Cultivating Grassroots Advocacy Campaigns
One of the most effective tools for advocates to increase the visibility and urgency of an issue is to foster grassroots community advocates. This involves identifying a group affected by your issue, making the issue contextually relevant to them and providing easy avenues to take action.
Detailed situation analysis
The first step in facilitating grassroots advocacy is to fully understand the community members affected by the issue at the heart of your campaign. Ask yourself: ‘who does this issue affect?’, ‘why and to what extent?’, ‘where are they located?’, ‘how would they benefit from change?’ and ‘what would motivate them to raise their voice and engage in advocacy themselves?’. This will give you a clear starting point, making the process easier and providing valuable insights for your own organisation’s advocacy.
Once you have the lay of the land, the main challenge is reaching out to potential grassroots community advocates. It’s important to assess your targets’ location and demographic. Where do they live? Where do they frequent? What media do they consume? Are they digitally literate?
With this in mind, reaching your potential champions may be as simple as a small awareness advertising campaign, a text message and telephone campaign, a direct mail rollout or a dedicated Facebook page combined with a promotion strategy. Using multiple avenues for outreach including online and offline elements can have a huge impact, with online community advocacy campaigns often easier to get up and running and to participate in.
One of the best recent examples of this is advocacy group GetUp!, which leverages existing online and offline community networks to great effect. They use mixed methods to educate and mobilise community members to advocate for a range of causes that affect them, successfully replicating this tactic on a diverse range of issues and demographics.
Spell out why the issue should matter to them
Many issues require making a particular topic contextually relevant to those it will likely impact. Communicating why and how a particular issue will directly impact your chosen audience is the key step in facilitating a grassroots advocacy network. Doing so effectively may require some dedicated research to make the impact as acute as possible. For example, informing parents in Blacktown, NSW that childcare prices across the State are rising may be lost in the white noise of other stories. Providing parents in Blacktown with research that shows childcare prices in Blacktown rose by $25 a year for the past three years and is likely to continue is far more contextually relevant.
Empower your advocates
This final step is crucial - it’s no use communicating your issue to potential community advocates if they don’t have guidance on how to advocate for themselves. Providing your audience an avenue to ‘sign up and stand up’, for example a Facebook page or a direct email database is essential in keeping grassroots advocates informed and connected, empowering them to take action. This should include information on different avenues for action and advocacy, whether it be how to contact and influence decision makers; relevant key messages they can use in their own advocacy; or how they can contribute to the debate in traditional media.