hands form a circle in the grass

Photo credit: http://envirocomm.files.wordpress.com

We hear the term “grassroots movement” or “grassroots organization” thrown around a lot but have you ever wondered what it takes to get the grassroots growing? Well, when we visited the Highlander Research and Education Center, we learned how people make these types of movements come together. Susan Williams and Kira Sims, the wonderful education team at Highlander, told us about five methods that are very effective for solving problems and moving people.

The cool thing is that people use these methods subconsciously and they never knew that there was a name and definition to match what they are doing.

The first and most popular method was popular education–that is, educating the general population about social injustices and ways that they can improve society. Popular education combines people’s experiences to develop action strategies for positive social change, according to Highlander. Everyone is a teacher, a learner, and “everyone contains within them the seed to make change.” People use this method all the time to talk about issues affecting them and then someone else responds about how they handled it and soon the issue in question has a solution.

The second method was cultural organizing, which is the practices of individual cultures that “help move them forward, work together with others, build bridges, celebrate and inspire action.” I think this is key to solving cultural differences in communities; we need to understand that two cultures can work together for the greater good.

A third methodology is language justice. Language is how we communicate with others, but we do not all speak the same language or even a common language. “Multilingual spaces allow language to be used democratically and it’s a tool of empowerment” so that ideas can be moved forward.

The fourth method was intergenerational organizing. People of all ages have different experiences but similar ones so this method takes advantage of what each generation has to offer. In this way, it “unites the lessons from the past, the power of the present and dreams for the future.”

The final method is participatory action research (PAR). This method challenges the belief that only research professionals or those with a higher education can have knowledge and accurate information to overcome problems. But actually, if you have knowledge of any kind, it can be used for anyone’s benefit to solve problems.

And that is how grassroots organizations begin their movements, by methods of organizations and idea sharing.