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 answers.com:
“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!!