Community Organising: The Art of Grassroots Campaigning (Part 7)


In nature, snowflakes are six-sided crystals. They connect together to form beautiful interconnecting patterns. The snowflake model in community organising uses the same basic idea of connected units to enable distributed leadership and local activity.

Writes Brendan Tobin: “It is no more complex than each local chapter of an organization which is self-organizing with its own leader and degree of autonomy. The local chapters are all similar in this sense and they relate to a regional head office or national head office.”

The graphic below from Mark Trainer shows how it resembles a snowflake “In the example below, the dark blue figures represent regional organizers who each interact with two green figures (representing community coordinators), who each interact with five community members (light blue).”

Brendan elaborates on the benefits:

  1. Local organizers know their area better and have better relationships in the community – take advantage of that.
  2. It is not possible to manage large distributed teams directly from a logistical or performance standpoint.
  3. Grassroots teams want autonomy in what they do, they may not want to have to set everything up themselves or figure out all the details but they do want to have control over the way things run in their area.
  4. Chapter management means learning from each other, especially if the head office has the data to compare and contrast performance.

Mark quotes Adrienne Lever: “People — and not just around election cycles — have been able to find power in building numbers by talking to people one person at a time. By working on changing one heart and mind, you build an exponential power base, and that’s how you change your environment and your world, ultimately.”

Aaron Wherry quotes Jennifer Hollett in a column on the snowflake model: “It’s leaders building leaders, so it’s a totally different approach, and it’s a practice of leadership more than anything. I think a traditional way of running a campaign, or a business or any type of social movement, is you have one person calling all the shots and telling people what to do. You have one formal leader and then a top-down structure. With the snowflake model, you do have someone in the centre—in this case you have a campaign manager and a candidate—but by giving people opportunities to take on leadership and then train other leaders, you’re building something much larger, where people feel invested and feel like they’re part of something. In return, you get more from those volunteers.”

This is exactly what is needed for UVI – local chapters with community organisers who tap volunteers via the self-us-now narrative, who in turn cultivate deep relationships in the communities to identify and unite non-aligned and non-voters into a voting bloc to change India.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.