Many problems faced by constituents and communities could be eased or solved with changes in policies, laws, administrative mandates and other systems. Systems change efforts require long-term commitment and often include a variety of partners ranging from advocates to organizers to providers, with a clear understanding of the roles each plays. The tools for this section focus on building organizational knowledge and capacity to engage in social change and to expand leadership capacity of constituents as allies. Organizations that have the tools to conduct root cause analysis, have the knowledge about the rights and limits of advocacy activities, and have the ability to promote civic engagement as a key for leadership will see their work as a part of the spectrum that includes direct community action. Learn more in the Social and Systems Change section of the Nonprofits Integrating Community Engagement (NICE) Guide.

Root Cause Analysis

This exercise helps service providers and other stakeholders develop a shared understanding of the root causes facing your community. It can also help connect the work of your agency to individual and community problems, in addition to systemic issues.


Causes or Consequences

These two activities are used to conduct a root cause analysis and to explore the causes and consequences of issues that staff and constituents deal with on a daily basis. The root cause analysis includes a handout for the discussion about “why” conditions exist. The causes and consequences handout helps organizations explore the focus of the impact of their work. Are they addressing the (root) causes of conditions or the consequences, which doesn’t lead to changing conditions and often creates the “revolving door” of service provision.


Learning Circles for Root Cause Analysis

This handout from BMP offers information and a process to engage staff and constituent partners in learning circles focused on root cause analysis. It describes how to organize the leaning circle, set it up for success and provides tips for the facilitator.

The purpose of a learning circle is to develop a deeper understanding of community problems and issues experienced by agency constituents. The learning circle fosters critical thinking and analysis among circle participants, who begin to form and re-examine their assumptions about their role in community life and their ability to propose solutions for community change.


Learning Circles in Culture Change: Why Use It?

This paper gives clear, basic information about the purpose of learning circles. It includes tips for the facilitator, logistics and suggested ground rules. It also offers questions (on the topic) for learning at different developmental stages of the group. Questions can be customized for other groups and topics.


Social Movements and Philanthropy: How Foundations Can Support Movement Building

On page 17 of this report, social service organizations are identified as places that have not been organized to contribute to social change efforts. The author cites the Building Movement Project’s Social Service and Social Change: A Process Guide (http://www.buildingmovement.org/blog/entry/22?news/entry/22) as a tool to increase engagement as well as noting other strategies for recruitment.


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, are designed to complement one of our other landmark Building Movement publications: Social Service and Social Change: A Process Guide (2006).  The five case studies in this publication offer examples of organizations that are integrating social change activities into their work.


Criteria for Setting Priorities for Policy/Program Work

Based on an actual document developed by a service agency, this is an example of a set of criteria that an agency might use to assess which policy campaigns are a match for the agency.


Evidence of Change: Exploring Civic Engagement Evaluation

Building Movement, the Alliance and the Ms.Foundation were all part of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Civic Engagement Learning Year
in 2008. As part of the project, groups who formed partnerships were eligible for small Connect Grants. The three groups received a grant to hold a summit with practitioners, researchers, intermediaries and funders to look at civic engagement impact measurement and dialogue with other organizations.

This report presents a brief summary of the key findings that came out of the Civic Engagement Evaluation Summit. It also examines how organizations currently view their relationship with impact measurement. It then ends with a set of recommendations for how to increase the nonprofit sector’s capacity to respond to the increasing need for tools to measure the impact of civic engagement and social change work.


Integrating Civic Participation Strategies into Service Delivery

This toolkit was designed to support the NCLR Latino Empowerment and Advocacy Project (LEAP) to measurably increase Latino electoral participation, but it can be applied to any social service/social change group seeking to increase civic participation as part of their organization’s work. Included are a variety of tools including surveys, intake forms, flyers, workshop guides, and petitions to assist in the integration process.


Common Good Message Box

This agenda and worksheet can be used to create a “common good” message for a community issue or concern. This tool can be a useful first step towards crafting new messages about the problems we confront in our work for social change. Use it to develop values-based messages, and reframe the issues that matter to your group.