Grassroots International opened its doors in a small, windowless office in Cambridge, MA, in 1983, after Oxfam America shut down its emergency program in Lebanon. Oxfam staff members Chris Cartter and Dan Connell and program advisor Assaf Kfoury began Grassroots International with programs in Lebanon and the Horn of Africa. Those programs expanded over the years and decades to support movements for political independence and human rights in South Africa, the Philippines, Palestine, Haiti and elsewhere with material aid and grants.
In 2005, Grassroots International and our partners recognized that globalization created a new form of political struggle beyond national borders. This reinforced a strategic shift from country-focused programming to thematic cross-border work directed toward the global social justice movement demanding and defending resource rights, particularly to food, land and water, as basic human rights.
In addition to funding vibrant movements in the Global South, Grassroots International also claims space as a US-based advocate, working to change policies and practices that harm those on the losing end of globalization, and usher in transformative economic, trade and agricultural systems based in justice and equity. In 2010, Grassroots International played a key role in launching the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, and later also joined the US Climate Justice Alliance and the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, among other alliances, to advance efforts to win food sovereignty, environmental and climate justice and fundamental social change.
Grassroots International has nurtured long-lasting relationships with organized movements across the world, developing a reputation as a reliable partner that supports authentic change, often in opposition to damaging US government policies. As such, we are one of the few organizations invited to join global movements as a trusted ally. Unlike top-down charity models employed by many mainstream foundations, Grassroots International’s model of long-term partnership and direct advocacy poses a powerful alternative based on movement building for systems change.