Finding the roots of "Grass Roots" !!

Many of us working in the KM/Collaboration/Communities Of Practice space keep using the word “grass roots”. I was curious to find the origins of this word. Here is what I found in
An 1876 book about the Black Hills says that “gold is found almost everywhere, in the bars, in the gravel and sand of the beds, even in the ‘grass roots,'” that is, the soil just below the surface. But by the turn of the century we thought of grass roots as more than just a place to dig. Beneath the visible blades of grass, keeping the grass alive and making it grow, are the simple roots. Getting down to grass roots meant looking at the “underlying principles or basic facts of a matter,” in the words of Charles Earle Funk, the lexicographer, who remembered the phrase from his Ohio boyhood in the late 1800s. It was in the grass roots where you could truly understand a situation and effectively respond to it.” (Emphasis mine)

This has helped me appreciate why Communities Of Practice are grass root movements – Members of a CoP understand a situation (domain+practice) and effectively respond to it ( actions that emerge from the community). Taking this metaphor a bit further-the enterprise is represented by blades of grass;the communities are the simple roots that keep the grass alive!!


2 thoughts on “Finding the roots of "Grass Roots" !!

  1. I really like your thinking in your space. I’m cogitating on Pareto’s Law, the Long Tail and what is happening cognitively with the new media. Since knowledge is more than information and grassroots are more shallow than oakroots, what will determine the direction — production or consumption? I think the early adopters are setting the way and altering some of the congitive functions. To respond online takes initiative, engagement and thinking in order to fashion a response. There is something in that “engagement” that is making the interactivity connect us or the media extend us… it is not passive information but actively engaging in knowledge.OK. This was a real mental ramble.Cheers! Hattie at MotherPie

  2. Thanks for leaving a comment. Here is a quote from a research paper that I came across:”The blogging subject engages in self-disclosure, and as we noted earlier the blog works to bind together in a recognizable rhetorical form the four functions of self-disclosure: self-clarification, social validation, relationship development, and social control. Combined with its focused and repeated effort, the blog’s public disclosure—its exhibitionism—yields an intensification of the self, a reflexive elaboration of identity.” When you say there is “something” in the engagement-perhaps this is it-self-clarification, social validation, relationship development, and social control!!

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