Easy steps to grassroots action
This free online course (comprising of 3 chapters namely Easy steps to grassroots action, Fundraising ideas and Media relations) are excerpted from Bible of Organizing with some modifications, and are part of the Diploma in Organizational Management and Planning course, conducted by the Human Development Institute.
Once, a forest caught fire. There lived a parrot also. To avoid any danger to himself, he flew away. When he reached high in the sky, he looked down to his sweet home of the past. Huge flames swallowed the trees which provided him with fruits in the happy days, and charred the unwinged animals to death with whom he enjoyed company for many years. He felt very bad about what he had seen, and decided to stay back to put the fire out.
He went to the river, flowing nearby the forest. Took a dip and came back over the forest to sprinkle the water. His effort was just like a mole in front of a mountain. However, he hadn't lost his courage and continued with what he could.
Looking down from the heaven was the rain-god who told his consort, “Look at that silly parrot. He is trying to put out the raging flames from the forest by just sprinkling a few drops of water.” Both laughed.
However, the rain-god wanted to examine the intention of the parrot, and changed himself into an eagle. The eagle went above the scorching heat where the parrot was, and advised, “Fly away and save yourself, little bird. You are in a hopeless mission.”
“Thanks for your advice,” came the reply from the parrot, “I don't need advice at the moment. I just need someone to help.” And he flew back to the river to take another dip.
The rain-god grew ashamed. He realized his inadequacies, and decided to help the parrot. The naivete and compassion of the parrot made the rain-god weep. His tears washed down like cooling rain over the forest in the flames. Soon, the fire died down.
This story gives a true picture of grassroots action. Have we ever thought where should we fly away if similar disaster were to strike our planet? Who would come to help us? Of course, you.
You are the most important person to carry out any grassroots action. Obviously, the parrot was right. We don't need conferences, analyses, regulations and writings which advise and recommend in volumes. We just need action at the grassroots to heal pains of the people and planet. Here are the steps how you could activate under the Movement Millennium:
1. Be your own light
Be your own light, was the message from Buddha.
Go through this action guide thoroughly. Determine the areas where you can perform the best. Define clearly scope of the issue that you're trying to promote.
Give up the inferiorities and set a goal just like that by the parrot. Realize the inadequacies and try to acquire them as the rain-god did.
Be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is contagious. See the good. Expect the best. Learn that “I can make the difference.” Believe! These are the power principles from Dr. Peale—the world authority on positive thinking.
With these, you would certainly be on the summit of success.
2. Decide the target group
Identify the segment of population that you want to reach directly. This section is called primary target. Don't go public at once as it may waste your effort. Also, find out the secondary targets which are well respected and could leave strong influence on society like teachers, religious leaders, community leaders, faith healers etc. You can access the primary target through them.
3. Identify self-interest and receptive levels
It is not necessary that your target group receives your messages readily. Rejection of your messages results due to two primary reasons : self-interest and receptive levels.
Identification of self-interest is very important because everyone is dictated by self-interest when s/he does something as follows:
- for respect, honor, award, get together, entertainment, to exchange ideas etc.
- to add some lines in the CV, expose technical and physical skills, impress the world with professional capabilities etc.
- to discharge the social responsibilities and civic obligations as a good citizen.
- for milling money and nothing else.
Among above, people with the third category of self-interest are the best and most sincere. However, people possessing the first and second categories of self-interest could also be immensely helpful in many ways. The fourth category is the worst, and better avoid them unless you can flush them with money.
Receptive level also plays important role in the grassroots organizing. There are three types of people as follows:
This category of people are innocent and childlike who don't know anything, and the most receptive like the child in the following story.
A father and a son was strolling on the street. Meanwhile, a marriage procession passed by them. All of sudden, the boy started to cry. Asked why, the boy replied that he wants to marry his grandmother. “No, you can't do that,” scolded the father. Instantly came the wit from the boy, “If you can marry my mother, why can't I yours?” The father remained spellbound.
- Pretentiously Ignorant
People with pretended ignorance are the most disgusting category to deal and convince because they know but pretend that they don't, and cunning like the farmer in the following story:
A professor and a farmer were on a long journey on foot. To break prolonged silence, the professor proposed the farmer to exchange riddles, “If you can answer my riddle correctly, I will give you a dollar. In case you failed, you give me a dollar. This way we would cover the distance entertainingly.” “No, no, no,” came the reply from the farmer, “you are a learned man and I am an illiterate farmer. So, you are bound to win in certainty. Let's do like this. If I correctly answer your riddle, you give me a dollar and if I can't, then I shall give you half a dollar. Agreed?” The professor thought for a while and nodded to the farmer's proposal. Then the farmer asked, “Two legs standing, three flying. What's that?” The professor could not answer correctly and handed over a dollar bill to the farmer, and asked, “I could not think of the correct answer. Now, tell me what you mean.” The farmer put the dollar bill inside his pocket, took out a 50 cent coin instead, handed over to the professor and replied, “I don't know, too.”
