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Defining ‘grassroots’ and how we define ‘justice-oriented’ activist groups

Why we are focusing on support of ‘grassroots’ groups

  • Grassroots groups have always been the least-funded and supported among those involved in social change
  • Throughout history, grassroots-led social movements have created dramatic moments of change (more recently: Black Lives Matter protests, 2019 global climate strikes)
  • Given their distinct organizing culture and practices (as defined below), grassroots groups face specific challenges that are not always shared by funded and structured staff-led organizations 

In our view, what defines “grassroots” groups is that they share at least one of these attributes:

  • Are largely driven by “people power”, ie. motivated activist volunteers, though paid staff may facilitate and coordinate this energy
  • Are self-starting and self-organizing, especially when they are first formed
  • Share power and decision-making responsibilities amongst group members to a smaller or larger extent 
  • Have some degree of autonomy to define their own strategy, tactics and group culture, especially at the local level

How we define “justice-oriented” activist groups

We have used the term ‘justice-oriented’ activist groups to contain the many intersecting fights for justice that unite us. 

Communities are affected differently and unequally by oppressive conditions based on race, socio-economic status, class, gender, age, dis(ability), sexuality, and other social identities. The characteristics of one aspect of injustice and its intersections with other identities cannot exist separately. Structural inequities cause power imbalances within society, and differing exposure to forms of injustice, suggests all fights are interconnected. 

Many projects/individual groups that are included in the network are focused on supporting a particular issue and are fighting for rights/justice related to it. These groups may use terms such as, “social justice”, “climate justice”, “racial justice”, “human rights”, “reproductive rights”, “gender and sexual rights”, “economic justice”,  “decolonization” etc. The GGSN understands all of these as falling within our definition of “justice-oriented” activist groups. 

The activists being supported may choose a number of routes and approaches towards systemic social change. Whether organizing and acting through direct action, politics, law, social media, storytelling etc. We consider all methods of challenging and resisting power and systemic oppression to be justice-oriented activism, and that all are necessary for the success of grassroots movements.

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