Center for Community Futures
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Community Action Agency Board Members Toolkit in a Nutshell

CHAPTER ONE. Planning Overview

A. Background 

     Systematic planning is the method for identifying the strategies and programs that will have an impact on poverty. Every CAA should have a planning process and produce an anti-poverty plan.

Statistics about poverty need to be supplemented with “people contact.”  In addition to knowing that Ms. Smith makes less than $7,000 per year as head of household, it is also important to know she is reluctant to work more than that because she knows she could lose medical care. It is this people contact that puts life into statistics.

B. The Planning Committee and the Planning Cycle

    Members of the Planning Committee or the Executive Committee have the opportunity to be the Board's liaison in the people contact process. Involvement at the neighborhood and people level is paramount to the Planning Committee's meaningful evaluation of the needs of the poor and the selection of effective strategies, goals, and results measures. 

    Planning is a continuing cycle of program implementation, evaluation and refinement. Planning consists of:

1. Studying the community to decide which of the causes of poverty are most important and can be affected by the CAA. (See the section on Sorting Community Input)
2. Deciding which problems and opportunities are the most important and will receive greater emphasis by the CAA. (See the section on Ranking Problems)
3. Deciding on the strategy that the CAA will attempt to eliminate the causes of the poverty problems. (See Types of Strategies, Strategy Elements and Exercise, and New Antipoverty Strategies Needed)
4. Deciding on goals for definite time periods, for example; six months, one year, five years.
5. Deciding the resources (money, volunteer time, from other agencies) that are needed.
6. Deciding the ways that achievement of the goals and progress toward the goals will be measured by the Board, e.g. how you will measure outcomes and results.
7. Communicate these decisions to the CAA Executive Director; and giving the Executive Director sufficient authority to carry out the Board's decisions.
8. Maintain an active Board role, exerting community leadership by pursuing some of your objectives yourselves, instead of simply assigning all tasks to the staff.

C.  Board Roles in Planning

  The primary responsibility for making sure that planning takes place rests with the CAA Board. It is legally responsible for CAA operations; it is ultimately responsible for the effectiveness of the CAA. The staff, neighborhood organizations, low-income people and other community interests should participate in the planning process. One of the major reasons that plans do not get completed or implemented is because Board members do not have a very compelling reason for doing planning. Here are a few; which apply to you?  What other reasons do you have for planning?

1. Clarity of purpose -- with more specific goals, strategies and objectives, the agency will be able to better see where it is -- and where it wants to go.
2. More effective strategies -- with more careful selection of strategies, the CAA can more effectively change the causes of the problems in their communities.
3. Focuses the Board's attention. A plan focuses the energy and attention of both Board and staff in a systematic way. The plan is results-oriented.
4. Educating the community and building support.. When you are out there asking questions and sharing ideas, you can tell your story, make friends and develop allies for the future.
5. Better organization -- Board and staff members will have a greater understanding of their respective responsibilities and a greater sense of unified purpose and direction.
6. Responsiveness to low-income people. The CAA can provide for involvement of the people in the community in making the plans that will affect their future.
7. Provides a decision making framework. A plan provides the criteria, against which most day-to-day decisions can be made.
8. Effective resource utilization. The CAA will be able to identify the specific resources needed and to direct its resources toward long-range benefits.
9. Helps solve accountability problems. Makes it easier to show the community and funding agencies where money has been spent and what it has accomplished.
10. Simplifies assessment of staff. There are goals against which performance can be measured.
11. Reduces crisis management. Planning can help to avoid crisis situations that soak up so much time.


  D. The Complete Planning Cycle

      The Complete Planning Cycle has four generic stages:

1. Plan for Planning.
2. The Planning Process.
3. Implementation of the Plan (e.g. Program Operations).
4. Evaluation for feedback to future planning. 

The first two of these four stages is discussed in this workbook.

  The first step is to prepare your plan-for-planning. The Executive Director assumes a vital role in the planning process. The CAA Board makes requests to the Executive Director for gathering, analyzing and presenting information for their use in making decisions. The Director is responsible for the accomplishment of these tasks in a timely manner. The Director will delegate many of these tasks to staff and then report back to the Board. Let’s look at the first two stages.

1. The Plan for Planning.

This describes the planning PROCESS. It includes the steps to be taken, the calendar, the assignments -- who will do what, how the community will be involved, and the dates on which draft products will be reviewed. The Executive Director drafts the Plan for Planning for modification and approval by the Board. 

2. The Planning Process Itself

There are many types of planning systems. A few are:  zero-based budgeting; Planning-programming budgeting system, strategic planning, management by objectives, market-oriented planning, and  program budgeting.

    No one of these systems is so much more powerful for CAA purposes than another that it cries out to be used. The big issue is not which planning system you use. There are three big issues for CAAs. (1) Whether you use any formal, long-range planning system -- or you just run day-to-day. (2) Whether you run a community-based planning process with lots of involvement -- or a pro-forma, staff-written job that is rubber-stamped by the Board. (3)  Whether you adapt the generic planning process you select to the mission of the CAA -- or just try to use it in a lockstep fashion. Assuming you will use a long-range planning system and that you will involve a large number of people, how do you adapt a generic planning process for CAA purposes?

    Regardless of which planning system is used, you will want it to focus on the unique social planning responsibility of a CAA: to analyze poverty problems and to develop solutions to those problems, and to seize other opportunities that will benefit low-income people. 

This is your “instant conversion kit” to adapt one of the generic planning systems so it will work in your CAA. This CONVERSION KIT is based on a simple but very powerful analytic concept that is used in many CAAs. That concept is to take each poverty problem identified during the planning process and to separate the elements of the problem into two components (1) the problem CONDITION and (2) the CAUSES of the problem.  Most CAAs will do this during their community assessment.

