Grassroots vs. Grasstops Advocacy: What You Need to Know

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Whether you operate in the political arena or want to tackle a pressing societal issue, advocacy represents one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. There are two distinct approaches within the advocacy landscape: grassroots and grasstops advocacy. 

The grassroots approach has been a staple of the American political system for decades. It has also been a driving force behind major societal changes across Europe and parts of Asia as well. The latter approach, grasstops advocacy, is lesser known, but it can be just as impactful. Here is how the two strategies stack up. 

What Is Grassroots Advocacy?

Grassroots advocacy is a bottom-up approach that relies on the collective efforts of ordinary people to influence decision-makers and bring about change. This form of advocacy is characterized by mass participation and mobilization — engaging large numbers of individuals to take action, often through petitions, rallies, and social media campaigns. 

Key Features of Grassroots Advocacy

The foundational element of grassroots advocacy is broad participation. You’ve got to mobilize a large group of participants and encourage them to voice their opinions. 

Additionally, you must strive for high levels of public engagement. Tap into people’s passion for a cause or issue they believe in. This often involves educating and informing them about the repercussions of inaction and the far-reaching consequences of leaving an issue unaddressed.

Perhaps most importantly, grassroots initiatives have a local focus. While these movements can catch fire and spread throughout the globe, they almost always begin in neighborhoods and city centers. 

Examples of Grassroots Advocacy

One of the best examples of Grassroots advocacy in action is the Google Take Action campaign. During this initiative, campaigners mobilized millions of people globally to collaborate in support of internet freedom. 

Ultimately, three million people signed up, which helped the initiative achieve its goal of stopping a U.N. proposal that threatened to change how IP addresses are managed. In total, 55 U.N. nations declined to sign the bill. This event marked a huge win for internet freedom and showcased the cumulative power of constituents. 

What Is Grasstops Advocacy?

Grasstops advocacy is a top-down approach that involves leveraging the influence of key community leaders, influencers, and individuals with established connections to policymakers. This method focuses on using the credibility and authority of respected figures to advocate for change. 

While both efforts prioritize mobilizing local community members, grasstops campaigns begin with leadership and work their way down to every voter. Conversely, grassroots movements start at the base level of society. 

Key Features of Grasstops Advocacy

The most notable component of grasstops advocacy is the use of influential voices. You can connect with business leaders, celebrities, clergy, academics, and community leaders to get your message out there.

Additionally, this approach relies on the existing networks and relationships of influential individuals to gain access to decision-makers and policymakers. You don’t have to build networks from scratch. Instead, you are leveraging the existing circles of your key supporters. 

Grasstops advocacy often involves targeted, strategic actions aimed at specific policymakers. Unlike grassroots efforts that mobilize the general public, grasstops advocacy focuses on high-level engagement and lobbying efforts. 

Examples of Grasstops Advocacy

Grasstop advocacy can take many forms, including private meetings between influential persons and policymakers to discuss specific issues. Expert testimonies are another great tool for spurring decision-makers to take action and effect meaningful change. 

One of the newer forms of grasstops advocacy involves leveraging endorsements from influencers. The more classic variant focuses on connecting with celebrities, whereas the new-school approach uses social media influencers who have the attention of thousands of constituents. 

Another more strategic approach involves engaging influential individuals to serve on advisory boards or committees to shape policy discussions. These people can serve as an ally to your cause while driving change from within the political system. 

Important Differences Between Grassroots and Grasstops Advocacy

There are numerous differences between these two advocacy frameworks.

Scale

During a grasstops campaign, you’ll need to leverage the influence of a smaller group of key individuals. This means prioritizing strategic engagement with policymakers. Conversely, grassroots movements involve large-scale participation and aim to mobilize a broad base of supporters. They often focus on raising public awareness and generating widespread support for an issue. 

Participants

Grassroots movements are known for leveraging the collective voice of thousands of people. Together, constituents can drive real change by becoming too loud to ignore. 

During a grasstops campaign, your focus will be on targeting a few key leaders and influential figures who already have a platform and a voice. In this scenario, you simply need to align them with the goals of your movement. 

Methods

Petitions, rallies, social media campaigns, and direct communication with legislators are your most valuable tools during grassroots movements. Your goal is to generate public pressure and spur decision-makers to action. 

A grasstops approach can be more subtle. Influencers can communicate with policymakers privately to influence their decisions. 

Source Quality Data From Aristotle 

Despite their differences, both grassroots and grasstops campaigns are built on great data. With the right information at your disposal, you can identify key players, use hard numbers to support your position, and engage in targeted mobilization efforts to get constituents talking about the issues. 

As a leader in political data, Aristotle can provide you with the information and technologies necessary to power your next movement. Schedule a demo to learn more about our grassroots and grasstops solutions.


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