Grassroots Activism

Grassroots activities are those that influence legislation or stimulate change through the ability to persuade or change public opinion. It involves making allies of people who can effect change, and persuading others to take your concerns seriously. Raising awareness about an issue and advocating for policies and programs that will provide solutions requires a clear sense of purpose, tenacity, and organization.

Public opinion plays a major role in persuading policy makers, as they are elected to represent their constituents. There are many common features in bringing people together and getting started. Some useful techniques include:

  • Building upon existing support groups.
  • Using existing communication outlets.
  • Enlisting the support of other health professionals.
  • Contacting the press, television or radio.
  • Sending word through the grapevine.
  • Using computers.
  • Exhibiting at area health fairs.

Building Upon Existing Support Groups

A group of people that are already in touch with each other, with a common interest or concern, provides an excellent base. While some will, and others won't be interested in developing additional activities, existing groups can easily serve as jumping off points for organized advocacy efforts.

Tapping Into Existing Communication Vehicles

Use tools such as community bulletin boards, newsletters, and even Web sites where notices and information about newly forming groups and information about an issue can be placed.

Enlisting the Support of Other Health Professionals

Other health professionals such as social workers and physicians often have similar concerns. They can be alerted through mailings or flyers.

Contacting the Media

Local newspapers and TV and radio stations are often willing to run advertisements about health group meetings as public service announcements, (PSAs) or to list announcements about upcoming community meetings. Sometimes area radio stations are willing to assist nonprofit groups to prepare simple PSAs and even have public service directors who can be helpful. These contacts may also lead to local reporters willing to prepare a story on the issue you are addressing.

Sending Out Word Through the Grapevine

"Word of mouth" can be very effective, especially in smaller communities. Asking one person to find a few others can snowball until there is a working group.

Using Computers

Getting information out about an issue through Internet networks and chat rooms may reach additional individuals.

Exhibiting at Health Fairs

Exhibit at area health fairs: Simple table top exhibits with factual materials about the issue can attract many people who are already curious about health issues, and may not be aware of how an issue impacts them.

Nursing's influence in the public policy arena can depend on how valuable it is perceived to be to the health of the community and whether the community recognizes shared values and goals. Some of the activities that can strengthen community relationships include:

  • Providing education on advance directives to the community, senior citizens, and churches.
  • Partnering with other organizations such as the Red Cross on a project or activity, such as disaster training, or with the American Heart Association to take blood pressures and perform stroke screenings.
  • Distributing public service announcements throughout the community to schools, local newspaper, hospitals, businesses, and drugstores.
  • Volunteering to staff first-aid stations at community events such as Race for the Cure and AIDS Walks.
  • Participating in local health fairs to perform blood pressure screenings, cholesterol checks and/or present information on an issue important to your community such as organ donation or domestic violence.
  • Conducting community first-aid training courses and CPR classes.
  • Presenting a health education talk to elementary schoolchildren on topics like healthy hearts and nutrition.
  • Participating in career days at your local schools.
  • Volunteering at a local free clinic.
  • Participating in community health promotion campaigns.
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