The Reason Being

Life as art, social theory, and participation trophies

Importance of Evaluation

Evaluation helps administrators and stakeholders know if a program is producing its intended outcomes.  Essentially, a good evaluation measures the effectiveness of the program.   If the program isn’t doing what it set out to do, an evaluation can help administrators make adjustments.  Evaluations can also measure cost-effectiveness — is the program getting the best bang for its buck?  Evaluations can also help identify unintended consequences of a program — whether good or bad.  This is especially true for qualitative evaluations.

I summarize the findings of the program as reflected in the program evaluation in the Krajewski et al. (2010) article below to illustrate.

  • The program as intended:
    • “Strong performance in the targeted areas exhibited or exceeded by at least 75 percent of youth who participated throughout the duration of the program” (Krajewski et al., 2010 p. 172).
    • The musical production in which the youth participated was empowering as indicated by the overall mean score of 4.24 on a 5 -point Likert scale measuring whether they felt they made a “strong contribution to the program.”  Further qualitative interviews also captured this narrative expressed by youth testimonials.
  •  When the program did not go quite as planned and why.
    •  “Although most youth exceeded program expectations, some performance standards were met by a lower percentage of participants, in the areas of “remaining in their assigned area” (75%) and “timely completion of tasks” (60%)” (Krajewski et al., 2010 p. 172).
      • Although most participants exceeded expectations, some did not.  This was due to some youth having special challenges relating to their disabilities, and six weeks was not enough time to make the necessary adjustments in the structure of the program.  And staff were unable to provide enough individual attention to these program participants.  Attrition eventually became a factor when  6 out of the 9 participants were dismissed from the program for violent and disruptive behavior toward peers and staff (Krajewski et al., 2010)
    • Other findings
      • Teens were bogged down with too many objectives, tasks and outcomes, often overwhelming them.
      • Teens initially had a sense of entitlement which the staff had to help them overcome.

Krajewski, E. R., Wiencek, P., Brady, S., Trapp, E., Rice Jr., P. (2010). Teaching employable skills to special education youth: An empowerment approach. International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, 5(1), 167-176.

Who’s To Blame for Poverty? 

In this blog post I provide an explanation of AFDC and TANF policy, discuss the  ideological and political changes surrounding the switch from AFDC to TANF, and describe the differences and similarities between the two programs.

Public assistance programs in the United States are rooted in the progressive movement of the early twentieth century.  President Theodore Roosevelt convened a commission in 1909 to study the increasing problem of deprived children.  By 1911,  states began implementing aid programs providing direct financial assistance to mothers of deprived children.  Later,  during President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal era, the federal government enacted the Social Security Act, which established the Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) program.  Roosevelt recognized that macro-economic factors beyond the control of individuals could lead families into destitution (Ross, 1985).

The template from the beginning placed the federal government in the role of establishing broad program goals and parameters, while leaving the states the freedom to work out details regarding eligibility and benefit levels within those parameters.  Also, the federal government shared financial responsibility for the program with the states under a formula that gave poorer states a higher proportion of federal funding .  This intergovernmental arrangement survives to this day, although the program that began as ADC morphed into AFDC in 1962 and was ultimately junked and replaced by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in 1996.  Perhaps the most stark contrast between AFDC and TANF has resulted from an evolution away from macro explanations for deprivation to micro explanations.

As originally conceived and enacted, ADC was a corrective to hardships created by downturns in the economic cycle, such as the Great Depression.  Between 1962 and 1996, however, the shift in thinking among policy makers led to program refinements that emphasized pushing women into the labor force, in contrast to the earlier progressive era focus on making sure that deprived children could be supported in their own homes rather than a workhouse (Gordon & Batlan, 2011).  Also during this time, paradoxically, the “entitlement” status of public assistance benefits became entrenched in law and through court decisions.  By 1996,  it was the entitlement piece of AFDC that provided the political pressure to end welfare as we knew it.

The switch to TANF preserved and strengthened the autonomy of states in running their own programs, ended the entitlement status of public assistance by making receipt of benefits conditional on recipient performance of work and work-related activities, and limited the federal funding commitment by ending the open-ended entitlement to the states in favor of a block grant approach that capped federal funding (Karger & Stoesz, 2014).  Politically, the switch to TANF reflected the switch from macro explanations of destitution to micro explanations.  The title of the welfare reform law is the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which drives home the idea that poor people are the ones responsible for their plight.

It is nothing new for a society to hold its most vulnerable citizens accountable for their lot in life.  But why does this occur?  A new study might shed some light on this issue.  Researchers are finding that victim-blaming boils down to one’s moral values: individualizing versus binding values (Niemi & Young, 2016).  Those whose moral values center on harm reduction and universal compassion (individualizing values) tend to blame perpetrators; whereas, those whose moral values center on loyalty, obedience to authority, and purity (binding values) are more likely to engage in victim-blaming.  This research held consistent even after accounting for demographic factors and political ideology, although conservatives tended to engage in more binding values than non-conservatives.  Binding values tend to be good for group cohesion, but they tend to not prioritize human rights issues.

The problems with AFDC and its hate-child TANF are the same.  They are bandaids on the actual systemic problems caused by capitalistically created and reinforced inequality.  Moreover,  AFDC and TANF reinforce and reify capitalistic aims through oppression and further villainization of the poor.  The poor are often sacrificed at the altar of self-aggrandizement.  Do-gooders can leverage their piety and worth, while the middle-class can look to the poor for validation that they themselves are not being oppressed by the upper class, and that everything they are doing is good and right.  This is not to say that the middle class or do-gooders are bad.  They aren’t bad at all – they’re just not better than, and that’s the point here, isn’t it?   When we tell people that in order to be successful they must be like us, or that they must participate as we do in a system that was not created for or by them, we are engaging in self-worship and a whole lot of delusion at their expense.  It doesn’t just hurt them, it harms us too.


Gordon, L. & Batlan, F. (2011). The legal history of the Aid to Dependent Children Program. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved [03/05/2017] from

Karger, H., & Stoesz, David. (2014). American social welfare policy: A pluralist approach. New Jersey: Pearson.

Niemi, L., & Young, L. (2016). When and why we see victims as responsible: The impact of ideology on attitudes toward victims. Personality and social psychology bulletin42(9), 1227-1242.

Ross, J. A. B. (1985). Fifty Years of Service to Children and Theird Families. Soc. Sec. Bull., 48, 5.

Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham, Alabama has done a good job preserving the past by facing its truth.   In the 1950s and 1960s,  Birmingham was the most racially divided city in the United States.  Racism was tearing the city apart, as whites violently opposed integration policies. Things were so terrible that Birmingham became the focal point of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s (Morse, 2014).  In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was invited to help address the problem of racial segregation.  He and many others, including students, were arrested as a result of their campaign efforts.  Attack dogs and high-pressure hoses were released on adult and children bystanders.  Racially motivated bombing was pervasive.   Tragically, in September of 1963, a bomb exploded in the 16th Street Baptist Church, killing four young African American girls. Birmingham was henceforth associated with racism and segregation.  The city was shrouded in shame regarding its dark history.

Chapter 6 emphasizes that historical revitalization is as much about what is left out as what is saved.  Political leaders wanted to honor and reconcile Birmingham’s past by building a Civil Rights Museum.  They were initially met with resistance by a community ashamed of its history who felt that the best way to move forward was to leave the pain in the past.   Regardless, city leaders pressed toward a vision of honor and reconciliation.

In 1992, the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum was opened across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park.  This is important because “the church was a symbol of the movement. The park was the central gathering place in the 1960s, where so many citizens and foot soldiers were arrested” (Morse, 2014 p. 240).  The entire area is now designated the Civil Rights District.  The institute emphasizes human rights issues and has developed curriculum highlighting the art and culture of Birmingham’s African American community.

A former symbol of hate and community division has become the symbol of community cohesiveness.   Morse (2014) writes, “Perhaps most important, historic sites, structures, and districts link a community to its past, promoting a sense of community consciousness and connectedness that high-rise office buildings and parking garages simply cannot. By protecting reminders of the past and safeguarding a community’s heritage, preservation makes history available to future generations.”   By embracing its past and validating its victims, the citizens of Birmingham were able to move forward together to a brighter future.


Morse, S. (2014). Smart communities: How citizens and local leaders can use strategic thinking to build a brighter future (2nd edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter From Birmingham City Jail 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in the Birmingham City Jail

Want to Know More About BCRI?

Here is a virtual tour of the Birmingham Civil Right Institute courtesy of  C-SPAN

Plan your visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute today! 



Poverty and Unemployment

In this blogpost I discuss two ways poverty and unemployment are measured as well as how these measures affect pictures of poverty or unemployment.


The federal government measures poverty using the poverty threshold and the poverty index.  The official measure of poverty is the poverty threshold, also called the poverty line, and it is the measure principally used for official research and reporting purposes. The poverty threshold has been in existence since 1955.  The formula uses the Thrifty Food Plan, which is the least expensive food plan developed by the Department of Agriculture, and multiples it by three to arrive at the minimum monthly income necessary to survive.

The utilization of the poverty threshold is controversial as it has many structural flaws.  Food costs now represent 1/7th, rather than 1/3rd, of the average household budget.  Additionally, the poverty threshold does not account for the variability in housing and costs of living across regions, or the change in living expenses across lifespans.  The Obama administration has developed a new measure called the Supplementary Poverty Measure (SPM) that attempts to address the discrepancies inherent with the poverty threshold. The SPM “factors in modern expenses (e.g., high cost of healthcare, childcare, housing, utilities and in-kind benefits), plus “a little more,” a new category that provides extra padding (Karger & Stoesz, 2014 p. 101). It also adjusts for geographic location.  Since SMP would most likely increase the number of people classified as poor, it is not used for government program eligibility determinations.  Currently, only the Census Bureau reports this measure.

The poverty threshold presents an incomplete picture of poverty, which works to bolster capitalistic ideology and neo-conservative and neo-liberal rhetoric.  Poverty in the United States is much more widespread and pervasive than official figures indicate.

The poverty guideline is used for eligibility determination for federal programs such as Head Start, Supplementary Assistance for Needy Families (SNAP), the school lunch program, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program (LIHEAP).  The poverty guideline is a simplified version of the poverty threshold, only it is weighted slightly lower.  By utilizing the poverty guideline, rather than the SMP, fewer people are enrolled in federal assistance programs that might otherwise benefit from the help.  Those included tend to represent the poorest households.  These households are marginalized and not well-represented politically.  Families who would benefit from a higher measure, tend to become frustrated by their lack of inclusion in these programs, and in turn, further villainize the poor, ironically reinforcing the use of the lower measurement.   It pits the poor against the very poor, which serves capitalist interests.


Karger and Stoesz (2014) make two distinctions with regard to unemployment policy: 1) Failure of the labor market to meet economic needs of the population is the primary method governmental agencies and policy makers think about and measure unemployment; and, 2) unemployment related to the volatility of the market-place economy.

The Department of Labor counts as unemployed those who are over 16 years old and actively looking for work.   The unemployment rate does not take into consideration those workers who are underemployed because their education or skill set is exceeds that of their current job, or the worker who is working part-time, but is looking for full-time work.  Perhaps most importantly, the unemployment rate does not count the discouraged worker, those who have given up and have stopped looking for work and might be participating in the underground economy, relying on social assistance, or depending upon their perhaps already overburdened families.

Frictional unemployment relates to the boom cycle of a capitalistic economy.  In a robust economy, businesses frequently start up and close their doors.  This type of unemployment is to be expected, and since opportunities abound, re-employment is generally not an issue.  Structural unemployment is a bigger problem.  It relates to “deeper and longer maladjustments in the labor market” (Karger & Stoesz, 2014 p. 104). It is more difficult to overcome structural unemployment.

The methods used to measure unemployment not only present an incomplete picture of the social problems, but it also tacitly buys into capitalistic narratives.  In other words, by failing to offer a critique of capitalism, the unemployment rate is complicit with capitalistic objectives.  Capitalism tends to be a snake that left unfettered will eventually consume itself.  Capitalistic motivation is exclusively profit generation. It sees everything and everyone as expendable and exploitable.  It is not designed to account for our humanity, or offer a moral framework regarding how to live our lives. Socialist policies offer temperance to the ravages of capitalism.  Socialism does not work in opposition to capitalist interests, but is rather offers a prescription for its success.


