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Do Non-Profits Get In The Way Of Social Change?

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By: Rachel L. West, MSW LMSW

[caption id="attachment_2696" align="aligncenter" width="512"]Bread Line FDR Memorial By Botteville (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]I came across this post on Tumblr.  The blogger had been reading a book, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, by Paul Kivel.  I have not read the book so all I had to go on was the quote and what the bloggers response was to it.  This got me thinking about the role NPOs play in or don’t play in social change.  I responded with the following:

Maybe we need to encourage non-profits to be more active in grassroots organizing and political action.  It’s so rear these days to see an NPO employing a Community Organizer and part of the issue with that is that so few grants foundations want to fund that type of position.  Yes a 501 (c) 3 is limited in the type of political activity they can engage in, but there is still much they can do, yet I don’t see many of them participating in the process.

I think many of the LGBTQ organizations do a very good job of mixing direct services with political action and other NPOs can learn from them.  They should be not only registering clients to vote but also encouraging them to contact their Representatives.  They should be educating clients about legislation that impacts them and working to advocate for passage of such legislation.

I also think Social Work (Social Work Schools included) are part of the problem because we have moved to far in the clinical practice direction.  The profession focuses too much on the individual and not enough on the community as a whole.  We need to get back to doing community practice and this includes community organizing, advocacy and public policy work that addresses institutionalized oppression.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Rachel L. West is the Founder of the Political Social Worker, a blog dedicated to macro social work and politics. She holds a BA in History from SUNY Stony Brook and an MSW from Adelphi University. She is a community outreach and engagement specialist. Rachel resides in New York State, and she is available as a consultant and coach. You can find out more about Rachel at The Political Social Worker at (politicalsocialworker.org).

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