Launching anything on the ‘interwebs’ is a little bit like the riddle of whether a falling tree makes any noise: you never know if the work put in to crafting the research, video, slideshow, or whatever, will get any views, much less go “viral.” So it’s with a mix of trepidation and excitement that we at BMP launch a new section of our website with tools for organizations interested in doing both service and social change work in their communities.
I’m hopeful that the resources on this tools page – discussion guides, worksheets, reports, etc. – will get the page views that we all measure our reach and impact by these days; but more important than web metrics, I want the tools to be useful for groups in communities. To paraphrase one of my favorite (but obscure) musicals, I’d rather the tools page be the favorite resource of nine organizations, than the ninth tool that one hundred groups go to.
We keep hearing that there’s a growing appetite for resources that staff and consultants can use to help organizations better align their social change principles with their social service practices. I saw a glimpse of the interest of service providers when I traveled down to DC last week for the opening of the Service to Justice Conference, which was organized by staff and community leaders from groups in our nation’s Capital. Since my session was one of four happening at the same time, I expected to only have 35, maybe 50 people, in my session on small shifts for moving from service to social change. I had severely underestimated the interest. When one of the conference’s organizers advised that I print additional handouts because they expected my session to be well-attended, I ran to a print shop down the street from the church basement where the meeting was being held but my 75 handouts still weren’t enough. During that short session, I heard from energized board members, staff and clients about how groups are trying to weave social change into service delivery. Some groups were having a lot of success with client engagement strategies like advisory boards, some staff were finding it hard to move change processes through their organizational hierarchy, and some people were questioning whether they should be doing services at all or should instead focus on advocacy full time.
That’s the range of responses these questions about service and social change are getting nowadays – some success, some hiccups, and some impatience. People aren’t telling us that we’re crazy for thinking that social service agencies can make these shifts; instead they’re encouraging us to keep developing resources and pushing the sector to embrace client voice and advocacy as standard practices of service groups. So our fingers are crossed that the new tools page will meet the demand in the sector.
One of the best things about working at the Building Movement Project is all of the support we get from friends and allies across the country. When we reached out to let some of our advisors know we were releasing the tools, they sent back so many great words of support and encouragement; here are a few excerpts but you can read all of the quotes here.
“As interest in organizing as a community building tool expands in practice among service providers, BMP tools give providers a resourceful entry point.”
— Katy Heins, Center for Community Change
“Building Movement Project’s new tools offer guidance and inspiration for organizations looking for ways to integrate a social change perspective within the footprint of their existing work.”
— Melinda Lewis, Assets and Education Initiative at The University of Kansas
“BMP is a go-to resource in my work with social service organizations looking to achieve social change outcomes.”
— Linda Nguyen, Alliance for Children and Families