Roadmap To Change

“I will not believe this to be inevitable. I will not believe that all that was must be.” - W.E.B. Du Bois

What Makes Us Different

Our distributed organizing model lets us support emerging leaders in any town, school, or state across the U.S.. By equipping student teams to be trusted messengers for civic engagement in their schools, we promote local leaders. Our growth is limited only by time, not by space.

Movements are built on ideas. We stand on the shoulders of giants and strive to learn from the work that came before us. We dream big and prioritize love in the work we do. This Principle - Problem - Solutions framework grounds us in the principles that make Rhizome unique.

Principle 1: We Leave a Dent


  • Students rarely have outlets to create serious systems change.

Applied Solutions:

  • We make a lasting impact through voter registration campaigns.
  • We train students in lifelong organizing and leadership skills.
  • We institutionalize clubs that have staying power in high schools.
  • We give students the freedom and support to focus on what they care about.
  • We offer opportunities for local, regional, and national promotion within the organization.

Principle 2: We Invest in Our People - As People


  • Professional spaces rarely make the most of young people’s talent or invest in our futures.

Applied Solutions:

  • We run the Civic Right Legal Academy for young people to gain understanding of the law.
  • We set aside time each year to offer college application support.
  • We compensate student organizers fairly at the beginning of their careers.
  • We host a “How I Got Here” Speaker Series to bring students into conversation with experienced civic leaders each month.

Principle 3: We Believe in Steward-Ownership


  • When civic projects are led by people who don’t understand the communities they’re in, they fail to meet the needs of those communities. Steward-ownership and understanding go hand in hand which means that well-informed teams make smart choices about their future. As a student-led system, we combine transparency with democratic decision-making.

Applied Solutions:

  • Our 90 Co-Founders used a shared decision-making process to create our name, mission, and organizing model. We discussed, drafted, and voted on these decisions together.
  • Nationally, we continue to use a shared decision-making model. We vote to shape our 1) vision 2) goals and 3) big-picture changes to our work environment. We also vote to approve nominations to our Board of Directors, and to decide on any unified nonpartisan actions that we take nationally.
  • Within chapters, we promote paid student organizers into leadership positions where they can lead, support, and tailor the work being done in their hometowns.
  • Within schools, we empower student-led teams of Organizing Fellows with the agency to adapt our nonpartisan model to fit the specific needs of their school. We also use data to constantly improve our system based on Fellows’ feedback each week.

Principle 4: We Refuse Burnout Culture


  • Campaigns are often exhausting and cyclical - ramping up every two or four years without investing in sustainable local leadership.

Applied Solutions:

  • We invest in this work every year, not only when it’s convenient.
  • We pace ourselves by taking sustainable actions throughout the year.
  • We provide all the resources and support teams need to succeed.
  • We normalize time off by resting for finals in December and May.

Principle 5: We are Antiracist


  • Racialized oppression is often made invisible on the surface while organizing society.

Applied Solutions:

  • We work to create a culture that is reflective, open, and antiracist.
  • We understand racism as a product of historic conditioning.
  • We focus our work on historically under-resourced communities.
  • We create national affinity spaces to share stories, celebrate our identities, and identify diverse leaders to promote within Rhizome

Youth Civics Pipeline

“What you are picks its way” - Walt Whitman
Rhizome's Pillars & Youth Initiatives Our Theory of Change is rooted in Four Pillars: Investing in a Leadership Pipeline • Organizing Fellows: The purpose of the Fellowship is to teach high schoolers to become insightful, joyful, and purposeful civic leaders. Community Organizers: We put our money where our mouth is by paying local leaders to lead city-wide chapters in their hometowns. • K-12 Students: Fellows teach democracy to K-8 students by playing civic engagement games and engaging in democratic simulations. TiRE Creating Pathways to Leadership • How I Got Here Speaker Series: Monthly events that are designed to expose students to civic leaders from across the industry. • Ideas Incubator: Monthly events to bootstrap youth-led and BIPOC-led groups to launch their own social impact businesses & programs. o • College Readiness Support: Designed to aid low-income, first-gen students in succesfully navigating the college application process. Self-Care & Experiential Learning • Rhizome Global Scholars: Connecting seniors with international internships with over 200 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) around the world. • Social Justice Legal Academy: Seasonal program training young people how to write, edit, and submit successful grant applications to foundations. • Contemplative Action Retreat: Empowering youth to prioritize their mental health by sponsoring meditation retreats to sustain their social impact work. Building Community Power High School Voter Education: Student-led teams make classroom visits to give their peers the time, motivation, and information to register to vote. Civic Literacy Events: Fellows conduct issue surveys and create civic literacy events to engage peers around the issues they care most about. Institutionalizing Student-Led Teams: Teams of Fellows create clubs and/or build teams of underclassmen to make the work sustainable, year after year.

Why We Pay Youth Organizers

“I work, and working I transform the world.” - Paolo Freire

We are committed to paying the Organizers who lead our work for 3 reasons:

First, paying students at the start of their careers allows Organizers to treat Rhizome as a launching pad toward a lifetime of service, and a lifetime of knowing their worth. Paying Organizers lets us work, learn, and grow sustainably.

Second, paying young people lets us represent the communities we work in, retain local talent, and create leadership pipelines. By paying Organizers, we ensure access to leadership positions and support emerging leaders to take responsibility for organizing their communities.

Third, it’s the right thing to do.