Grassroots advocacy is a form of advocacy which originates among concerned citizens, rather than being orchestrated by organizations or companies. The idea behind the term “grassroots” is that it refers to a movement which grows spontaneously and naturally, without encouragement from outside sources, much like the roots of stubborn grass. People can participate in grassroots advocacy on many levels, ranging from writing letters to political leaders to organizing educational workshops for members of their community.
People come together in a grassroots advocacy movement when they see an issue which they feel is not being resolved or addressed appropriately by government officials and other entities with the power to determine the response to the issue. This type of advocacy often involves some level of political activity, with members of the movement interacting with elected and appointed officials in the process of attempting to draw attention to their cause. It can also involve community activity and community education, such as attempts to get members of a community to become more environmentally conscious.
Anyone can engage in grassroots advocacy. Simply writing a letter to an elected official about a cause of concern is a form of grassroots advocacy, as is attending city council meetings, or taking a more active role in promoting change in a community. Organizing with others can increase the power of grassroots movements by creating a united group of concerned people which is hard to ignore, but it is not necessarily required. People can also approach advocacy from a number of political and social perspectives, and sometimes people with very disparate politics and ideas come together in the same movement because they have causes of mutual concern.
Grassroots advocacy often involves low-level community activism. Local groups of concerned citizens may join together to increase their strength when it comes to pushing for change, and sometimes these groups even turn into political organizations. Concerned groups of conservationists, for example, eventually created organizations like the Sierra Club. In these cases, the advocacy moved beyond the grassroots and into a more organized form, with more clout.
In a simple example of grassroots advocacy, people might decide that the patients at a local hospital are not getting adequate care. They might lobby the hospital board as well as professional organizations of nurses and other medical professionals to promote the development of higher standards of care. They could also push elected officials to audit the hospital or to get involved in the process of formulating more patient-friendly policies which would improve conditions for hospitalized patients.