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The Planet

New Project ACT Nurtures Grassroots

by J. Robert Cox

A year ago, I addressed you in these pages about the organizational challenges surrounding our finances and our future (see The Planet, October 1994).

One year later, we find a projected modest surplus by year-end; steadily rising membership, most recently totaling nearly 570,000; the first stages completed in the reorganization of the Sierra Club's governance; and a Congress determined to dismantle 25 years of environmental protection.

With our own house increasingly in order, our challenge -- against a highly centralized, disciplined and well-funded opposition -- is how to organize de-centralized, grassroots volunteers. We must create a participatory culture in which individual members feel they make a difference and are appreciated for their efforts to protect the wild Earth and the places where they live and work.

That's why I submitted to the Board of Directors and Council of Club Leaders this fall an initiative entitled Project ACT: A Proposal for Grassroots Organizing in the Sierra Club (Unanimously approved by the Board of Directors Sept. 16, 1995). "ACT" has three critical components:

A: Activist Culture
Nurturing a grassroots "activist culture" that wields political power in the battle for a safe and healthy environment should be one of the Sierra Club's highest priorities. To do so, we must organize our members using networks, campaign coordinators, phone and fax trees and more.
C: Communication and Coordination
We must build a comprehensive, user-friendly and workable communication infrastructure -- a communication network that unites us across all levels of the Club in a timely, informed and coordinated way.
T: Conservation Training
It's time to create a national grassroots conservation training program that teaches organizing skills such as running a campaign, working with media and organizing high-visibility events that are linked to priority issues which inspire volunteer involvement.

It's Your Club -- Get Involved!

Grassroots and staff involvement is key to the success of Project ACT. To that end, I encourage you to join me in a Club-wide conversation about ways in which we can -- in a positive spirit -- begin rebuilding the Sierra Club from the ground up and encourage and sustain volunteer involvement in our core mission.


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