presentations with groups of interested actors. In later stages, host meetings at local town halls to increase awareness and community-based interactions.

Relationship

It takes one story to change the lives of others, and a personal connection makes the individual that much more empowered. Therefore, the next step is to gather the attention of close friends, families, and peers, and explain why your concerns should also be their concerns. How could/did this issue impact them? When would you like to discuss this issue again and gain momentum? Once people are on-board with your idea, generate compelling talking points and one action you would like people to take. Make a website or centralized post. Develop brochures, hashtags, and presentations for everyone to use. Keep the message simple, actionable, and consistent.

Societal

With enough consistency and appeal, local, state, or federal officials will be closer to reach as decision-makers than at the individual stage. Working with local communities, organizations, and informed constituents to develop policy briefs and cost-benefit recommendations for elected members to consider, changes can be done to address the systemic inequality once and for all. 

Do’s and Don’ts of Meaningful Calls to Action

Examples of Measurable Engagement Strategies

  • Social Media Engagement
    •  Looking at followers, likes, dislikes, comments, or shares are just some examples of analyzing quantitative results regarding outreach.
  • # of Emails/Calls Sent Out
    • Under the website’s “call to action” sections, it is useful to see analytics about how many people actively reached locally elected officials or legislators to share their concerns, both online and offline.
  • # of Meetings with Elected Officials (Or Lack Thereof!)
    • Sometimes booking meetings with important policy makers can be a positive accomplishment. Other times, it is just as useful to not have redundant meetings with officials and still see plans come into fruition because of the success of public outreach.
  • Website Hits
    • Active periods of visits to the website can mean that word is getting out and people are determining their level of interest with your work.
  • # of Key Contacts Recruited
    • Somewhere along the process, highly-effective individuals may be willing to help out with the campaign and spread useful information forward. These essential stakeholders will add more dimension to one’s campaign
  • Donations
    • For individuals that want to participate in some other way, donations can be useful. Increased periods of donations and consideration can be examples of high-interest and high-reward pursuits for a grassroots campaign.

Ideas for Content Development and Deliverables

More resources

For more information about starting a grassroots campaign online, check out Quorum.

The Socioecological Model is commonly used in public health. Developed in the 1970s by the human development psychologist, Urie Bronfenbrenner, this model intended to explain how four simple components (Individual, Interpersonal, Organizational, Societal) can all be organized into a complex system where all these elements influence, inhibit, or interact with each other, and explain how people and environments ultimately work together to sustain lives.

Updated on August 27, 2020

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