Making Social Change: Case Studies of Nonprofit Service Providers

Building Movement Project developed this set of case studies as a response to numerous requests from groups looking for real-life examples of the often-challenging process of incorporating social change models into social service work. These case studies, geared toward practitioners, board members, and funders interested in this work, serve to complement two other Building Movement publications: Social Service and Social Change: A Process Guide (2006) and Tools for Social Change (2009), the latter of which provides online and offline interactive exercises and information for organizations ready to take this work to the next level. The organizations highlighted were selected not to lay out a set of best practices for all organizations but to serve as practical illustrations of how groups decide to extend their work to promote client/community voices and the challenges posed by that decision.

The five case studies in this publication offer examples of organizations that are integrating social change activities into their work. For the full report of Making Social Change: Case Studies of Nonprofit Service Providers, complete with organizational profiles, a reflection guide and additional web resources, please click the PDF link in the sidebar. See below for brief organizational summaries for individual case studies included in the full report.

Queens Community House in New York made a commitment ten years ago to find ways to return to its activist roots. The organization is dedicated to integrating constituent voices into its work despite the size and scope of its service delivery programs and the tremendous diversity of the people they serve.  Read the Queens Community House case study (beginning on page 7). 

Somos Mayfair started as the foundation-sponsored Mayfair Improvement Initiative in San José, CA. Now as Somos Mayfair, the organization is using a culturally based transformative approach that emphasizes popular theater, peer-to-peer case management, and community organizing. Read the Somos Mayfair case study (beginning on page 19).
*Click here for an update on Somos Mayfair’s fundraising for civic engagement! 

Bread for the City offers health, legal, and social services as well as food and clothing to low-income residents in Washington, D.C. They have begun an organization-wide effort to bridge services and social justice activities and to create a formal structure for advocacy. Now they are figuring out what it means for staff members to support constituent involvement. Read the Bread for the City case study (beginning on page 35). 

Family & Children’s Service has drawn on their 130-year history of community advocacy and a focus on organizational values to recommit to strengthening communities and embedding client/constituent voice into their service provision in Minnesota. The organization has been particularly reinvigorated in this work by the influx of immigrants into the metropolitan area. Read the Family & Children’s Service case study (beginning on page 47)

Moving Forward Gulf Coast emerged in response to Hurricane Katrina, providing emergency services to residents throughout the Gulf Coast region. Now the founder and executive director are moving from an emphasis on individual service to video advocacy while building deep collaborations with other groups. Read the Moving Forward Gulf Coast case study (beginning on page 61).

 Reflection Questions * Additional Web Resources

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