(1)  The CONDITION of poverty is the result of the causes. It is the statistical representation of the problem. It is a static snapshot of the problem we see in the census data and other social indicators. “X number of people with characteristics L and M live in a condition of N and O.”  It is the people who are “in” poverty. 

    The CAA sets a GOAL to change the CONDITION. The GOAL is phrased in terms of a change in the condition. For example:  “We will reduce the total number of substandard housing units in our community from 400 to 200.”  Or, “We will increase the number of units of one-bedroom housing in Z County that rent for less than X amount from the present total supply of 100 units to a total of 150 units.”

(2)  The CAUSES are the dynamic factors, the underlying social values, beliefs and behavior of specific individuals or groups of people that produce the condition. These may be acts of omission or commission by somebody at some level of society, e.g. nation, region, community, family or individual, in one or more sectors of society, e.g. economic, political, social, etc. Ms. Mary Evert was appointed by President Reagan as Director of HHS/OCS. At the 1988 NACAA Conference she said:  “It is accepted by conservatives and liberals alike that there are both social and individual causes of poverty.”  The planning task is to sort it all out and develop a strategy to change the causes. This is an important point -- both social and individual causes.

    By adopting STRATEGIES that modify or eliminate the CAUSES of the poverty condition, you will achieve your goal. The strategy is phrased in terms of a change in the cause. “To finance the rehabilitation of the 200 units in our goal, we must overcome the unwillingness of the city to create a new bond issue to finance the costs of rehabilitation.”  Or, “To overcome the 'bad attitude' of individuals with these characteristics, we must...” 

This approach is essential in order to sort out the individual, the family, and the group -- and the political and economic -- causes of poverty. If you do not use this methodology, the concepts get blobbed together in a way that it is almost impossible to figure out WHAT happened and WHY it did or did not happen. 

    Also, it is very easy to slide off into constantly repairing the condition, i.e. band-aiding new victims, but failing to address the causes. With this in mind, we now run through a brief description of a poverty problem-solving planning process used in many CAAs. 

This workbook has two approaches to planning. The succinct version is found in the planning workbook that John Ochoa, CSD, wrote and it. The second and longer, more comprehensive approach to planning follows.

E. Steps in a Typical CAA Planning Process

     You may not have to do every one of these steps, but a planning process would have most of these steps in it. You do not have to do them in sequential order. Take a building block approach and add elements as you have time to create them.

1. CREATE YOUR VISION for the future. What do you want your community to look like 20 years from now?  The vision is usually bigger than any one organization can accomplish. It takes a community to realize a vision. This is a good place to clarify the values that will guide the organization. Values are the principles that serve to keep you on the road.

2. REVIEW the MISSION. The next step in implementing your Plan for Planning is to review the MISSION STATEMENT of your CAA. Why are we here?  What is our purpose?  Should the Mission Statement be modified or used as is?

3. NEEDS and OPPORTUNITIES ASSESSMENT. You can identify a wide range of poverty problems by looking around, through meetings with low-income residents, evaluations of existing programs and by talking with community leaders and government officials. There is no scarcity of problems and opportunities. The focus during the community assessment is on sorting the poverty problems into their CONDITIONS and their CAUSES. (See the section on Sorting Community Input). The CAA Board may ask the Executive Director to help them:

  a. Obtain data that describes the CONDITIONS,
  b. Suggest the full range of CAUSES of the problems. This presentation is not just a Xeroxed batch of census charts. There are very powerful TRENDS in American society. The Board must understand these demographic, economic, political and social trends, and how they may affect your community. These trends are the context within which the CAA plans. A trend may create a major problem in your community, or it may solve one without your help. Learning about these trends is a vital part of planning. A review of these national trends and analysis by a “futurist” is an excellent topic for a one-day Board retreat.
  c. Conduct special studies or surveys.
  d. Report on staff opinions concerning community needs. Give them a place to “put” their ideas so you can tell the difference between what they think and what the other people that they have talked with think. 

4.  PROBLEM RANKING. After they have identified the problems, the Board can RANK the poverty problems in terms of their magnitude and severity.

·  Magnitude is the size of the problem; the total number and/or the percentage of the population who experience it. You can set up a scale of one to five, i.e. over 40% = 5; 30% to 40% = 4; etc.

·  Severity addresses the urgency. Is it life threatening?  Or just inconvenient?  You can develop a numerical scale and assign problems to it. Very severe = 5; severe = 4; etc. 

Then MULTIPLY the Magnitude factor times the Severity factor for the final ranking. 

    The Executive Director can be asked to draft criteria for Ranking for modification and use by the Board, or the Board can do it themselves. (See Ranking Problems)

5.  RESOURCE ANALYSIS. After you have ranked the problems, then determine what public and private monies are already focused on solving the problem. Perhaps some problems are well covered. Others may be new or unpopular and have almost no resources devoted to them. Others may be beyond the scope of your organizations mission, interests, resources or capacity. 

    The Executive Director can obtain data on public and private resources that already exist and are being spent on each problem. The Board must find out the amount of the existing public and private resources already focused on those problems to measure how much of the problem is already being met. 

6.  PRIORITY SETTING. After you know the other resources that are devoted to the ranked problems and opportunities, you can set your own priorities. This is a subjective process that reflects the values of the people who make the decision. It is what YOU the Board members want the CAA Board, staff and volunteers to work on. Some of the factors that will affect your decision are the:

a. Ability of the agency to improve the situation.
b. Length of time and amount of funds required to achieve results.
c. Enthusiasm that Board members have for personally working on a topic.
d. Interests of other stakeholders.

  The Executive Director can help to organize and facilitate meetings of target area groups at which Board members will be present to discuss community issues. This community meeting or hearing is required by many states or CAAs. It is an excellent way to determine the “fit” between board member perceptions and the opinions of people who may be affected by those decisions. 

7.  GOAL SETTING. Back to GOALS. Now that the Board has selected some problems or opportunities as the priority areas they want to work on, you can test out some GOALS that are phrased in terms of changing the conditions of that problem. Goals are typically multi-year because it usually takes two to five years to make a significant change in a social problem. Use the ROMA goal framework as an agency-wide framework.

8. This is where most CAAs also develop RESULTS MEASURES.  How will you know when you have accomplished your goal?  What changes will you see OUT THERE in the community or in families or individuals?

9. STRATEGY SELECTION. There are often a variety of ways to accomplish a goal. The strategy should modify the CAUSES of the problem so that the GOAL can be achieved. The strategy should be sufficient to accomplish the goal but use the least amount of resources -- financial, energy, political clout, staff time, etc. The strategies and programs are then related to the ROMA goals. (See Types of Strategies, Strategy Elements and Exercise, and New Antipoverty Strategies Needed)

10. OBJECTIVES. After the Board has selected the GOALS and the STRATEGIES, the Executive Director can work with the staff to convert them into specific objectives. The objectives are annualized, with quarterly measures to determine progress. The objectives, activities and attendant budgets are typically what is included in a “program plan” or “grant application.”  These are generally written by the CAA staff and reviewed by the Board of Directors. The depth of the review performed by the Board is affected by a variety of factors, such as funding source requirements and whether you are a public or a private CAA.
    At this point, you will again review possible private and public resources and then proceed to mobilize those resources. Those resources may take a variety of forms such as money, transportation, volunteer services, space, etc.

11. ACTIVITIES. These are the nitty-gritty assignments to staff; the realignment of the organization and staff responsibilities to achieve the goals. The Executive Director is responsible for this.

NOTE:  The material in this section was excerpted from the CAA Executive Directors Manual and The Planning Manual for CAA=s, both published by the Community Action Partnership back when it was the National Association of Community Action Agencies.

F. Sorting Out Community Input:  Conditions, Causes, Strategies


       This exercise illustrates the challenges in just trying to sort out what people are saying, and to organize the information in a way that action can be taken on it.

Instructions. Read the list of comments from the Needs Assessment community meeting (on the next two pages). Assume that you were there as a CAA representative. You were assigned to keep track of what is said in the meeting relevant to HOUSING and EMPLOYMENT.

·  Pick out the issues that might be of interest to a CAA.
·  Put the number of each statement about your problem on the worksheet. E.g. #8, #12.
·  Share the results of your efforts with the larger group.
·  You have 20 minutes to complete this exercise.

horizontal rule

NOTES from a “typical” local community planning meeting. 

Present: 26 residents, of whom 6 are Head Start parents. Several CAA staff are present.

  The CAA Planner stated that the CAA Board Planning Committee was asking for ideas about which problems the CAA should address. The Planner stated that needs are to be looked at in terms of problems and opportunities in the community, not from the perspective of existing programs. Further, the CAA uses the definition of PROBLEM as “a barrier or condition that prevents individuals or families who are poor from realizing their full potential.”  The CAA is also looking for opportunities or strengths in the community. A brainstorming process was used to identify problems/needs, and persons present made the following statements:

1. Transportation is a major problem affecting both young and old. People can't get to doctors. If cars break down, it's impossible to get anywhere, even in emergencies.
2. If Weatherization program funds are cut, this will really hurt people.
3. The system isn't fair. Resources are not distributed evenly, some get lots of benefits and others get little. Example: some people get both Social Security and retirement benefits or Social Security and a government pension. It is now nearly impossible to get disability.
4. There are no jobs for anyone now. People can't get off welfare because:  a) no jobs are available, b) baby sitting and transportation costs eat up the benefits of working at a minimum wage and low pay jobs. This affects single mothers especially hard.
5. Single-parent families have special needs. When you are the only parent, it is nearly impossible to get away from the kids for a break. Could a group of program participants get together and trade off caring for each other’s kids?
6. When you feel like you have had it with your kids, there is nowhere to turn. Could a HOTLINE be set up for someone to talk to?
7. Are there resources for spouse abuse?  If so, they need to be supported...there is a need.
8. Is the Home Health Care Program going?  There is a need to expand the program.
9. Community action is needed because it 1) takes at least one kid out of the program participants' hands for a while, 2) Has made kids “independent” or “self-sufficient,” 3) teaches manners, 4) teaches sharing instead of stinginess, and 5) helps kids learn and listen.
10. Can we get/use the community action agency bus for a Senior Citizen's Bus? The local taxi service has prevented this from happening in the past.
11. The meals programs keep many people out of shelters, especially the Meals on Wheels program and the WIC program.
12. If Community action goes down it will mean that 20 kids will not get assessed by the mental health center, have proper dental care, get at least two good meals a day, learn shapes and colors, etc., have speech and hearing problems identified and corrected, or will not have interaction with other kids. Many kids in our County are living in rotten situations without any help. At least for some time each week, the kids are in a stable environment with people who care and are interested in the child when they are in Community action.
13. Legal aid is really needed. The County Attorney has not been responsive in the past, especially in spousal-abuse cases.
14. The Food Stamps program is already being reduced. Meals program Title XX certification is affected. One person was cut who just cannot fix a meal and many cannot pay for meals.

Needs Assessment/Problem Analysis Worksheet

  I.  Who are the affected groups?
  II. What statements pertain to each target group?
  III. Assign the statements made to one of the following categories. (It is only necessary to list the numbers of the statements used in the appropriate category.)
  a. Conditions that exist in the community.
  b. Causes of the conditions.
  c. Strategies to affect the causes.
  d. Information or other data.

Housing and Employment:  Conditions, Causes, Strategies

 Exercise in Problem Analysis

  Have your board or staff sort out these typical statements made at a public meeting on housing and employment problems. 

Typical Statements


Typical Statements

(1) We don't have bond money for housing like they do in Smithville.   (1) The City spent a lot of money to bring a plant here, and all the good jobs went to people who moved here from out of the area.  
(2) Interest rates are too high.  (2) Our Development Corporation and the City do not support local small business development.  
(3) We need a housing counseling program.   (3) We need a GED/Job Referral Program in this town  
(4) Too many low-income families live in substandard housing.   (4) Too many poor people here can't find jobs or can't find jobs that pay well.  
(5)  Landlords won't rent to unmarried women, especially those with children. (5) The ABC Company only hires high school graduates, even for jobs anyone can do.  

We don't have a fair housing ordinance in this town.

(6) We need to get the College to offer different training courses.
(7) People don't know about available housing programs.   (7) We need to get employers to drop education requirements for some jobs.  
    (8) There's no training offered here for the jobs that do exist.
Problem Exercise

    Put each statement, or the number(s) of the statement, where you think it belongs. 



  Problem Description


  Problem Description


  Problem Causes


  Problem Causes






Problem Analysis

Discuss this answer key after the exercise.

Problem description Causes Strategies
Too many low-income families live in substandard housing. (4) High interest rates (2)

Landlords/Discrimination (5)

Lack of information (7)
Issue bonds (1)

Enact and enforce a Fair Housing Ordinance (6)

Provide housing counseling (3)
Too many people can't find jobs. (4) ABC Co. hiring policies (5)

Inappropriate training (8)

Inappropriate public business  development policies. (1)
Help people get GEDs (3)

Change the hiring policies (7)

Get the college to offer different training (6)

Start a small business development program (2)

1. RANKING of Poverty Problems

      After they have identified the problems, the Board can RANK the poverty problems in terms of their magnitude and severity. This acknowledges that the problem exists, and separates the magnitude from the severity of the problem.

Magnitude is the size of the problem; the total number and/or the percentage of the population who experience it. You can set up a scale of one to five, i.e.,

    Over 40% = 5
  30 to 40% = 4
  20 to 30% = 3
  10 to 20% = 2
     1 to 10% = 1

Severity is about the urgency or the impact on those affected. Is it life-changing or a threat to life? Or, is it just inconvenient?  You can develop a numerical scale and assign problems to it. 
                 Very severe = 5;   
                 Severe = 4;
                 Moderate = 3;
                 Aggravating = 2; 
                 Somewhat annoying = 1, etc. 

     Then MULTIPLY the Magnitude Factor times the Severity Factor for the final ranking. The Executive Director can be asked to draft criteria for Ranking for modification and use by the Board, or the Board can do it themselves. 




Problem Rank





Poor housing








No work




Idle teens




School dropouts




Seniors bored




    The key insight is that you can have a problem with a high rank, but as you continue through the planning process and look at resources and priorities, your agency does not necessarily address every highly ranked problem. This may be because (a) somebody else is already doing it; (b) it is outside your mission, expertise or resources; or (c) your CAA is addressing some other priority first, etc.

       Agency priorities may be different from the severity and magnitude -- from the rank of a problem.  

2. What Types of Strategies do CAAs Use?

Most CAAs use a variety of strategies. CAA Board members may emphasize a particular strategy, or they may create combinations of strategies. Some strategies eliminate the factors that will cause other people to be low-income in the future, i.e. they go after the causes of poverty for a social group. Other strategies change the condition of poverty as it affects one person. This leaves the underlying social causes untouched. This section reviews the types of strategies typically used individually or in combination with each other by a CAA. 

     Some strategies do NOT need any funds. They require only the energy of the Board members to implement. These strategies may focus on changing existing laws, programs, procedures, or attitudes so that a poor person could receive the equal opportunities or public benefits to which he or she is entitled. It is crucial that the Board separate those elements of the strategy that the board can do best from those which the staff should do. If the Board delegate everything, they are chopping off a major force for change -- their own effort. 

      Other strategies require funds to hire staff or buy materials. The CAA may use its own funds to do this either because there are no other funds available, or the solution cuts across multiple program jurisdictions and no other source is flexible enough to do it.

   Many strategies will be developed or implemented through partnerships. An excellent workbook on partnerships was developed by John Ochoa, CSD. It can be found at

     The Executive Director can help the Board assess the costs and benefits of each strategy. The Executive Director must be able to implement each strategy that is selected.

      Different strategies address different issues. Most strategies are stand-alone -- they will not accomplish anything but their own ends. For example, you can ameliorate conditions of poverty with money and other stuff, like food, but this has only a very weak linkage to a person's ability to earn money.  You can help people develop their capacities through individual and family counseling, but it is unclear that this has an impact on earning power. You can help a person increase their income through self-employment, job finding, or job creation through economic and community development; and this has almost no correlation with their attitude, mood or personal habits. You can do community building, but this is on a plane different from economic activity. You can fix bad social institutions and seek equity and anti-discrimination. Some of the approaches are described in more detail below. 

1. INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE. These strategies include promoting changes in other social, economic and political institutions. They might be changes in laws, community practices or in the procedures of public agencies. The changes might be implemented in the selection procedures for housing, or the hiring procedures of a public or private employer.
An interesting feature of this strategy is that it does not necessarily involve coming into contact with large number of low- income people. They focus is on the social and political institutions that affect low-income people. The focus is to change society so that it is a better place for all people. President Richard Nixon reduced the poverty rate among senior citizens from 34% to 14% when he signed the Social Security Amendments of 1971 into law. This income strategy was an anti- poverty program that helped millions of people.
    Some people believe that only these approaches can create permanent changes that have a lasting effect in removing obstacles and barriers for poor people. They argue that these changes will benefit large number of people now and in the future -- and that these are people the CAA may never come into contact with personally but who will benefit from the CAA operations. This can include activity to reduce or prevent discrimination based on race, sex, or age.
2. COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION AND DEVELOPMENT. This approach helps low-income people act on their own behalf. They might focus on solving a community problem, creating a new opportunity, on correcting a social injustice or some other self-help effort. It usually has community leaders in the forefront with the CAA staff and board providing assistance to them.
  These approaches involve advocacy and sometimes even direct political action. Many feel that community organization and community development strategies help low-income people obtain the sense of empowerment and obtain the skills needed to solve both the immediate problem and future problems.
  This can include economic development, i.e. creating new businesses that provide opportunities for people to earn money.
3. PROGRAM COORDINATION. This is an area with as many definitions as there are practitioners, but the basic concept is that all monies within a community being spent for a particular purpose should be coordinated to (1) prevent duplication of effort, and (2) to promote synergy between programs.
Duplication is the same service being provided by more than one provider to the same people at the same time in the same area. If the total amount of services being provided is more than is needed, then by eliminating the duplication some of those resources can be devoted to another task. If there is less total service than is actually needed, it is hard to make an argument that duplication exists, even if more than one agency are providing the same services.
    A claim was once made that the CSBG was in and of itself a “duplication” of the Social Services Block Grant. The General Accounting Office, an arm of the U.S. Congress, did a study in 1986. The GAO found that the CSBG-funded activities and CAAs do not duplicate the activities provided under the Social Services Block Grant.
    Another element of the coordination strategy is to ensure the best possible fit or synergy between the efforts of various service providers. Otherwise people can “fall between the cracks.”  An example of this might be a transportation program in one agency that operates from 5:00 pm to 8:00 p.m., but people are still coming out of a nearby location until 10:00 p.m. By coordinating the type and time of one service so it picks up where another leaves off, you are improving program coordination.  Needless to say any time you are on the “turf” of other public or private agencies it can be a delicate or even controversial activity. What is one person’s effort to make things more rational often affects somebody else's prestige or power. Nevertheless this strategy can produce benefits for low-income people.
4. RESOURCE MOBILIZATION. In addition to coordination of existing resources, the idea here is to expand the total amount of resources available to help low-income people. This may be a single fundraising event, or the development of an new flow of funds that will continue for a long period, or shifting money from some other purpose into low-income programs.
5. OUTREACH AND INFORMATION AND REFERRAL. The basic idea behind this strategy is that there are many effective public and private programs, but that not all people who could benefit from them do so. So the strategy is to reach-out, and bring the person who could benefit into the other program. This can be as simple as passing out a brochure. Or it may involve referring people to another agency. It can include performing the intake, assessment and placement in another program.
    Many public programs are set up for walk-in traffic, and many eligible people never get to programs because of the lack of awareness, motivation or transportation. Even in today's information age, many people simply do not know a program that might help them exists. CAAs historically provided and still do provide the outreach and enrollment activities for many public programs.
    One concern about Information and Referral (I&R) is that it does not automatically ensure that a person will be helped by the agency to which they are sent, or that they will receive the services or benefits to which they are entitled. It may be just a hello-and-goodbye system.
6. FAMILY DEVELOPMENT AND CASE MANAGEMENT. A case management system provides the ongoing contact to enhance personal growth in individuals and families. Utilizing Case Management techniques (drawn from the social work profession), the CAAs try to obtain or provide all the services necessary to make a person more functional, regardless of where these services are located.
    These approaches use basic social work theory and methods. They typically involve extensive fieldwork, coaching the person/family and helping them learn how to navigate the rapids of American society. A case-management system enables a CAA to ensure positive outcomes for specific individuals and families. The CAA continues to work with each person until the problems are solved, the barriers are removed and a higher level of self-sufficiency is achieved.
    Case management is used in child protective services, developmental disability and rehabilitation and other programs. CAAs should distinguish between the case management function which is a generic set of activities used by social workers and a more fully developed case management program which includes many features that are available from CAAs. The generic function can be provided by other service providers. The CAA that selects this as a major strategy will want to be careful to differentiate its case-management program from the approach used by other agencies.
7. OTHER DIRECT SOCIAL SERVICES. In the 1960s, the idea of a CAA providing direct services to individuals was the strategy choice of last resort. The purpose of the CAA was to make the rest of the social services systems “do their job,” not to replace them as service providers. Over time, several trends have converged to reverse this initial idea.
    Many of the innovative approaches to poverty problems that were developed in the 1960's and 1970's came through the incubation process of a CAA. The incubator became the operator, either by choice or by default. 
Programs designed to meet the special needs of a community often had no other possible operator except the CAA. In many rural areas or even in certain inner-city neighborhoods, the CAA was and is “the only game in town.”
    In some areas the CAA perceived that the community organization approaches were “too controversial,” and opted for direct service delivery because it was the most acceptable and least controversial approach. So they operated direct service programs to balance other activities that might be less popular, or to avoid controversy completely.
    Some county and state government agencies prefer to contract out their service responsibilities. This trend toward “privatization” is expanding for two reasons. First, the local government think they can contract-out on a more cost effective basis than they can provide the services themselves. If they hire civil service staff it will cost them more than to contract out. It is difficult to lay off civil servants if the funding is reduced. Ironically, many of the lower cost nonprofit agencies are now themselves challenged by private for-profit vendors whose costs  (i.e. wages and benefits) are even lower than in the nonprofit. A second reason is that local governments recognize that it is faster and easier to use a service delivery system (offices, staff, etc.) that is already in place rather than to create a new one. It may simply be a better way to provide the service. 
Most CAAs now provide direct service with public money from many funding sources. In addition, on a nationwide basis, many CAAs now use most of their CSBG funds to provide direct service.
8. SELF-EMPLOYMENT. These activities help people earn money by being self-employed, often in a home-based business.
9. SOCIAL ENTERPRISE. The CAA runs the enterprise to provide work for people. The CAA “makes a market” for people to sell their goods and services. Examples include thrift shops, lawn care, babysitting, farmer's markets, repair services and temporary employment agencies.

