In recent months, Not For Sale has revealed many exciting, innovative, and high-profile developments, which have driven the movement forward noticeably more rapidly than in previous years. At face-value, these strategic partnerships and focused pursuits of social enterprise may seem to outweigh progress at grassroots level. However, I would suggest that although the style of approach is distinctly different, the goal remains cohesive: benefiting enslaved and vulnerable communities. I think that there is value in both methods, but that the greatest proficiency is achieved when strategic partnerships and projects can be paired in tandem with the driving force of a grassroots constituency.
These thoughts were at the forefront of my mind this week as I worked on a grassroots project that required writing a brief overview of the Community Abolitionist Network (CAN). On paper it was a ‘brief overview’, but it was in fact the product of a great deal of observation, conversation, and deep thought since arriving at Not For Sale.
grass·roots[gras-roots, -roo ts, grahs-]
noun, 1. The common or ordinary people, especially as contrasted with leadership…
I think that Not For Sale’s approach is distinct because, although it uses the term ‘grassroots’, the practical definition of this term differs starkly from the traditional definition. Not For Sale’s grassroots abolitionists out on the ground are not ‘contrasted with leadership’. In fact, quite the opposite is true – grassroots abolitionists are mandated to be LEADERS of the movement in their own communities; to take the essence of the NFS mission and give it practical expression, using their own personal skills, passion, expertise, collaborative networks and invaluable local knowledge.
grass·roots[gras-roots, -roo ts, grahs-]
noun, 2. the origin or basis of something; the basic or primary concept…
Other terms which are generated for ‘grassroots’ or ‘roots’ include: fundamental, basic and important, center, crux, heart, underpinning. Grassroots are the foundation of the movement. In terms of the Community Abolitionist Network, it is these organised groups out on the ground which are strengthening the movement and consistently moving it forward. As each CAN group drives the movement locally, change occurs nationally. The breadth and depth of the movement expands in each community as more individuals and more sectors of society commit their long-term involvement. This concept is analogous to the ‘ripple effect’ – within communities this is demonstrated by change in one sector affecting change in interrelated sectors, or more broadly by the fact that CAN is growing as more leaders are added to the grassroots number.
When I think about grassroots, I often think about what happens when a popular person needs a pen – everyone dives for their bag, everyone wants to be the person to help and provide the pen – to meet the need and be the solution. This is grassroots to me. While I have been a Fellow I have had the opportunity to be out among the grassroots, and the desire of individuals to be part of the solution is inspiring and encouraging. When people hear about the reality of modern-days slavery, the overwhelming response from most individuals is that they want to offer the pen. That is what I love about the new Empower tool – it allows grassroots individuals to take this enthusiasm and commitment, and really find their most effective niche in the movement, from being a core financial supporter, to downloading the Free2Work app, to joining a local CAN group.
So having spent a lot of time considering the efficacy of the grassroots structure this week, I have come to realise that grassroots are integral to both the abolitionist movement as a whole, as well as contributing to the success of specific projects: A Free2Work application designed to inform consumers about forced and child labor in supply chains can only be effective to the extent that it is utilised – it is necessary for the grassroots constituency to advocate its necessity and worth to the wider public.
An NFS apparel range will only provide economic opportunities for enslaved and vulnerable communities if the wider public are educated by the grassroots constituency on how these opportunities have been made possible.
A social enterprise product will only succeed in the market and return dividends to benefit enslaved and vulnerable communities, if the grassroots constituency assist in making the wider public aware of the benefits of preferentially purchasing such a product.
This movement is fueled by anyone who is willing to commit time and resources to provide solutions to the problems that contribute to modern-day slavery. Whether this occurs through involvement with specific projects, or a general commitment to on-going grassroot campaigns, an investment in the movement is an investment to end slavery.