Engage to Change
Service organizations are meeting the immediate needs of their constituents and provide essential supports. At the same time, many of these groups recognize how larger policies and procedures can make their job harder and limit options and opportunities of their program participants. With increasing inequality, slashes in public budgets, and greater demand on their services, nonprofits are looking for new ways to do their work.
Several years ago, we were struck by the way some of our grantee partners were changing how they saw the people they serve, who are commonly seen as recipients or beneficiaries of the organization’s expertise and services. Instead, a growing number of groups worked with their program participants as partners in making change in their own lives, the organization, and in the surrounding community. We hosted a series of conversations with a dozen New York City nonprofit service delivery organizations to discuss the motivation, benefits, and challenges of embracing this way of engaging clients and community members.
Engage to Change comes out of these discussions and a mapping process to catalogue the varied modes of doing the work. Our conversations were facilitated by the Building Movement Project which has a decade of experience working with nonprofits, especially service providers, on how they can integrate social change practices into their everyday responsibilities. We drew on the design skills of the Center for Urban Pedagogy in order to have a compelling, visual way to explain the changes that are taking place. It offers service providers and funders concrete examples of why meaningful participant engagement makes a difference. We also provide a list of resources that can be helpful for those who want more information.
The set of strategies outlined here describes how some service organizations are integrating social change into their everyday work. Supporting the voice of their service recipients helps participants gain a sense of efficacy and gives organizations new ideas and power to make change.
Catalysts for Change: How California Nonprofits Can Deliver Direct Services and Transform Communities (REPORT)
With the support of The California Endowment, the Building Movement Project surveyed over 450 California-based nonprofit direct service providers to explore whether they are integrating social change activities into their work. The survey results, which are discussed in Part One of Catalysts for Change, demonstrate that the language and activities of civic engagement, constituent voice, and social change are familiar to service providers in California, even if they may not be universally agreed upon. The range of activities beyond services reveals a clear need for more support and direction for service providers that are interested in addressing the systemic causes of problems facing clients. The report offers recommendations that speak to the roles funders, nonprofit technical assistance providers, intermediaries, academics, and others can play in helping organizations integrate social change-oriented efforts into their existing direct service work.
To read Part Two: Case Studies of Catalysts for Change, click here.
Sources of Power
This handout can be used with organizations working in partnerships. It is helpful to understand the different ways that participation and communication styles can be perceived in groups and encourages users to consider how to share power in order to establish trust.
Toolbox for Building Needle-Moving Collaboratives
This concise guide, from United We Serve, provides information, tools, examples and resources for collaboratives to succeed at any stage from planning and development, through roll-out and course-correcting, and on to deciding its next steps.
Developing a Plan to Encourage Participation
This resource provides a comprehensive list of questions to ask when developing a plan to become more inclusive of community members. It offers a checklist of action, examples to study and a PowerPoint presentation that summarizes the key points in the section and could be used as a foundation to customize for the organization.
Increasing Participation and Membership in Community Change
This toolkit provides step-by-step guidance for increasing participation and engaging constituents and community members in a change process.