- Deliberately Ignorant
This sort of people are so engrossed with their affairs that they remain unaffected by the common cause until they themselves fall prey to the problems that should be settled collectively. But they join the mainstream whenever they're in. They are extremely selfish, individualist and introvert. They just ignore the fact like the two fools in the following humor:
Two fools were walking together. One had a bag in his hand. The first fellow, seeing the bag move, asked what was inside it. The second chap said there were chickens. “And” challenged he,“if you can guess how many there are, I'll give you both of them.” The other fellow seriously replied,“Five.”
4. Investigate the current pattern of attitude
It is very important to be familiar with your target group's attitudes, behavior, beliefs, faith and social factors that determine their attitude. Also find out those sections of the society whom people are most responsive to (secondary target).
The information helps you to design indigenous messages and formulate strategic and tactical plan that build upon the existing knowledge and beliefs.
5. Identify the proper vehicle for communication
Communication plays vital role for grassroots organizing. There are several channels of communication which you could mobilize in combination to influence your target group with the issues that you would like to promote. Use a combination of:
- Folk Media
- cultural festivals, fairs, village gatherings, singing clubs etc.
- Interpersonal Media
- teachers, students, religious and community leaders, faith healers, trade union leaders, health workers, government officials, community organizations dedicated to women, youth, environment and development etc.
- Small Media
- pamphlets, flyers, posters, brochures, cassettes, T-shirts, badges, caps, slide shows, video, flip charts, loudspeakers, letter-chain etc.
- Mass Media
- newspapers, magazines, journals, comic books, radio and television etc.
- Interactive Media
- Internet, World Wide Web (WWW), Intranet, Bulletin Board Service (BBS), e-commerce, portals, kiosks, banners, buttons etc.
6. Design appropriate messages
Messages should differ from one medium to another. For print media, messages could be longer but should be accompanied by illustrations or photographs. For TV, short descriptions with little sound effect to the visuals are more than adequate because visuals speaks for themselves. But the visuals should not be eye-straining, meaning two similar (long, medium or close-up) shots should not be arranged together. For radio, short but elaborative sentences should be used with special sound effects to synchronize with the description. For interactive media, textual descriptions are most welcome, but graphics or visuals are not encouraged as they consume time to download.
However, the messages should be :
- LOCALIZED — fits with the cultural and social setting of the target group
- COMPREHENSIVE — use local languages, dialects and colloquial expressions
- TIMELY and RELEVANT
- FOOLPROOF — in terms of technicalities and descriptions
- POSITIVE — avoid using ifs, impossible and not.
Never forget to test sample of the materials among the target audience and ask for feedbacks before they go to public to avoid any redundant, incompatible and irrelevant messages. This helps improve the content, look and variation of your publicity tools.
7. Get armored with new skills if necessary
Some of the campaign require special skills for grassroots action. You should be equipped with the knowledge, technical skills and tools before you set foot for the campaign. Take an example of Safe Water for the Poor movement. Every volunteer should know about the applications of chlorine. In case of organ donation, the donor or donor's nearest relative should be pre-informed that the corpse should reach the nearest hospital within 12 hours after death.
8. Harmonize your campaign with services
Be sure about the services that you could make available before you launch campaign. For example, don't campaign for safe water maintenance without you having adequate stock of chlorine solution or in the market.
9. Post-program evaluation
After a regular interval of time (quarterly, half-yearly, annually, biannually etc.), carry out a post-evaluation survey to find out the extent of changes in their attitudes compared to the pre-program observations (as described in the Step 4 above). This helps you to figure out the backlashes of your project, and rectify accordingly.
10. Continue the process with determination
Grassroots action is a continuous process. Don't give up as soon as you fail to bring about the changes you want. Ponder, it may be you who need to be changed before you could change others.
When he was 19, Prof. Werner Hisenberg, then working as a sentry in a school, came across a Plato's book on the atomic theories of ancient Greece, Timayus. The book aroused him an irresistible interest towards physics and he decided to do something in the field. His determination made him a professor at 26. He became a Nobel laureate in physics when he was only 32—within a period of mere 13 years from a sentry in a school!
Nothing is impossible with determination, dedication, discipline, vision, and will power. Keep your spirit up!