In my experience, social media is good for networking with prominent personalities and organizations and my peers and people in the Environmental field. It however hasn’t been fully exploited to be an effective medium for grassroots engagement.
When we attend an event, create a hash tag and start trending: indeed, we are sending out information about the event to people who are interested; people who can search for the hashtag and follow the conversation online. What about people who are not interested in climate talks and those without access to these media platforms? Do we just pretend they don’t matter and continue preaching to the choir?
Preaching to the choir and congregation is all good but what about the person who needs to hear the word but cant. There’s only one way getting to the grassroots.
The only way to get to the grassroots is to go to the grassroots!
Retweets from prominent individuals may get a topic to trend and will seem like an accomplishment but who is it for? At the end of the day, I can’t claim I have impacted the grassroots from my tweets because they don’t get to there. The only way to get to the grassroots is to engage with projects that are relevant to them and in a manner they are receptive to.
How can social media facilitate grassroots development?
1. Get people talking online by actual action on the ground
All campaigns involve a degree of mobilization using old fashioned door to door tactics, peaceful demonstrations and town barazas that provides for a deeper level of participation. The quality grassroots campaigning should be used as a catalyst for mobilizing the vast quantity of “keyboard warriors” by sharing the action on the ground.
2. Spark for change
Social media needs a spark to become effective. Controversial pictures, videos of injustice, a police statement- anything that will tug on the emotions of people. An example is the Black Lives Matter campaign that was propelled by videos by private citizens against police brutality. Like a spark to a fire, keyboard warriors need a real- life catalyst to inspire their virtual campaign.
3. Crowd funding for projects
Likes, retweets and clicks are not a substitute for actively participating in the cause. Social media success doesn’t equate tangible contribution to the campaign. We need to find ways to convert social media currency into monetary value by getting people to contribute to the causes we are championing for- Setting a convenient way for people to contribute either by voluntarily sending money or buying merchandise on the site.
Social media can be a medium for change only if it is backed up by evidence on the ground. Not only in the Environmental field but in all aspects of activism. By documenting activities by taking pictures and videos engaging with the communities and sharing them, other youth and organizations can see how to work with communities in other parts of the world can adopt tested methods for the good of their people. Those are some ways social media can be used in capacity building and grassroots development.