Since the election result in the US, grassroots activism is on everyone’s agenda, particularly on the progressive side. There is a feeling, it appears that the traditional way of organizing political action through local politicians, lobbying and, em, blind faith doesn’t always work. The global political system is receiving shock after shock and the old reliable party structures are severely threatened. There has been much written also about the role of fake news in this election cycle, again contributing to a sense of unease about whether your views are being represented correctly. In this climate, one can see why grassroots activism, with its emphasis on local and personal organizing, has become much more popular. Grassroots work has a veneer of credibility that the political establishment now lacks and there is a security in knowing that all of the people involved can be contacted directly for verification of any particular issue. We wanted to take a look at grassroots mobilization and how it can best be achieved.
Grassroots organizing is now at the forefront of post-election talk due to society entering a period of immense change. After a big election such as the Presidential one in the US or post-Brexit in the UK, many groups will join together and analyze results; what worked, what went wrong, how the opposition won etc. Re-imagining and building stronger grassroots movements is an investment not just for the next election but for the long term. For this to happen, we must draw a parallel between what works well online versus offline.
Roots Camp, a boot camp for grassroots professionals run by Wellstone group, just took place in DC. This was an event where progressive organizers from across issue groups sought to learn, celebrate and grow together. The Roots Camp philosophy is that all of us have something to teach, and all of us have something to learn. This space was created to lift up leadership from across the grassroots community and support the honest exchange of ideas that will strengthen each area of their work. Many of the thoughts that came out of Roots Camp were based on better collaboration, independent progressive media, and hard work. They incorporated Twitter and the hashtag #roots16 to spread their message and learnings across the country and this was a good example of the world of social media fuelling the grassroots movement. The next step to better grassroots organizing is implementing a clear process of engagement in order to see results. Here we look at how that can be done.
Accountability & Team structures
Here at Ecanvasser we are aware that grassroots organizers must ensure, that while everyone's opinions are valid and important, there must be a chain of command so work gets done. That is why we have a system of team permission levels that ensure that structure. From campaign manager to staffer to field operatives, grassroots is about reaching out to the community. The permission level system ensures everyone in the chain has access to the tools they need to do their job, but they do not have access to database information that is unnecessary for them. This allows grassroots to train volunteers, delegate duties and always ensure channels of communication are open. It also protects the community as a whole and the integrity of the data protection systems which are so important in grassroots.
Bernie Sanders, who had a very strong grassroots campaign stayed loyal to his own progressive mandate but was unwilling to compromise on certain issues. This was a great example of grassroots organization and integrity, but it may not have fit exactly with the demands of a cut-throat national election race.
Prioritizing objectives needs to be written into the fabric of your campaign. We use custom fields, talking points, surveys, and tags to make sure campaign objectives are always at front and center of team members minds. If you are attempting to investigate where your last campaign fell down come election day, then you will need to see these objectives and how they performed for you. Ecanvasser presents these objectives clearly for you in our analytics dashboard so you can see at a glance whether, for example, you met your goal of onboarding 100 new supporters this month. Research within your own community continually. Only when all the legwork is done, can you ensure that you won’t repeat the same mistakes again.
Build your team
Focus on building your team from the ground up. What we see in the most successful grassroots movements is the way they onboard, firstly supporters through simple outreach, but then they tag and segment the supporters in order to ‘upcycle’ them into team members. It sounds simple but it is surprising how many organizations don’t do this and are happy to struggle with a small team of committed but under pressure people. Working through supporters to team members systematically results in a much greater spreading of the load through a strong network. Having the permission levels in place, like we described above, means you don’t have to worry about these new team members having access to sensitive information about your community.
Grassroots movements aren’t just for those out of power and looking to get in, they are for every type of campaign. Loyal support is local support. If you need any help starting a grassroots campaign, why not get in touch below: