Good volunteerism vs. "bad" volunteerism
I used to "argue" with my ex-wife about "direct" vs. "indirect" service. We both worked for national organizations focused on social change. She worked for an organization concerned with food-related poverty issues; I worked at a consumer group focused on nutrition and public health policies. Both groups focused on what I term structural change and govt. programs, such as nutrition labeling, pesticide laws, health policy at my group; school food service, WIC and other programs at her group.
In honor of Arizona's centennial in 2012, a Tempe non-profit has challenged residents, businesses and faith groups to volunteer 100 hours of community service this year. For Our City, a program managed by Care Inc., launched "100 Hours in 2011" last week. Care Inc. founder and Tempe resident Jon McHatton said the goal is to get hundreds of people to dedicate 100 hours of their time to caring for the homeless and hungry, to mentoring or to other human-service projects.
The organization's website describes its work as a "catalyst for constructive change at community grassroots levels. It provides a “safe place” for municipal, faith, non-profit and business leaders to dialogue for effective solutions for their community."
But if you look at what they work on, it's mostly in "direct service" helping programs that while helping people and helping them individually. This strikes me that it's about not questioning how things are done all that much, but helping people who need help. That's important, but I wonder how much substantive "dialogue" occurs, and whether or not "effective" and substantive "solutions" are ever proffered.
The program likely isn't pursuing deeper, structural changes in local programs, government, policy, and society, so that material conditions for individuals and populations change significantly and substantively.
Sort of like what DC does with youth improvement programs. People make reports without deep analysis, and mostly the reports are about giving monies to helping organizations, but questions about effectiveness and the quality of outcomes remain.
I know that there isn't a lot of recognition in working for structural change as most people don't understand it, but in the long run, I think it accomplishes much more overall.
Labels: change-innovation-transformation, community organizations, community organizing, neighborhood change, organizational development, planned change, progressive urban political agenda, social change