      So these are some of the strategies used by CAAs. Do you have others?

3. Strategy Development

    In the community assessment exercises we completed earlier, we have prepared an overview of our community with a description of the problems and assets, with the causes of these problems. The causes are often found in (a) how the economy operates, (b) social value choices as translated into public policy, and (c) decisions by individual or families, and just plain (bad) luck. Fortunately, strategies can be developed to address all of these types of causes.

A strategy:
    a. Eliminates or reduces the cause/s of a problem.
    b.  Describes a course of action (method, means to be pursued).
    c.  Indicates who will be involved in implementing the strategy.

Instructions:  Review the strategy statements on this page to see if they have the elements (a, b, c) of strategy statements. Fill-in-the-blanks for the strategy statements that do not have all three elements.

1. (Example):  Assist the Oread Neighborhood Association in a campaign to have the city council issue municipal revenue bonds for low-income housing construction loans.

            Cause of Problem
                 Insufficient affordable housing construction loan money.

              Course of Action.

              Strategy Implementors.
                        Oread Neighborhood Association, City Council, Agency. 

2. Provide credit counseling to low income people who are deeply in debt.

              ) Cause of problem.

                  ) Course of action.

             ) Strategy implementation.   

3. Enroll eligible persons in Food Stamps.

            ) Cause of problem.

                ) Course of action.

               ) Strategy implementation.   

4. Create a community coalition to work with existing and potential employers who do not give jobs to local residents.

            ) Cause of problem.

                ) Course of action.

                ) Strategy implementation.  

5.  Expand the weatherization program to include basic home repair.

            ) Cause of problem.

                ) Course of action.

            ) Strategy implementation.   

  One challenge issue for board in writing strategies is that Board members bring assumptions, often unconscious assumptions, about how the world works into the strategy development process. Based on their experience and personality, people have very definite ideas about how long we should wait for a strategy to produce results, about how difficult a strategy is to implement, and about how much a strategy might cost relative to the number it will help. It is VERY useful to bring these assumptions to the surface before you get into developing a specific strategy. The following exercise will help you do that.

Strategy Preferences Exercise

   Individuals have pre-dispositions towards different types of strategies. These are a function of: personality, need to see the people who benefit from the strategy, how long a person is willing to wait for results, and perceptions of the causes of a problem, and perceptions about what is a realistic solutions to a problem. 

   Use this exercise to surface the differences of opinion in a group, or in yourself. There are no right or wrong answers, but in the area of “knowing thyself” the Board members and senior staff should understand each other's preferences. 

    Reproduce the exercise on the next page. Ask each person to circle their preferences. They should be about to do this in about 5 minutes. This is a “forced choice” exercise. Then ask them to report on their preferences as you tally the results on the following grid on a sheet of flip-chart paper.

 Option Selected





















       Individuals tend to stay in a pattern, e.g. mostly A, or B, or C.

       How do the three types of strategies differ in terms of:

      * Amount of time it takes to get the strategy going
  * Involvement of residents
  * Cost
  * Possible payoff or benefits to be achieved
  * Permanency of "the cure"
  * Changing people
  * Changing social or legal institutions
  * Other factors?

   Then discuss the implications for your planning and policy making process.

Strategy Option Questions
1. Your agency has just received a modest sum of money (e.g., under $150,000) to address problems relating to starvation and malnutrition. Which of the following approaches would your agency adopt?
  a. Conduct a food donation drive and distribute the food to low-income people.    
  b. Help community residents organize and operate a farmer's market where low-income people (and others) can buy and sell produce.    
  c. Assist a local group in pushing for changes in, and expansion of, federal and state food programs.    
2. Approximately 70% of the children in a primary school in your agency's service area are from low-income families. Based on available information, only about half of these children will graduate from high school. Your agency has decided to use a modest sum of money to address this problem. Which of the following approaches do you think the agency should use?
  a. Provide tutoring and do drop-out counseling with individual students.    
  b. Get more parent and community involvement in school activities.    
  c. Help low-income parents and students push for significant changes in the school system's operation.    
3. Which of the following approaches do you think your agency should pursue in helping low-income people pay heating bills?  A modest sum of program money is available?
  a. Divide the money and give it to families to pay heating bills.    
  b. Use  the money to purchase weatherization materials and mobilize volunteers to install these materials in homes.    
  c. Assist organizations across the state in seeking utility rate reforms of benefit to low-income people.    
4. Your agency has decided to use a modest sum of program money to try to keep low-income elderly persons out of institutions and in their own homes. How should this be done?
  a. Hire homemaker aides for low-income elderly persons.    
  b. Use the money to push the state to increase its homemaker program.    
  c. Join with other organizations to have a property tax exemption for low-income elderly persons enacted.    

