Walking-the-walk with our participatory process

Tess Beem

To be transparent, I think that part of the reason I was hired as Programs Manager with the Grassroots Fund is because of my experience planning events. I also think that I was hired because of my experience with group facilitation. 

But I know that I have never planned an event that combines the two in such a committed way as the planning committee process for the Grassroots Fund’s upcoming RootSkills Conference. As an organization that is committed to shifting decision making power, stated as one of our core guiding values, and that uses this as a consideration for awarding funding to grassroots projects - how can we not hold ourselves accountable to the same standards as we design and plan our events?


So, as a result, we have a planning committee with over 20 members, expertise across 6 issue areas, and representation from all 6 New England states. And although a planning committee of this magnitude may garner initial reactions lamenting how complex, unwieldy, daunting to work with… but really, what an opportunity! 


In striving to have a planning committee with a diversity of lived experiences across age, gender, sexual orientation, race, and class among some identifiers, we illuminate our blind spots, push on our assumptions and name our implicit biases on what will make a successful and productive event. The result? A better built event for grassroots organizers, frontline community members, volunteers and educators. With a focus on process over product, we strive to co-create a training event with community-based groups, rather than for them. 


The real measure of our work at the Grassroots Fund is how well we are connecting a community of grassroots leaders to one another. We believe in adaptability and understand that our relevance depends on bringing in many perspectives, lowering barriers for engagement at the local level, and holding space for co-creating solutions across all viewpoints.


That said, I invite you to contribute to the planning committee’s next task: deliberating over workshop session proposals. Submit a proposal on your own work, or share the open call form with someone in your network. 

Registration for the conference opens September 4th. Join our mailing list to receive updates.