Branching out from our Roots

Guest Post by Donna Fisk:

The success of Sierra Club in North Carolina is rooted in its grass roots. And as circular as that may sound, it is the very process of Groups responding and reacting to local events, plus the act of sharing that information and being supported by other Sierra Club Groups that keeps us a positive and vital force in conservation and the environmental movement.

While we have many members on the books, we are having some difficulty tapping into the potential activists and expertise in the outlying area of our Groups. Taking a look at the map below, you can see that in order to attend a “local” Group meeting, members might have to travel from the South Carolina to the Virginia State line. Not many grass roots can reach that far, and local issues important to south central NC may well be very different than those of north central NC. And in a larger sense, it isn’t responsible environmentally to use fossil fuels to travel that distance for a meeting.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to work around this problem, and that is through Activity Centers. Basically, an established Group permits an individual member or group of members to host Sierra Club meetings and organize events in their local area. Unlike most things in life anymore, this doesn't require a great deal of paperwork, time, or any money. All you have to do is recognize some energetic people and let them run with it! The official scoop from National is at the bottom of this post.

Interest in environmental issues is at an all time high. We need to strike while the fire is hot, find the activists in those areas that we are not reaching right now, get them involved, and encourage and support them as they grow. Give it some thought, and then get in touch with Tom Jensen and Molly Diggins for any additional information you may need.

And if you are reading this and you are one of those Sierra Club members without a nearby Group, please email and let us know that you are interested in becoming more involved. Sierra Club cannot succeed without our grass roots …and that means you!

Establishing a Sierra Club "Presence" in a Community

It is often best not to form new groups right away, but to first empower local activists to represent the Sierra Club in their community through a committee, or by designating a local spokesperson.

Chapters and groups can establish committees with a specific charge to represent the Sierra Club in a given community, or on a particular issue, or to conduct activities like outings or political programs. Individuals can also be delegated as local spokespeople regarding a range of issues or activities.

Committees or designated spokespersons can be assigned budgets, they can use membership lists appropriate to their work, they can hold periodic members meetings and speak out at public meetings, and they can use the newsletter to inform members about their work and invite participation. They can be empowered to speak on behalf of the Sierra Club regarding their charge.

Creating a local committee, or designating a local spokesperson, is often the best way to gain Sierra Club presence in an especially important geographic area that doesn’t have a large enough membership to sustain an entire group. This makes most sense in places where there are just a few committed activists who can work well with the chapter ExCom; where they are generally away from a functioning group; where they’re in a place with important elected officials or adjacent to important public lands or key pollution problems, etc.

As with all committees or spokespersons established by a chapter, they are accountable to the chapter ExCom.

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