If you’re looking for a brief account that captures the original thinking behind the founding of the GGSN as well as outcomes from it’s first year of existence, we recommend this Medium post written by GGSN Project Manager, Tom Liacas (a 7 minute read).
Summary of key outcomes in Tom’s Medium post
Copied below are some of the highlights from this account of GGSN’s first-year activities.
Building a community of practice
I’ve always been a huge fan of open knowledge-sharing among aligned projects, which among other things, drove me to start Blueprints for Change in 2018. These “communities of practice” help all of us get better at the work we do and as a bonus, meeting folks around the world facing similar challenges is validating and fun! Funders have their peer communities, fundraisers have them too and digital campaigners have had the Online Progressive Engagement Network for the last 10 years now. So why not one for those of us who have taken on the job of building structured support for grassroots activists?
In the spring of 2022, thanks to the trust and support of UMI Fund, I started building such a network with fab colleague Kenzie Harris. Bringing together projects in multiple regions and continents and widening the scope beyond climate, Kenzie and I wanted to include any project supporting “grassroots justice-oriented”[i] activist groups. This intersectional approach aligns with our values and brings a richness to our community through diversity, but maintains enough unity of purpose to strongly motivate sharing.
Our hunch was that grassroots groups generally aligned on their anti-oppressive vision of the world will also have alignment around their advocacy approaches and will therefore face similar challenges. This assumption was rooted in experience gained during the years I worked with global projects Mobilisation Lab and Blueprints for Change.
With the promise that we would share knowledge around common challenges that all groups face, and share the resources each project has created to solve for them, we began drawing people into this Global Grassroots Support Network. At the end of a full year of outreach, we have gathered together some 84 seasoned grassroots organizers, campaigners, coaches and more, that support struggles for climate justice, reproductive justice, LGBTQIAS+ rights, housing justice and workers’ rights.
These members currently come from: Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Kenya, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Spain, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, the U.S., UK and Zimbabwe. To widen our circle and get outside the usual circles of privilege and geography, we have started work with Regional Coordinators to bring even more folks in from Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, India, Nigeria and Kenya.
Hearing from grassroots organizers worldwide
One of the big lifts in GGSN’s first year was getting a sense of what top challenges justice-oriented grassroots groups were facing around the world and also what types of skill and support material those supporting these groups were looking for help with.
Kenzie, our Principal Coordinator, spent countless hours in 1 to 1 intake/info gathering calls with new members to record needs, challenges and all manner of wishlists from participants. We onboarded most folks to a dedicated Slack channel and an email list to get more organic exchanges going and facilitated a good number of global video calls, which required a lot of timezone juggling!
Based on Kenzie’s intake sessions as well as exchanges with members during group calls, the emerging picture of the most-often cited challenges grassroots groups are facing currently includes:
- Help with building intersectional narratives and coalitions to link struggles together
- Activist safety & security in repressive environments
- Maintaining activist engagement and working together efficiently in groups
- How to secure funding for grassroots organizing and how to report impact
- How to build effective strategy within non-hierarchical structures
- Managing burnout among activist communities & collective care
Swapping tools and resources among ourselves
The draw of joining the GGSN for participants, our answer to the “why should I bother?” question, was always the promise of getting access to tools and resources developed by other projects facing similar challenges.
In other words, that this network would prevent some ‘reinventing of the wheel’ because each member could copy shared resources created by peers and adapt them to their own local contexts instead of starting from scratch.
So far, thanks to the generosity of early members, we have written up and published a good number of publicly-shared resources that are made available to justice-oriented activists everywhere, through our partnerships with the Commons Library and our home base, Blueprints for Change. And to make all of this more accessible across borders, we’re actively working on getting all resources translated into Spanish and French in the coming months!
While long-form guides and workshops are great, we found throughout this first year that a lot more knowledge exchange happened informally in answer to questions asked on Slack and during group calls. To document all the great answers to these questions that came up organically in exchanges with members, we put together the collective knowledge contributed by our network in “knowledge round up” docs, covering issues such as: How folks are organizing against the far right?, resources for connecting with, uplifting, and supporting people in highly marginalized communities, advice on how to build a wider constituency/coalition… We’re now working on getting these written up for public sharing on the Commons Library and BFC.