Karger, H., & Stoesz, David. (2014). American social welfare policy: A pluralist approach. New Jersey: Pearson.


What are poverty thresholds and poverty guidelines?


Religious Roots of Social Work

In this blogpost, I trace the religious roots to social work and examine how social work and religion coalesce and/or diverge today by identifying four historical roots.  A specific example of their coalescence and their divergence are provided at the end of this analysis, followed by a summarization of both.

Four historical roots of social work and religion:

  1. Judeo-Christianity – Judaism and Christianity both emphasize social justice. Judaism traditionally favors the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger.   In the New Testament, Jesus summarizes all ten commandments into two moral imperatives necessary for salvation: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10: 27, New International Version).   There are many examples in the Gospel regarding the denial of self-interest in favor of others (i.e., The Good Samaritan; mutual sharing of material goods; emphasis on forgiveness, grace and love; communism of the new church post-ascension; power as a corrupting influence; the least of these seen as the greatest of these; and, all people are the children of God).
  1. Colonial America and the Spirit of Capitalism – The protestant work ethic can trace its roots to Calvinism. Calvinists believe in predestination.  God elects those who are to receive salvation. Since no one knew who was chosen  by God, this uncertainty created great anxiety for many followers.  John Calvin offered a simple solution.  God would bestow signs upon those who were chosen in the form of material acquisition, propriety, and austerity.  Conversely,  poverty was associated with those who were not chosen to be saved.  Those chosen by God would eschew material wealth and save their money, thereby creating capital.  The prohibition towards usury, a sin per the Catholic Church, was abandoned by the Calvinists.  Not only did the protestant work ethic provide the fuel necessary for capitalism to succeed (capitalism requires capital and the protestant work ethic allowed for great stores of wealth to be accumulated by those who could then offer loans with interest), but it also provided an underlying ideological foundation for discriminating against the poor and less fortunate.    Those who were in a position to help those less fortunate than themselves were effectively to shut their brains off, and turn their hearts away from, their fellow man.  The association with work as holiness and godliness persists today in the American ethos.
  1. The Second Great Awakening (1800-1830) was a period of time in which church attendance doubled.  Envisioning themselves as a ‘City Set on a Hill,’ social reform efforts were taken up many believers who longed to see the United States as a pure and holy nation (Karger & Stoesz, 2014).  The greatest efforts were towards were abolition and prohibition.  Pastors and laypeople believed that the problems of the poor were due largely to alcohol consumption, rather than seeing alcohol consumption as a way of coping with the anomie, oppression, trauma, and hopelessness at the hands of a social and economic system that is exploitative in nature. Three outcomes resulted from the Great Awakening which profoundly influenced social welfare policy: 1) redirection of religious reform into private organizations; 2) mobilization and training of female leaders; and, 3) formation of African American clergy to lead African American converts.
  1. The Great Depression and the New Deal – The Great Depression demanded a large-scale response to mass starvation and economic collapse. Protestant churches were unable to keep pace with the high need and withdrew their efforts.  Social welfare swiftly became the purview of the Federal government.  The New Deal’s public relief efforts mitigated the effects of poverty.  Although the New Deal policies were supported by the Catholic church, they were not supported by Protestant Church.   The Protestant church did not share the Catholic church’s sympathy for labor, or the poor.  It seems where one stands depends largely on where one sits.  The Protestant Church was comprised mainly of white citizens (the haves) and the Catholic church was comprised largely of new immigrants (the have-nots).  The Protestant church consisted of the majority of people in the United States;  the Catholic church consisted of the minority.  The negative effects of the Protestant retreat from social service provision was far-reaching and long-lasting.  Irreligious liberals were not intrinsically motivated to help the poor, and the momentum for social action efforts immediately following WWII ceased (Karger & Stoesz, 2014).   In this example, the Protestant church was diverging, whereas the Catholic church was coalescing, concerning the NASW ethical value of service (NASW, 2017).

