A grassroots movement (often referenced in the context of a political movement) is driven by a community's politics. The term implies that the creation of the movement and the group supporting it are natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures. Grassroots movements are often at the local level, as many volunteers in the community give their time to support the local party, which can lead to helping the national party. For instance, a grassroots movement can lead to significant voter registration for a political party, which in turn helps the state and national parties.
Grassroots movement procedures to organize and lobby include:
- Hosting house meetings or parties
- Having larger meetings—AGMs
- Putting up posters
- Talking with pedestrians on the street or walking door-to-door (often involving informational clipboards)
- Gathering signatures for petitions
- Mobilizing letter-writing, phone-calling, and emailing campaigns
- Setting up information tables
- Raising money from many small donors for political advertising or campaigns
- Organizing large demonstrations
- Asking individuals to submit opinions to media outlets and government officials
- Holding get out the vote activities, which include the practices of reminding people to vote and transporting them to polling places.
- Using online social networks to organize virtual communities
The earliest origins of the use of "grass roots" as a political metaphor are obscure. In the United States, an early use of the phrase "grassroots and boots" was thought to have been coined by Senator Albert Jeremiah Beveridge of Indiana, who said of the Progressive Party in 1912, "This party has come from the grass roots. It has grown from the soil of people's hard necessities".
In a 1907 newspaper article about Ed Perry, vice-chairman of the Oklahoma state committee, the phrase was used as follows: "In regard to his political views Mr. Perry has issued the following terse platform: 'I am for a square deal, grass root representation, for keeping close to the people, against ring rule and for fair treatment.'" A 1904 news article on a campaign for possible Theodore Roosevelt running mate Eli Torrance quotes a Kansas political organizer as saying: "Roosevelt and Torrance clubs will be organized in every locality. We will begin at the grass roots".
Faking a grassroots movement is known as astroturfing, which, as the name suggests, is named after AstroTurf, the iconic brand of artificial grass. Astroturfing means pretending to be a grassroots movement, when in reality the agenda and strategy are controlled by a hidden, non-grassroots organization. In this manner, a faux show is presented, consisting of robotic individuals pretending to be voicing their own opinions.
Use in sport
The term "grassroots" is used by a number of sporting organizational bodies to reference the lowest, most elementary form of the game that anyone can play. Focusing on the grassroots of a sporting code can lead to greater participation numbers, greater support of professional teams/athletes and ultimately provide performance and financial benefits to the organization to invest into the growth and development of the sport. Some examples of this are FIFA's Grassroots Programme and the Football Federation Australia's "Goals for Grassroots" initiative.
- Courtesy: Eigen's Political & Historical Quotations "Beveridge, Albert J.". 2006-05-20.
- "Brooklyn Boy Leader," New York Tribune, September 9, 1907, Page 4
- "Boom for Gen. Torrance," Salt Lake herald, September 25, 1903, 6.
- Walter Truett Anderson (January 5, 1996). "Astroturf – The Big Business of Fake Grassroots Politics".
- Ekins, Paul (1992.) A new world order: grassroots movements for global change. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-07115-1
- Fox, Jonathan A.; Brown David, L. (1998.) The struggle for accountability: the World Bank, NGOs, and grassroots movements. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ISBN 0-262-56117-4
- The Citizen's Handbook – guides to grassroots/community organizing