We humans have been asking this question of ourselves and our communities for millennia; however, for most of us, throughout most of history, acting upon our answers was cost prohibitive. Indeed, manifesting social change was reserved for the wealthy and powerful few. Their answers, their stories of where we should go were the stories that shaped the arc of social change. No longer. Advances in technology have allowed increasing numbers of us to offer up our own answers, connect, collaborate, and collectively participate in the process of local and systemic change. This is awesome. But, let’s be honest. The wealthy and powerful few still have a death-grip on storytelling. Seriously, think about it, which stories get shared most often in our society? And, maybe more importantly, get heard? Stories whose storytellers have pedigree.

And, what the hell is pedigree?

Pedigree is bestowed upon those who endure (from a very young age) a life-long system of interconnected and costly rituals. In American society, it goes something like this:

  • Getting accepted into a gifted program in middle school
  • Taking AP courses in high school
  • Scoring high on the SAT
  • Getting accepted at a top ranked university (usually with Ivy clinging to its red brick buildings)
  • Becoming a Rhodes Scholar
  • Doing graduate study at a top 10 program
  • Landing a spot on the Forbes “30 Under 30” list
  • Moving to NYC, LA, San Fran, Silicon Valley, Boston or DC.
  • Getting a MacArthur Genius Grant
  • Landing a professorship at a Research I University
  • Learning Secret Knowledge like how to tolerate classical music, swirl and sniff wine, use Latin on just the right occasions, and pull off wearing tweed

Essentially, pedigree is a giant colander. Pour in all those with a voice, unique thought, and a story to share (that’s all of us), turn on the tap and shake vigorously. Those of us who fall through the holes are told to be the audience. Those who remain get permission to stand up, speak out, and be heard.

Don’t get me wrong. I get it. The marketplace of ideas is crowded, more so than ever. And, as consumers of ideas who have scarce time and constrained attention spans, pedigree is a time-saving device. It’s a short-cut. Out of the myriad of blogs, books, and papers, pedigree helps us choose what to read. It’s also a poke in the side to pay attention. We’ve have been conditioned by our media outlets to turn up the volume and lean forward to listen whenever a story leads with “Yale professor finds…”.

The use of “Yale” in that sentence is called a qualifier. It’s also called pedigree.

Now, I’m sure that that “Yale professor” has something interesting to say. But, here’s the thing. So do a lot of us. Some of us are late-bloomers. Some of us were born into families could not afford and/or did not believe in opportunity hoarding. Some of us cannot imagine living anywhere else other than where we are (away from the coasts). Some of us are not white, heterosexual, cisgender, Christian, American males. Now, that’s list of privileges, which is different than pedigree. But, that list facilitates the development of pedigree. And, just for the record, I am all of those things. So, if I’m pissed off about pedigree, I cannot imagine how others feel.

So, the purpose of the Grassroot[s] Garage is to democratize and diversify the change-making space. We’re doing this by teaching budding and established social entrepreneurs workarounds, hacks, and the beauty of bootstrapping. We’re celebrating creative ways to do things for less. With less of a need for external funding, there is less of a need to conform to another’s world view.


The Grassroot(s) Garage is a disruptive do-it-yourself low-cost story building blueprint composed of seven sequential yet iterative modules:

  1. Building a Values-Based Community
  2. Constructing an Issue-Based Platform
  3. Engineering an Effective Social Media Architecture
  4. Power Networking
  5. Creative Content Campaigning
  6. Activism Assessment
  7. Sustaining Social Change

Our story-building infrastructure gets you started and trains you in the art of finding work-a-arounds and the beauty of boot-strapping so that you can sustain your work in a self-funding manner as you’re finding your singularity of stance in the social good space.


Problem solvers living between New York City and Silicon Valley. Activists residing in the rust-belt. Movement mobilizers who inhabit small and medium-sized cities. Community organizers nestled in the rolling hills of rural towns. Late-bloomers rooted in fly-over country.


  • Dissipate the paralyzing fear that attends the beginning of any, all and every new project and endeavor.
  • Build a project that is yours, your voice, your values, it will be small (at the start); but it will be yours.
  • Create your own base of power, challenge existing power-brokers, and become movement entrepreneurs.
  • Press return, strike the enter key, hit publish and send your work out into the world imperfect, incomplete, knowing that you will survive.


  • We need more unabashedly authentic sharp-elbowed stories being shared by unpolished storytellers.
  • We need to stop going hat in hand to the bi-coastal whitewashing elite who’ll ask us to rub away our edges as payment for their support.
  • We need more homegrown problem solvers looking to lead their localities, not leave them.

Wanna Learn More?

Contact Shawn Humphrey at groundskeeper@imaginesocialgood.org