Summary of Religion’s Coalescence and Divergence from Social Work

The benefit religion brings to social work is the ethos of doing for others.  Commitment to service is the place religion and social work best coalesce.  The problem with religion is that it is intrinsically hierarchical and non-egalitarian, therefore it has the elements of discrimination and oppression inherent within its structure.  Thus, an unwavering commitment to social justice is where social work and religion often diverge. Religions may select who are worthy of their help, and this is problematic because they can opt out altogether when they choose to do so.  The NASW professional code of ethics prevent social workers from excluding easily exploited and  marginalized populations (NASW, 2017).  In addition, social workers are not allowed to opt out, because the NASW professional code of ethics holds social workers accountable.  The issues with social work and religion may be resolved by increasing democratic processes.  Countries that are more democratic, such as Sweden, are typically less religious, yet their people are overall happier.  Increasing democratic participation would empower individuals and their communities, which is the essence of social work values.


Code of Ethics (English and Spanish) – National Association of Social Workers.  (2017). Retrieved        02/12/17, from

Karger, H., & Stoesz, David. (2014). American social welfare policy : A pluralist approach. New Jersey:  Pearson


Four Stages in Policy Development

There are four stages in policy development:  formulation, legislation, implementation, & evaluation.  In this post, I describe each of these levels.   Two specific ways social workers or other concerned citizens could advocate at each of these levels are identified.  

Formulation is the first stage in policy development.  Policy creation is not a feat of legislators; rather, legislators rely on policy institutes, or think tanks, to provide them the social intelligence to shape public policy.  These policy institutes are comprised of multidisciplinary staffs of scholars who prepare position papers on a range of social issues. Think tanks are generally funded by wealthy individuals and corporations with particular ideological foundations.  It is very difficult for the average person to have much of an impact

Social Problem: According to MIT (2017), the living wage for a single adult household with 2 children in Oklahoma City is $24.93, poverty wage is $10, and minimum wage is $7.25.

  1. A social worker with an MSW, DSW, or PhD could find employment at a policy institute to create public policy proposals for sympathetic legislators.
  2. A social worker or citizen could speak to, and potentially educate, their representative about the importance of a living wage for business growth and as a means to escape the ravages of poverty.

Legislation is the second stage of policy development.  For a good overview of the technical aspects of the legislative process, please feel free to refer to   However, regarding the development of policy, the process is exceedingly complex and highly political.  Bills live or die based on decisions made in committee meetings, and these decisions are mostly influenced by outside players such as special interest groups, lobbyists, Political Action Committees (PACs), and to a lesser extent, advocacy groups.   It is difficult for advocacy groups to assert much influence in the legislative process, due to their meager resources and general reliance on volunteer efforts.  The more resources available, the more influence may be asserted.

Social Problem: According to MIT (2017), the living wage for a single adult household with 2 children in Oklahoma City is $24.93, poverty wage is $10, and minimum wage is $7.25.

  1. A social worker or citizen could identify bills that support living or wage increases, and those efforts through joining and participating in a living wage advocacy group in Oklahoma.
  2. A social worker or citizen could sit in on a committee meeting, or pull their legislator off the floor, and tell them why they should support a living wage for Oklahoma.

Implementation is the third stage of policy development.  After a bill becomes law, it becomes the obligation of institutions and bureaucratic organizations to implement the law.  This can also be a very politically charged process, especially with regards to social welfare programs.  States may choose not to cooperate, such as the Affordable Care Act, in which case the executive branch of government has difficult decisions to make. Also, laws are typically process-oriented, giving bureaucratic agencies great discretion regarding their implementation.

Marsy’s Law, or HJR 1002, is a victim’s bill of rights, which currently is a resolution that has been assigned to the House Rules Committee.  If the Legislature places it on the ballot, and it is passed by a vote of the people, it will become codified in the Oklahoma Constitutuion.  Marsy’s Law would be applied to victims similarly to how Miranda is applied to potential perpetrators. Victims would be made aware of their rights on the spot at the scene of the crime ( NonDoc, 2017).

  1. A social worker or citizen working in a bureaucracy such as the OKCPD or in a women’s shelter could help make sure the law is enforced.
  2. A social worker or citizen could help educate the bureaucracy about the importance of this law, and why it should be enforced.
  3. The social worker or citizen working within the bureaucracy or agency could come up with creative ways to make implementation simple.

