By Daniel Mercurio
A Citizen’s Guide to Grassroots Campaigns provides insight into how citizen organized campaigns work as a team to accomplish a common goal. Based on case studies, this book on environmental activism by Jan Barry emphasizes the importance of cooperation and credits the organization as a whole for their hard work and dedication rather than bestow it upon any one individual. For example, an excerpt from the book states, “Like Main Street marching bands, activist civic campaigns need the equivalent of conductors, drum majors, drummers, buglers, and an ensemble of other players who work together to form a crowd-pleasing concert on the go.” This statement epitomizes the need for a multitalented group of individuals because team work is what drives a grassroots campaign to succeed.
In order to effect change, grassroots organizations need people with different talents and skills to collaborate to achieve their goals. This way, they can use an interdisciplinary approach to draw from their varied backgrounds to formulate a solution to a complex question or problem that may require knowledge from several different fields of study. For example, in the battle to save the Great Swamp, Helen Fenske and other members of the Great Swamp Committee, found a unique way to publicize their cause. An excerpt from the book states, “Seeking wider audiences, she and others organized a display of Great Swamp photos, maps, films, slides, and a re-created pond scene and a marsh botanical garden in the Short Hills Mall.”
As a result, thousands of shoppers who visited the mall became aware of the negative consequences presented by the New York New Jersey Port Authority’s proposal to construct an airport on top of the Great Swamp. Undoubtedly, this unique and innovative approach to promoting local awareness at a common gathering site was well worth the effort. In addition, the exhibit reached roughly 30,000 people who may not have been aware of their efforts.
Undoubtedly, the multidisciplinary approach is critical to effecting change. However, just as important is the need for all those involved to be on the same page. With that said, relationships in grassroots organizations are built off a set of common values. This is beneficial because it enables passionate members to work together and offer emotional support for one another in challenging situations. Therefore, each team member plays an integral part such that if a team member doesn’t come through, another member will pick up the slack. For example, if for any reason the leader needs to step down, another member should be ready in the wings to step up to ensure a smooth transition.
These values produce enthusiastic members who can draw many more supporters, since people tend to be more interested in listening to someone who speaks from the heart. Clearly, passion is part of the driving force of these grassroots campaigns since environmental organizations rely on relationships with people who are willing to work together to create change.
In conclusion, the success of a grassroots campaign is dependent upon an interdisciplinary approach by its members who are working toward a common goal. While their backgrounds are varied, their values are the same. Moreover, their desire to effect change is paramount.