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2010 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Global Grassroots

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Civil Rights, Nonprofit Management, Women, Womens Rights

Mission: Global Grassroots is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that catalyzes ideas for social change designed by and for underserved women in post-conflict Africa. Our mission is to unite, empower and support relief of poor, distressed and underprivileged women worldwide.  Global Grassroots’ Academy for Conscious Change in Rwanda is a 12-18 month incubator offering non-profit management skills, leadership training, personal transformation practices, seed grants and high-engagement support that enables vulnerable women change agents to launch their own grassroots solutions benefiting women and girls.  All of the ventures are locally-designed and operated by our graduates as self-sustaining, non-profit endeavors. 

Results: Since 2006, Global Grassroots has steadily built a track record of social impact in Rwanda.  We have trained over 250 emerging change agents, who have launched 11 sustainable, civil society organizations, and we have a further 9 social ventures now ready for seed funding.  Our teams are collectively serving 9,000 vulnerable women and girls annually, and touching a total of over 40,000 lives to date, including the children of venture beneficiaries and the audiences of their awareness work.

Target demographics: Global Grassroots works through grassroots networks and partnerships to identify among vulnerable women, the emerging change agents who are committed to transforming the lives of women and girls.  Our participants include widows, genocide survivors, women living with HIV/AIDS, mothers with only a primary school education, and women living on $2 a day.  We also welcome into our program men who are eager to combat the underlying issues affecting women and girls, and on average, approximately 10 percent of our participants are men.  Our simple application requires that change agents form a team, identify their social issue priority and propose a solution to address that issue collectively.  We target groups at the earliest stage of their idea development, and invite between 3 and 5 representatives of each selected team into our Academy for Conscious Change.

Geographic areas served: Rwanda

Programs: The Academy for Conscious Change The first phase of the Academy is a 40 hour intensive, interactive training course that accelerates the process of personal and societal transformation. Our curriculum begins by investing in a personal growth process for each change agent. Our objective is to help these future change leaders expand their sense of self-awareness, develop tools for transforming oppression and suffering, cultivate compassion and initiate change responsibly. We believe it essential for future social change leaders to invest as much in inner transformation as they do in outer solutions, so that they may avoid the pitfalls of burn-out, abuse of power or pursuits that detract from constructive social change. We share practices in meditation and breathing to support trauma healing, and promote self-care to alleviate stress. Finally, by helping women map out their capabilities that can be leveraged for social change, we deepen their sense of agency, as they identify ways to make their own unique contribution. Integrated with the personal transformation work and conscious leadership practices, the second part of our training provides all of the skills needed to create a plan for a viable social enterprise. We begin by mapping social issue priorities and diagnosing core causes. Project teams then enter an intensive venture design process to construct a mission and vision, operational plan, organizational design, budget, creative resourcing strategies, evaluation metrics, strategic partnerships, a code of conduct and communications strategy. Following the academic portion of the program, teams move into a three to six month phase of hands-on project development support to prepare for launch. Our local staff works with each team to ensure that the project is designed to be self-sufficient, has measurable goals and objectives and will address a root cause of the underlying issue to create systemic change for women and girls. Projects which meet our criteria for social impact and sustainability receive seed funding averaging $4000 for their start-up costs and a further 12 months of high-engagement support. These locally-designed social ventures are not small businesses, but are instead small non-profits driven by a social purpose to address a priority issue facing women, such as domestic violence, water access or illiteracy. Evaluation metrics and ongoing assessment are incorporated into the operations phase to ensure the development of a strong organization.

Community Stories

4 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters



Rating: 5

As part of a master’s program I recently spent two months in Rwanda during which time I talked with, interviewed and observed many organizations, both local and international, working on improving every area of life for the Rwandese people. I was deeply inspired and impressed when I learned about the work Global Grassroots is doing to educate and empower women to become their own powerful social change agents. Whereas I became leery of the charity-oriented mentality of many other international organizations working in Rwanda (and doubtful about the effectiveness of the actual work on the ground) a closer look at Global Grassroots offered an example of positive work from a paradigm I can stand firmly behind. You can read about the organization’s firm beliefs about the paramount necessity of the “conscious” piece of social change, and their other ideals on their website. I want to tell you what I saw on the ground. Picture a market, bustling daily with the everyday commerce of mostly women selling vegetables, cloth, offering their seamstress services. In the corner of the market, every afternoon from 3:30-5:30, a small door opens up and market sellers and other village women shuffle in for their daily lessons in literacy organized by their other friends from the village. The literacy skills the women gain empower them to be more assertive in their households, make better decisions for their families, and be more engaged in society. The same women have gotten together to learn math skills so that they can run their market businesses better. This is progress - for women, by women, sustained by the community. When the literacy class files out the classroom becomes a stage for another woman’s project. She is also a graduate of the Global Grassroots Academy of Conscious Change and is creating community theatre as a way to initiate community discussions about gender roles. The classroom is packed deep with people observing skits depicting different common interactions between women and men. Amongst the riots of laughter generated, there are also important dialogues starting and seeds being planted to show women and men another way to be in their village. Truly inspired by all of this I observed on the ground, I contacted the director of Global Grassroots to see how I could be involved. What developed was a project in which I got to explore my own passions- alternative healing techniques- in conjunction with helping Global Grassroots get a sense of the alternative healing field in Rwanda. By both the in-country coordinator, and the director who was busy working in other parts of the world, I have never felt more supported and empowered as I embarked on this journey to explore some of the inner healing work happening in Rwanda. Global Grassroots’ need for research before starting any new project paralleled the papers I was writing in graduate school about culturally appropriate and sustainable international development work. Again and again I saw Global Grassroots investing its energy and resources into carrying out their intentions for sustainable, proactively conscious work that empowers the local community and builds the capacity among women to change their own lives. It has been a gift to discover the commitment, passion, and intentionality behind the work Global Grassroots in doing in Rwanda. My desire to be continue to be involved in international development work is renewed as long as I can work for organizations like this one.



Rating: 5

Global Grassroots is one of the greatest champions of people in developing nations. Their impact is multifaceted in training women to become agents of social change, aiding in the development of social change and supplying the funds necessary to implement the social change. One of the greatest aspects of GG is that its’ work focuses on the empowerment of the social change agent by creating a network of support, multidimensional training and friendship. Having worked with GG in Rwanda the summer of 2009, I have witnessed first hand the impact of GG on the ground. The empowerment it gives to individuals and communities is truly impressive. There are not enough words of praise for Gretchen Wallace and the organization she has created.



Rating: 5

Gretchen Wallace has been a fantastic boss and mentor. The way she runs the Global Grassroots office is how she runs the organization-- with the vision of a true leader, and with an open heart. Her passion for the projects established by the graduates of the Academy for Conscience Change is truly inspirational, and her unflagging enthusiasm and commitment to constantly improve the organization is a quality that every change agent in this world should strive for. Gretchen is a wonderful listener, and that comes across both in her interactions with people and in the success of Global Grassroots. If someone offers a suggestion to improve the organization-- regardless of whether it's an established board member, an illiterate woman in Rwanda, or a student intern-- she always seriously considers the feedback. This collaborative spirit, willingness to learn from others, and openness to (societal, organizational, and personal) transformation has permeated the organization and is at its core. My personal experience with the organization has been extremely positive. I have interned with Global Grassroots for nearly a year, and I feel very fortunate to work with a team that has visible impact in people's lives.



Rating: 5

Global Grassroots has achieved something extraordinary: a marriage of a philosophically thoughtful and sound approach to the problem, with actual hands-on, incredibly impactful work with the most marginalized and underserved women. Gretchen is changing and will continue to change the world.