๐Ÿ“š Transforming Communications to Imagine New Soil

Part IV: Building sustainable activism against unhealthy systems

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized Knurd: Marketing plays the outward-facing role of reinforcing the unhealthy systems below it. Rethinking communications for activism and advocacy.

In Case You Missed It: Influencing Culture Builds Permissions for Change

Photo by Sushobhan Badhai via Unsplash

I chose nature as a metaphor for social transformation because we are shaped by nature constantly. Nature has been our guide since we appeared on this earth. We can learn from nature to inform how we move through this current moment of uncertainty, extremism, and change. And importantly how we thrive now and on the other side of change.

Throughout my research, I stumbled on the Praxis Project, a health and social justice organization. Their social determinants of health perfectly illustrated how I viewed social change and how different layers and systems influence outcomes.

Using their framework as inspiration, I illustrated how we collectively can work to transform the unhealthy soil of our world into something healthier.

Marketingโ€™s Role in Upholding Harmful Systems

Youโ€™ll notice that marketing sits at the base of the tree. This is because it plays the outward-facing role of reinforcing the unhealthy systems below it. Marketingโ€™s role in a capitalist society is to convince people that they need more.

Modern marketing is about manipulation, accumulation, and the status quo. Marketing will tell women that they are fat and ugly while selling the Ken version of masculinity to men. It is contributing to the decimation of our planet. It reinforces old narratives that are no longer true or healthy, including white supremacy.

Last year, I stopped seeing my work as marketing. Yes, the advertising and digital work I did with for-profit companies for the first 15 years of my career was definitely marketing. However, the work I do with organizations and activists feels materially different.

Communications work can be storytelling if you leave the extraction and manipulation behind. It is imagining, educating, connecting, empathizing, and so much more. The goal should not be to fundraise for fundraisingโ€™s sake. Whatโ€™s the point of a huge email list if we arenโ€™t connecting more deeply and inspiring action? Shifting to new systems asks us to shift how we think about communications. Deepening connections and building People Power is a more meaningful messaging strategy for audiences, plus itโ€™s what the world needs right now.

Most organizations or campaigns are not doing this, but they could be. There are plenty of hurdles for organizations to adopt a storytelling strategy. Advocacy work is time intensive, organizations are short-staffed and pay isnโ€™t great. Itโ€™s no wonder organizations tend to use tried and true marketing tactics.

However, for our movements, organizations, and campaigns to create real, lasting change, we need to think about it as a full organization-wide commitment to true social change, including how messaging plays into that

We Are the Gardeners for New Soil

Communicators, messengers, storytellers, creators, or activists. No matter the term, the goal is the same. To shift culture and challenge the status quo.

Tending to new soil asks us to intentionally build new systems with community, equity, and sustainability at their core.

This starts with our own personal and collective growth. Capitalism has given growth a bad name, but not all growth is about extraction and exploitation. We all live and breathe the old rotted roots, which requires us to examine old norms, understand our role and unconscious limitations, and intentionally support our personal growth.

By dismantling the illusions of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, we create the roots of the new system.

  • We can shift to community-based care rather than toxic individualism.
  • We can recognize the universal benefits of an equity-based approach.
  • Finally, we can build sustainability into all that we do, including how we treat ourselves and our bodies.

Our work is to build a world that has never fully been realized, which is why imagination, creativity, and joy are crucial. Stories illuminate what is often hidden about the harmful systems and help bring everyone along. Healthy soil opens up new ways of living.

We are working towards a ๐ŸŒ better world for all. Why not tell that story? Why not live that ideal? Why not show people what a new world can look like now?

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๐Ÿ—ผ๐Ÿ—ž: Newsletter๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ for social change communicators ๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š messaging / storytelling๐Ÿงญ branding / strategy

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.


Navigating heart-first activism & storytelling. We explore the ๐ŸŒฑ roots of our world to support communicators, organizations, and activists ๐Ÿฅต to avoid burnout and ๐Ÿ“š tell empathetic stories that cultivate connections that ๐ŸŒ empower โœŠ๐Ÿฝ social change.

Learn more about the Roots of Change Agency.