By Sherry Ackerman
In recent articles, I have been examining the concept of taking civic responsibility. One of the foremost ways that we can do this is by offering our signature strengths to important grass-roots movements.
In his best-seller, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell posits that the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular set of social gifts. Gladwell describes when and how tipping points occur. He also demonstrates how we can create tipping points ourselves through grass-roots approaches.
He proposes three laws of tipping points: The law of the few, the stickiness factor, and the law of context.
The law of the few is a law about the structure of our social networks and how messages are passed through word of mouth.
The stickiness factor is a law about the actual informational content and packaging of our messages. Connections and the personal character of the people trying to spread a message can certainly help it spread, but if the message is not worth spreading, then it is doomed to failure.
The law of context is a rule about the environment in which a message spreads. Small changes in the context of a message can determine whether or not it spreads in various contexts.
Gladwell is providing a subtle framework in which to situate our conception of spreading awareness. Suddenly ideas can become packets, streaming and replicating through our social networks. Information is a virus copying itself as it travels from us to our friends, family and acquaintances.
When we begin to view our system of social connections as a network and a lifeline with the ability to provide us, and others, with important information, messages, ideas and opportunities that are needed, we begin to grasp the power of grass-roots movements.
By definition, the grassroots is the bottom of the political pyramid, opposite the “establishment,” which controls the top. While the establishment concentrates power in relatively few people in the highest echelons – typically party leaders, elected officials, appointed aides or bureaucrats, and others who wield considerable authority over others – the grassroots includes virtually everyone else, those common people who do not necessarily hold any political office.
What this means is that, ultimately, the grassroots is dependent upon our attitude. It requires an attitude of freedom, of creativity, of unrestrained political enthusiasm, and of willingness to band together with ordinary citizens for a common purpose.
The grassroots is the backbone of democracy. It is dumping tea in a harbor, or standing up and testifying at a local city council meeting, or handing out leaflets on the street.
The real grassroots strength of America has only been fully tapped in isolated instances – such as the civil rights movement, when a large proportion of common citizens rose up and made a difference.
Unfortunately, at present, the grassroots remain largely dormant, lulled to sleep by the distractions of modern living. Unless the grassroots wake up and begin to take responsibility for our collective future through environmental advocacy and economic reform, we will miss the opportunity to ensure that our children are assured quality of life.
Combining our individual signature strengths with Gladwell’s three laws is a good place – and a practical way – to begin revitalizing those grassroots.

By Sherry Ackerman In recent articles, I have been examining the concept of taking civic responsibility. One of the foremost ways that we can do this is by offering our signature strengths to important grass-roots movements. In his best-seller, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell posits that the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular set of social gifts. Gladwell describes when and how tipping points occur. He also demonstrates how we can create tipping points ourselves through grass-roots approaches. He proposes three laws of tipping points: The law of the few, the stickiness factor, and the law of context. The law of the few is a law about the structure of our social networks and how messages are passed through word of mouth. The stickiness factor is a law about the actual informational content and packaging of our messages. Connections and the personal character of the people trying to spread a message can certainly help it spread, but if the message is not worth spreading, then it is doomed to failure. The law of context is a rule about the environment in which a message spreads. Small changes in the context of a message can determine whether or not it spreads in various contexts. Gladwell is providing a subtle framework in which to situate our conception of spreading awareness. Suddenly ideas can become packets, streaming and replicating through our social networks. Information is a virus copying itself as it travels from us to our friends, family and acquaintances. When we begin to view our system of social connections as a network and a lifeline with the ability to provide us, and others, with important information, messages, ideas and opportunities that are needed, we begin to grasp the power of grass-roots movements. By definition, the grassroots is the bottom of the political pyramid, opposite the “establishment,” which controls the top. While the establishment concentrates power in relatively few people in the highest echelons – typically party leaders, elected officials, appointed aides or bureaucrats, and others who wield considerable authority over others – the grassroots includes virtually everyone else, those common people who do not necessarily hold any political office. What this means is that, ultimately, the grassroots is dependent upon our attitude. It requires an attitude of freedom, of creativity, of unrestrained political enthusiasm, and of willingness to band together with ordinary citizens for a common purpose. The grassroots is the backbone of democracy. It is dumping tea in a harbor, or standing up and testifying at a local city council meeting, or handing out leaflets on the street. The real grassroots strength of America has only been fully tapped in isolated instances – such as the civil rights movement, when a large proportion of common citizens rose up and made a difference. Unfortunately, at present, the grassroots remain largely dormant, lulled to sleep by the distractions of modern living. Unless the grassroots wake up and begin to take responsibility for our collective future through environmental advocacy and economic reform, we will miss the opportunity to ensure that our children are assured quality of life. Combining our individual signature strengths with Gladwell’s three laws is a good place – and a practical way – to begin revitalizing those grassroots.