Grassroots leaders from across the country gathered in Austin, Texas in April to develop a collective vision for future work. Hosted by the Children & Nature Network (C&NN), the conference gave the leaders an opportunity to celebrate the successes of their movement and learn from one another. Grassroots Change attended the gathering and have three takeaways to share:
1. Impact and sustainability go hand-in-hand. Grassroots leaders can broaden and deepen their impact by thinking critically about the infrastructure they need to support their movement building. Securing funding from a foundation or government agency can allow a grassroots group to pay staff or invest more into developing a program or initiative. One innovative solution offered by leaders from the Texas Children in Nature Network is to partner with companies in supporting their employees’ social causes. Many government agencies, nonprofits, and even for-profit companies, such as Twitter and Facebook, allow employees to do volunteer work during work hours or reward their employees for their community service.
2. Stories can move people to action. A powerful personal story can help your group connect with others and inspire them to act. Organizations like Latino Outdoors and Pacha’s Pajamas are using the power of storytelling to communicate their cause and inspire everyday people to join the children and nature movement. Through social media and children’s books, these grassroots groups are reaching diverse audiences and moving them to action. Latino Outdoors founder, Jose Gonzales, said, “Data makes you credible, stories make you memorable.”
3. Be bold in your movement building. Grassroots leaders can push the boundaries of their current movement building efforts. Thought leaders like Gil Penalosa called on grassroots leaders to create 8-80 cities, cities where everyone, from ages 8 to 80, can access nature regardless of their socioeconomic status. “If we build nature-rich cities that are accessible to children, they will be accessible to adults,” said Penalosa. Richard Louv, co-founder of C&NN, challenged advocates to create ways to make the movement more inclusive for diverse and young leaders.
The 2015 C&NN conference also addressed the challenges grassroots leaders face in expanding an already successful movement. But there are models and resources available to overcome challenges, such as C&NN’s Natural Leaders program, which trains young, diverse advocates to become grassroots leaders. The program is now accepting applications for summer 2015.