Evaluation is the fourth, and final, stage of policy development.  In this stage, governmental programs and policies are evaluated for their effectiveness. Although it is not intended to be a political process, politics have come increasingly into play as private evaluation firms have entered the field.  These firms hire former government officials to capitalize on their connections.  This, of course, raises questions regarding the objectivity of the evaluators, and the conclusions of the evaluations themselves.  In addition, Karger and Stoesz (2014) point out that since the evaluations are applied research, rather than pure research, with the goal of optimizing program operations.  Evaluations generally focus on waster, cost-effectiveness and goal attainment.  Due to social welfare programs often having contradictory goals (ex: helping poor people get off public assistance), social welfare programs frequently changing the way they implement those goals, and the limitations of evaluation processes themselves, evaluations generally yield mixed results.  These results can be often used by both the social program’s critics and defenders.

Social Problem: According to MIT (2017), the living wage for a single adult household with 2 children in Oklahoma City is $24.93, poverty wage is $10, and minimum wage is $7.25.

  1. A social worker or citizen could request that local Oklahoma universities who have less stake in the outcomes, conduct an impartial evaluation, rather than private entities that may have political leanings or ties.
  2. A social worker with an MSW, DSW, or PhD could conduct their own evaluations and publish the results in peer reviewed journals.


Karger, H., & Stoesz, David. (2014). American social welfare policy : A pluralist approach. New Jersey: Pearson.

Living Wage Calculator – Living Wage Calculation for Oklahoma City, OK. (n.d.). Retrieved February 6, 2017, from

Here is a comprehensive link to various awareness campaigns. You can even very simply add their Awareness Day calendar and Awareness Week calendars to your google calendar.


Awareness Ribbons Guide



Allentown, PA

Billy Joel wrote a song about the problems of Allentown, Pennsylvania where post WWII the steel factories were closing down, and the educational system was failing the community.  He sang about a community that had lost hope in their future, but this future did not come to fruition.

Morse (2014) contrasts the communities of Allentown and Youngstown, to illustrate the importance of diversifying the economy and moving away from insular thinking among civic leaders. Youngstown did not diversify, whereas Allentown did.

Youngstown civic leaders thought that the economy would right itself eventually, and this insular way of thinking was detrimental to  their future.  They closed themselves off to creative solutions, new ideas, and change.

Allentown was organized differently.  It featured “overlapping as well as independent connections between business, government, and nonprofit leaders” (Morse, 2014 p. 50).   The city invested in educational opportunities, collaborated with the local university, supported entrepreneurs, and integrated technology. This diversification promoted resiliency within the community to weather future problems.  Allentown has been bettered despite their adversity because it listened to the people in the community.

Allentown by Billy Joel
Well we’re living here in Allentown
And they’re closing all the factories down
Out in Bethlehem they’re killing time
Filling out forms
Standing in line
Well our fathers fought the Second World War
Spent their weekends on the Jersey Shore
Met our mothers in the USO
Asked them to dance
Danced with them slow
And we’re living here in Allentown
But the restlessness was handed down
And it’s getting very hard to stay
Well we’re waiting here in Allentown
For the Pennsylvania we never found
For the promises our teachers gave
If we worked hard
If we behaved
So the graduations hang on the wall
But they never really helped us at all
No they never taught us what was real
Iron and coal
And chromium steel
And we’re waiting here in Allentown
But they’ve taken all the coal from the ground
And the union people crawled away
Every child has a pretty good shot
To get at least as far as their old man got
But something happened on the way to that place
They threw an American flag in our place
Well I’m living here in Allentown
And it’s hard to keep a good man down
But I won’t be giving up today
And we’re living here in Allentown
Songwriters: BILLY JOEL
© Universal Music Publishing Group

Morse, S. (2014). Smart communities : How citizens and local leaders can use strategic thinking to build a brighter future (Second ed.) San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass, a Wiley brand

Political Ideology Analysis

Democracy is the Greatest, Most Basic, Ethical Mandate

“Building the capacity of people to frame and then to solve their own problems is the critical vehicle for civic change and must be the overriding factor as we seek to build and rebuild communities” (Morse, 2014, p. 21).

Morse offers many compelling reasons why communities must be able to self-determine.  Some of the reasons she cites are that only a community knows best what their issues are and that a one-size-fits all approach to community building will never work because communities come together in a context that is unique and particular to them.  Indubitably, as Morse suggests, we are missing out on the ideas of others who have a different perspective and are cutting potential problem-solvers out of the equation when we don’t consider all voices.  Solving community problems will require the whole community, all the stakeholders, to get involved, get mobilized, and sustain the effort (Morse, 2014).

