My colleague, Jake Lowen, for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect, said something the other day, when we were talking with a group of nonprofit advocates, that has stuck with me since.
The conversation was about what trips people up, when it comes to including grassroots strategies in their organizations’ advocacy. What barriers do organizations, particularly those that provide direct services (and, so, have built-in constituencies), face in building and activating their grassroots power?
There was a sort of shuffling around, really, as people identified some of the likely suspects: difficulty figuring out exactly how to ‘slice’ their issues so that people are motivated to get involved, figuring out the appropriate asks and how to move folks along a continuum of participation, constructing campaigns with authentic opportunities for leadership…
Then someone asked about the first step, how you get started, to “do grassroots”.
And that’s when Jake sort of turned this on its head.
He said that maybe that’s part of our problem, that we build this up in our heads like it’s some sort of totally separate ‘program’ that we do, that requires a whole new way of thinking, and working, and relating…
When, really, it’s just inviting others into your work.
It’s never doing alone what someone could do with you, and never doing yourself what someone else could do instead.
It’s remembering that how we pull things off matters, and that, when in doubt, we should always choose the path that engages people the most and draws in the most new allies.
It’s not rocket science.
It’s not even necessarily a campaign.
It’s asking people to join you, to be part of something with you, because you believe that they bring value and that there is beauty in walking together.
It’s just an invitation.
But it can make all the difference.