Academic journal article Management Quarterly

Grassroots: New and Different, or What We've Always Done Well?

Academic journal article Management Quarterly

Grassroots: New and Different, or What We've Always Done Well?

Article excerpt

Former Speaker of the House Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill said, "All politics is local." While O'Neill may have been referring solely to electoral politics, the phrase is applicable to the "politics" that occur in our daily lives - such as interaction with our families, co-workers, colleagues, friends, acquaintances and others within our communities. With this in mind, it should be obvious that a grassroots advocacy effort initiated and operated by the local cooperative will be the most successful.

Grassroots efforts must be locally run, locally based and tailored to meet local needs. NRECA and the statewides can, and do, offer a variety of programs to augment and enhance member-system grassroots advocacy efforts. Some of these programs are highlighted in this piece. But make no mistake about it, the most successful grassroots network is one of individuals committed to being advocates for their local cooperative, who are continuously reaching out to their elected officials and opinion leaders to remind them of the important role of the cooperative in their communities.

Recognizing that there can be as many different kinds of grassroots programs as there are rural electric cooperatives, NRECA's Grassroots Advocacy Team has prepared activities, materials, training models and other resources - all developed with an eye towards assisting cooperatives in formalizing and enhancing their grassroots capabilities. Electric cooperatives have a responsibility to enhance their legislative, regulatory, community and public relations efforts, and we at NRECA and the statewides are here to help and assist.

The ultimate goal is to have distribution co-ops, G&Ts, statewide associations, and NRECA work together to form the strongest possible network of advocates capable of communicating the will of the co-ops - not only to our legislators and regulators here in Washington but also in the county courthouses, state legislatures and state regulatory agencies.

All of the activities, materials and training modules at our disposal and that are provided to our member-systems, including specific consulting services designed to help develop a comprehensive "grassroots advocacy plan" at each cooperative come at a price. But I don't mean a monetary price. In fact, because of the importance of the challenges that face us, the tools of grassroots advocacy that I am about to mention come at little cost to cooperatives. However, the price is in continued action. Grassroots cannot be turned on and off at will. The type of grassroots efforts that electric cooperatives were born of over 50 years ago, and still practice very well today, must be nurtured and cared for.

We have a vast pool of talented folks from which to recruit our advocates - all tied to co-op lines in one form or another. Use them, but use them wisely.

Managers, directors, employees, their spouses and families all have a vested interest in having their cooperatives remain strong and competitive, and they must be nurtured and encouraged to be a part of any grassroots effort. Beyond that, however, are many others that are often overlooked. For example, what about the alumni from local, state and national youth programs? Many of these folks continue to have a strong affinity with their co-op sponsors. Over the past forty years, more than 30,000 people have participated in the national Rural Electric Youth Tour and many of these alum are now in leadership positions in their communities and states. Former U.S. Senator Sheila Frohm, appointed to fulfill the unexpired term of Senator Bob Dole, is just one visible example of a rural youth tour alum!

Let's not overlook our nation's rural electric retirees. By some estimates there are as many as 35,000 of them. More importantly, they have time to contact their community leaders and be involved in community and state activities. Also, they may live in more than one place - splitting time between Iowa and Florida, for example. …

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