Backyard Talk

The Importance of Civic Engagement and Grassroots Politics

By: Sharon Franklin
On September 18, 2018 CHEJ conducted a training conference call on The Importance of Civic Engagement, One question from the call included What happens if the people of this nation ignore their civic responsibilities and don’t help make important decisions?
Answer: Only a hand full of gerrymandered voters end up deciding who represents us and the majority of the voices of voters are not heard.  That is Why Civic and Political Participation and Engagement are important because it allows all peoples voices and positions to be heard, to enable all of us to fight for justice and equality on a more level playing field.
The discussion of Civic Engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference.  It means getting involved and promoting both the political and non-political processes.
Several but not all examples of civic engagement include:

  1. Public education campaigns regarding a local policy or issue that do NOT promote a specific voter action,
  2. Hosting House parties and potlucks events to build strong community connections, such as the national action Peoples Action Institute’s “Families Belong Together” event sponsored over the weekend of August 4-5, where local community leaders hosted forty-eight community cookouts — most of which were in rural areas and small towns,
  3. Educating legislators on your issues,
  4. Participate in Nonpartisan voter education,
  5. Educating About and Influencing Regulations (not legislation), and
  6. Encouragement of both Voter Participation and Registration.

As Noted in a recent article by Samantha Madison in the Observer-Dispatch, Utica, New York, What exactly is grassroots politics?
Alan Rosenblatt, Professor at George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management states candidates love to claim that they’re grassroots and they often wear the designation as a badge of honor, but most aren’t exactly right about the definition.
Rosenblatt further states, “In its purest form, grassroots campaigns are organized from the bottom up with average people rallying around a cause or issue” and “A grassroots campaign is about people.” “As far as a candidate goes, if they’re claiming their campaign is a grassroots campaign, then for sure the proportion of small donors to large donors is a measure of that.  I would say that you don’t necessarily (need to have no) corporate donors, but the more people donating small dollar amounts, the more authentic the claim that it’s grassroots.
 Additionally, it is important to realize that nonprofits may conduct a broad range of voter education activities, as long as they are nonpartisan and do not to support or oppose a candidate.
For more information about nonprofit voting visit: