Tools for Grassroots Activists

edited by Nora Gallagher and Lisa Myers

Tools for Grassroots Activists CoverDon’t let it be said that I’m a closed-minded person, but, given all my constant reading, I’ve begun to get a better feel of what I’m likely to enjoy and those that set off my cynicism. And my apprehension was almost palpable when I first picked up Tools for Grassroots Activists. This isn’t to say that I was setting myself up to dislike it right off the bat; I just expected that I would. Thankfully, nobody’s perfect, certainly not me, anyway.

Patagonia, the outdoor clothing and gear company, regularly puts on Tools Conferences, providing practical information for activists with regards to putting together successful environmental initiatives. Tools for Grassroots Activists takes the concepts presented in these events and puts them together in a helpful resource. Experts in their respective fields present sensible concepts that can be employed into making initiatives more effective––such as strategic planning, organization, communicating, and lobbying––and immediately follow them up with real-world case studies showing how the concept helped make the campaign successful. The introduction and initial chapters very nearly scared me away due to the large number of sentences that struck me as incongruous and uninformed, such as the suggestion that working on marketing and communication skills seemed counterintuitive for an NGO, but I feel like this was purposeful. While such ideas serve to frighten me, they most likely help to draw in the target audience. If the authors of the first few chapters are to be believed, it seems as though it’s easy for inexperienced environmental activists to equate any business speak with disingenuous, selfish behaviour, and would have a high likelihood of disregarding any advice related to such topics. Taking a tentative, soft approach to the initial topics likely helps most readers overcome such a hurdle to get to the juicy information presented later.

And it’s really good information. Clear definitions are given for basic concepts, so there’s no misunderstanding as we move forward, and the case studies help to bring home that the advice given is functional, not theoretical. I highly recommend this book not only to environmental activists, but also those working within organizations of all stripes, looking to improve focus, grow, and help their initiatives succeed.