Perhaps more importantly, what Morse is alluding to when she states that “building the capacity of people to frame and solve their own problems” and that it   “is the critical vehicle for civic change and must be the overriding factor”  is that it is the right and ethical thing to do, because everybody matters (Morse, 2014, p. 21).   Policies that create inequality inherently give rise to poverty, and a host of other social problems which have far-reaching consequences.  Morse points to public policy mandates such as redlining and the Highway Act of 1956,  as examples of well-intentioned decisions that gave rise to oppressive laws that ultimately affected everyone. Adding to her point, I would say that when we don’t allow for full democratic participation, someone will be left out of the decision making, thereby creating and/or reinforcing inequality. How we treat others ultimately comes back to help or to haunt us.

How to go about “building the  capacity of people to frame and solve their own problems” will require us to give voice to the basic unit of democracy — the individual (Morse, 2014, p. 21).  Communities must be careful to especially consider the most marginalized individuals, and not sacrifice the few for the whole.   Once we begin aggregating individuals we sacrifice voices – we sacrifice democracy.

Morse, S. (2014). Smart communities : How citizens and local leaders can use strategic thinking to build a brighter future (Second ed.) San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass, a Wiley brand


It’s coming through a hole in the air
From those nights in Tiananmen Square
It’s coming from the feel
That this ain’t exactly real
Or it’s real, but it ain’t exactly there
From the wars against disorder
From the sirens night and day
From the fires of the homeless
From the ashes of the gay
Democracy is coming to the USA
It’s coming through a crack in the wall
On a visionary flood of alcohol
From the staggering account
Of the Sermon on the Mount
Which I don’t pretend to understand at all
It’s coming from the silence
On the dock of the bay,
From the brave, the bold, the battered
Heart of Chevrolet
Democracy is coming to the USA

It’s coming from the sorrow in the street
The holy places where the races meet
From the homicidal bitchin’
That goes down in every kitchen
To determine who will serve and who will eat
From the wells of disappointment
Where the women kneel to pray
For the grace of God in the desert here
And the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the USA

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on

It’s coming to America first
The cradle of the best and of the worst
It’s here they got the range
And the machinery for change
And it’s here they got the spiritual thirst
It’s here the family’s broken
And it’s here the lonely say
That the heart has got to open
In a fundamental way
Democracy is coming to the USA

It’s coming from the women and the men
O baby, we’ll be making love again
We’ll be going down so deep
The river’s going to weep,
And the mountain’s going to shout Amen
It’s coming like the tidal flood
Beneath the lunar sway
Imperial, mysterious
In amorous array
Democracy is coming to the USA

Sail on, sail on

I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can’t stand the scene
And I’m neither left or right
I’m just staying home tonight
Getting lost in that hopeless little screen
But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags
That Time cannot decay
I’m junk but I’m still holding up
This little wild bouquet
Democracy is coming to the USA

Songwriters: LEONARD COHEN
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
For non-commercial use only.


I commit to do three things to enhance my learning in this course.  First,  I will meet the school of social work’s expectations regarding careful and thorough review of all course material in preparation of our lively in-class discussions.  As I have a multi-modal learning style, I will also seek outside material to further my knowledge and understanding of key topics.  YouTube videos, TED Talks, news articles, and library books are examples of additional material that I would want to utilize.

Regarding  blog-writing, I commit to be my bravest and most authentic self, because transparency is very scary .  It can be terrifying to put oneself out there.    Yet, I must admit to feeling intrigued by the prospect of this blog creation.  I realize that writing can be a beneficial tool  to help us understand what we think, as well  as refine what we know, so the blog will be instructive for those reasons.   Perhaps more importantly, it is also very good practice for us to begin putting ourselves out there and advocating for what really matters, because after all,  we are social workers.  We need to vigilantly speak out for people who are being marginalized by our society.  Through creation of our blogs we will be engaging in praxis.  We will be doing the actual work of social workers! That’s actually very exciting.   With the recent and dramatic changes we’ve experienced politically and socially, now more than ever social workers are needed.   And courage is needed too.

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