4. More Anti-Poverty Strategies Needed

  One challenge in creating new anti-poverty strategies is that we are in serious trouble in terms of anti-poverty theory. I have been working on a book review of Poverty Knowledge: Social Science, Social Policy, and the Poor in Twentieth-Century U.S. History written by Professor Alice O=Connor. She traces the theories-in-use from the end of the Civil War to the present. This is a powerful book for us and offers much insight and guidance. I urge everybody to read it.

     The most powerful theories of poverty actually existed from about 1900 (W.E.B. DuBois) to the 1930's (political economists, Hull House, and the “Chicago School” of sociologists). Since the Depression and the New Deal-era programs -- except for the spurt of insight and action from the civil rights movement in the 1960's -- public policy has essentially been constricting and discarding poverty theory, not refining or expanding it.

      O=Connor shows how much of our current idea of “community action” is primarily a social control strategy that was developed for juvenile delinquency programs in the 1930's. How a 1930's delinquency prevention program was transmuted into a general theory about poverty is a convoluted story in itself. Over a 30-year period, the theory moved from the University of Chicago to the streets to the foundations to the President=s Council on Juvenile Delinquency to the Task Force headed by Sarge Shriver. 

     O=Connor traces how the conservative think tanks have, in the past 30 years, hijacked the debate on poverty. They have framed the poverty agenda as being “the welfare state causes poverty and our strategies should focus on reducing the role of the welfare state by getting people off welfare.”  We have discarded most theories about the causes of poverty being caused by national or global economic and social systems. (This can be also be seen as the “failure of the academics” or “failure of the left,” or “the implosion of liberalism.”  Lots of blame to go around.)

We have no theory-in-place about how to eliminate poverty at the community level. I am intrigued by Scott Miller=s “Circles of Support” as an intentional community that seems to work on a small scale (e.g. 50 to 100 people), but can the approach be taken to a large scale? 

     What the conservatives have us working with today is theory that says: focus-on-the-victims-and-blame-them. It assumes that society is O.K., and the strategy is to help individuals fit in. This is the cousin or descendent of a theory and strategy described in 1918 about how to assimilate new immigrants into the existing society. So even though the economy and the society has undergone incredible transformations from the 1930's to 40's to 50's to 60's to 80's to now, our working theory is:  “fit in, and if you don=t it is mostly your fault.”

      This theory ignores the powerful structural causes of poverty including:

    a. technological change (manual labor and manufacturing jobs are disappearing),
    b. globalization (good bye to jobs, wage decline),
    c. social values (women must work but there is not enough child care),
    d. labor policy (worker organizing is discouraged not encouraged), and
    e. political economy (minimum wage, benefits policy)

We will look at:

* demographics and technology, which drive the economy,

and then

* the economy and social values, which drive public policy.

I will help the participants to identify both the causes of poverty and to develop strategies to address the causes at the national level and community level as well as the individual level. The three tiers:

  Tier One is the society as a whole B in the context of a global economy.

Tier Two is primarily regional but includes some community-level causes of poverty.

     Tier Three includes individual/family causes.

At the moment, all our strategy chips are bet on Tier Three. One problem is that Tier One and Tier Two strategies take years to accomplish, and often require the power of a social movement to produce action. Only Tier Three has actions that can be accomplished in a few months by a few people.

We do not have a “unified field theory” of poverty that links all levels. We have been squeezed down into the lowest level, working with the victims. But, if my work is successful, at least we will know more about how America is built, and how the economy and social systems work to create prosperity for many and poverty for some B and how this has been true for about 130 years. We should always acknowledge the good stuff about America and the opportunity and prosperity that do exist. But B if we want something different, we have to challenge and change how America is structured and operates. 

    I know that change is possible, because I was part of the social movements and organizations that created the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1962, the Anti Vietnam War movement, the civil rights movement, the Voting Rights Act, the passage of Medicaid, etc.

     Maybe this is something called The Many Causes of Poverty and What You Can Do About Them.


5. Thinking about Social Change in American Society

This section explores possible roles for CAAs in directed social change – in change they help to bring about. 

     Racism, sexism and poverty are, unfortunately, found in most societies. These negative tendencies seem to be endemic to human social systems. The concept of the “struggle for social justice” is a recognition that human beings are not perfect, and that it takes constant work in most human societies to make them better places to live. These types of problems are not limited to America, they occur in virtually all societies. In the U.S., research has shown that racism and sexism account for fully 30% of the differences in income between people who are employed full time.

  The problems are not at their worst in America. We are better off that most other countries. Nevertheless the problems do exist. The struggle for improvement exists on a personal as well as a community-wide and society-wide basis. The theme of living our lives in a way that helps others is present in almost all religions. It is no accident that many of the people involved with CAAs are religiously motivated. Nonprofit agencies have always provided a way for a person to operationalize in the secular world some of their principles of spiritual belief or faith. Now, some would prefer funding the religious organizations directly.

