January 20, 2014

"The 3 E Approach to Grass Roots Activism"

    To get a passionate response from someone means you pushed the right buttons. You struck a nerve that resonated and that's what you were hoping to achieve. Only with ignited passion can you elicit desired action.

    Think about the above for a moment.

    The National Association of Home Builders, a federation of local builders associations across 50 states and Puerto Rico, relies on action.Without action, legislation and regulation would end the industry as we know it today, or at the very least, cripple it. Close to 150,000 members and we have less than 4% actually taking a firm hand in their future. Where do we fail in gaining the action? Touching a nerve, extracting passion; are they missing?

    The best way to accomplish this is by utilizing the 3 E approach to grass roots activism; Educate, Enrage, then Engage.
    1. Educate - the member can't take action unless they fully understand the consequences of the initiative. As an example, here in my home state of New Jersey, we were faced with a water permit ban for all new homes being built in three southern municipalities near Atlantic City for the sole reason of a alleged receding underground water source. It was fairly simple; over three thousand potential houses were not going to be built because of the threat of less water. The New Jersey Builders Association clearly demonstrated that the underground source was more than capable of supplying the project, but in fact, had current water levels that would flood the entire state, three feet deep. The education process on the NJBA membership was quite eye opening.
    2. Enrage - Keeping the NJ story as the ongoing example, the membership realized that the water permit ban was really just a way to stop housing, with the environmentalists taking full aim at stopping the houses from being built. It wasn't just the environmentalists, but certain politicians that wanted the water for another city. When our members found out all these details, we clearly understood that this situation was going to take monies out of our pockets and it was quantifiable; 3,000 homes. Being a supplier and in sales, I quickly did my math and realized my opportunities for increased income were being stolen. Like a thief robbing me in broad daylight. Enraged? Without question, and I wasn't alone. You see, here in New Jersey, we don't like being robbed and I'm quite positive other states feel the same way.
    3. Engage - Here is what happened after we in NJ were educated and made to become enraged; we acted, we became engaged in the process of protecting our livelihoods. We made calls and sent letters to our legislators that were passionate. We collectively joined together, builder and associate, and we rallied on the steps of our statehouse, with full media coverage. Associate supply companies took their supply trucks and diverted those trucks to Trenton on very slow drives and frequent stops and virtually stopped the traffic flow. Then we the members took the the halls, engaging in passionate, yet professional, conversation with every legislator we saw. The March on Trenton made everyone take notice. With constant pressure from our members the ban was eventually lifted but it changed me forever in my thinking that the 3 Es really worked.

    That, my friends, is what grass roots activism can produce when enough members can be properly motivated. Loss of income, loss of employment and loss of business are great motivators, wouldn't you agree? 

    My example was meant to get you thinking about what you can do to motivate your grass roots. Knowledge, passion and action is the only way to be successful, whether it's in your state or in Washington, D.C. 

    • Educate your member so they know exactly what is going on, simplify the language.
    • Enrage your members, make them feel the loss of income or weakening of careers.
    • Engage them because only they, the member, can affect desired change.

    Submitted by Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP

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