      There are more than dozen ways that change occurs. Change is driven by:

i.     economy,

scientific breakthroughs (ability to measure nicotine, tar, ozone, pesticides, etc)
            technological development (microcomputers),
                globalization of industries
ii. changing social values,
media attention,
increases in general educational levels,
a crisis of some kind,
national leadership, Congress “takes off” on it,
international events that are perceived as economically or politically important, e.g.
oil embargo, war

directed social change – a group of people decide to make it happen.
iii. demographic change

All of these types of change can be supported, or worked against, or used in a “piggy back” fashion to produce some other change. This brings us to the key concept for people who want to create change in human services policy and programs. 

1. Most directed change in human services occurs because a group of volunteers decide they want to produce a change and just keep grinding away. For example, the recent successes of environmental groups around protection of species and protection of forests are social change movements that started with a few dedicated people who have worked hard for ten years to drive their issues into the media and into the public policy arena.
2. Ten times as much change occurs in America as a result of demographic, economic, technological and social value shifts than occurs because of governmental action. That is why it is so important to keep track of those trends. In many respects, the Congress is just a mirror that reflects compromises between social values and groups that have already “cut their deal” years before Congress gets into the Act (pun intended). One estimate is that Congress is always five to ten years behind the American people, that Congress only picks up about 50% of the changes in social values that have actually occurred, and gridlocks on most of those. While the opportunity to get important legislation appears periodically and is an important way to “lock-in” gains or to expand funding for them, it is far more important to understand the basic social, economic and political forces flowing in America and how to influence them than it is to wait for Congress, or for another JFK or LBJ.
3. It was the shifts in social values in and the economy in the 1960s that both prompted and made possible the passage not just of the Economic Opportunity Act, but the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Medicaid Act, the Food Stamp Act, the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act and dozens of other pieces of legislation.
4. All the purposes and themes of the EOA had been debated in American society for twenty to fifty years prior to passage of the EOA; the EOA was another step in an ongoing and much bigger debate (as was the case with the creation of the CSBG in 1981). Many of the administrative requirements and structures in the EOA were put there to correct perceived problems with previously existing programs, e.g. the absence of coordination among federal agencies during the Depression prompted the creation of a powerful office in the Executive Office of the President, reporting directly to him. Thus, the Office of Economic Opportunity was born.
5. The Executive Branch is one other place where change occurs in this country. It is however an imperfect mirror that picks up and reflects some of what is happening in the rest of America. The Feds pick up and expand ideas that have been tried on a R&D, pilot, demonstration, high-risk basis -- by somebody else, usually at the state level. Federally induced change is an important way that new ideas are disseminated, but it is by no means the only way. Whatever our hopes it does not seem like there will be an “Imperial Presidency” leading a new war on poverty in the foreseeable future.

Whatever the relevance of the Executive Branch in the past, given the U.S. budget and trade deficits, our deteriorating economic position vis-à-vis other countries, and the attitudes of the American people, it does not seem like the Federal government is going to lead the way –- but it may follow local or state efforts.
6. In America, there are many, many opportunities and mechanisms by which desired change can and do occur if a group of people decide they want to make it happen. Alex de Tocqueville, the French sociologist, said over one hundred years ago that America is one of the few societies in the world that empowers a group of people to get together in their community to IDENTIFY or define or that a problem exists, and where people can DECIDE what is desirable social policy for their community -- and then can ACT on it. The premise is that people on a CAA Board and people who work in a CAA are people who want to make change happen. These materials are designed to help you do that.

SUMMARY. The history of social change from this perspective gives us cause for hope. As we look at the flow of events from 1964 onward, we describe the changes that occurred during each of the “eras” of social action. We also want to focus on current and future issues, including: 


The economic and social forces shaping the environment, and how the actions of local CAA Boards play a key role in shaping these trends -- or in developing responses to them.


Most social policy, like most of life, starts locally. It is created, operates and has its impact on people’s lives -- locally. Then it accumulates into a national policy.


Public policy issues, and how CAAs can influence the creation of public policy.


Civic infrastructure and how to strengthen it (e.g., the National Dialogue on Poverty Project).


The specific forces and techniques for influencing change that can be used today.

      So the tasks to help our CAA board operate in the future are (a) to identify and unravel the major social and political trends, and (b) to identify local concerns, problems or issues, and  what we want to do in our community, e.g. do we want to ignore, stop or support the trends, (d) how we as individuals can influence them, and (e) how our CAA can influence them. We will keep one eye on federal legislation, recognizing it is important but that it is only one element in the wide range of issues on which CAAs focus. 

After the issues are identified, then we figure out what we can do about them, in our own lives, in our communities, now and tomorrow.

Chapter One Quiz

Questions to stimulate thinking and to identify a few of the key points in this chapter.

1. Who has the primary responsibility for making sure that a CAA plans?
2. List at least one reason why YOUR CAA should engage in long-range planning activity.  (List as many as you can, or brainstorm answers among board members)
3. Why is it useful to have a plan-for-planning?  What is at least one benefit of having a plan for planning?
4. What is “the conversion kit” for changing any generic planning system in an anti-poverty planning system?
5. What are some of the typical steps in a CAA Planning Process?  Which of these has your CAA already completed, and which remain to be done?
6. Do all CAAs use the same strategies?  What are some of the types of strategies that CAAs use?


Answers to Chapter One Quiz

1. The board.
2. List the purposes most important to your board.
3. A plan-for-planning should include a timetable, and a description of the assignments who is responsible for completing different parts of the plan.
4. The "conversion kit" involves sorting any ‘problem’ into the conditions of the problem and the causes of the problem. A goal is then developed that describes a change in the condition; and a strategy is developed to attack one or more of the causes of the condition.
5. The first few steps of the planning process include creating the agency vision, values, mission and goals.
6. No. CAAs use a wide variety of strategies depending on what needs to be done and what other organizations are doing.

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