Contents of Spring 2008 Collaborative Solutions Newsletter:
In This Issue:
and Social Change : Appreciation, acceptance,
and interdependence in our community work
helping systems are in trouble
principles can guide us in the work we do.
serious limiting factors in our helping system
have overemphasized the deficits in our
of appreciation as a spiritual principle.
have lost social change and social justice as our goal.
of interdependence and interconnection as
is new at Tom Wolff & Associates:
Frontiers – Community Directories on the Web Using
New chapter in book just out
in Lisbon Portugal this summer
Spirituality and Social Change: Appreciation, acceptance,
compassion, and interdependence in our community work
Our helping systems are in trouble
helping systems are in deep trouble, and sadly we don’t
even seem to notice. When we talk about helping systems in trouble,
our first thoughts usually relate to money: “Oh, yeah, I know—not
enough money to provide services,” or, “Our agency’s
staff is still underpaid.”
But the kind of deep trouble I am worried
about is not about money. In fact, I think that our problems grow from
exactly that knee-jerk tendency to think that funding is our biggest
way we go about addressing concerns of human welfare is by giving money
to nonprofits so they can provide services. Unfortunately, with that
approach we have created a huge helping industry at the same time that
many human problems continue to go unaddressed. In fact, I now think
that the nonprofit sector and the helping industry are becoming a significant
part of the problems they were established to solve.
I know I’m applying harsh words to good intentions, and by extension
to good people who want to make the world a better place and are laboring
at this task in the settings that are available to them. I also know
that many of those good people are frustrated that their efforts aren’t
producing more significant results. I think that the answers to our
biggest problems, in human society and in individual desire to work
for change, may best be addressed by calling not for more money but
for each of us to remember, and work from, our highest spiritual essence.
I’d like to talk about this some more in this newsletter, which
reflects part of what I’ve learned in a long time of working
with a wide variety of people, under all kinds of circumstances, with
the intention of improving the quality of people’s lives. Some
of what I think now challenges what I’ve thought earlier. Much
of what I’ve encountered has required me to let go of preconceptions
and dig more deeply into understanding myself and the people around
me. It’s all required me to become more open to possibilities,
even those that evoke my skepticism.
What works to make people’s lives better?
The big question in the long run is, “What works to
make people’s lives better?”
I work in communities where the residents are facing profound issues—violence,
poverty, abuse, racism, and other big, hard challenges. In these communities,
there are many agencies that have been established to address these
issues. Those agencies are not necessarily poorly funded, although
they constantly complain of being under funded. The agencies spend
much of their time and energy competing with each other for funding,
clients, staff, and prestige. This competition often greatly limits
When I work with local communities, we begin to create innovative ways
to address community issues that are not based on the provision of
services by agencies. The techniques we use to go beyond the traditional
system include community engagement, community ownership, community
organizing, and community empowerment. Because we’re following
a different path, we encounter active attempts by the nonprofit service
providers to undermine our work. This is especially true when we start
The dominant model of clinical
service delivery is intentionally disconnected from issues of social justice.
But under many circumstances this model, this disconnection, does not make
sense. And because it doesn’t make sense, how can it succeed?
How can anyone in the United States deliver services in an immigrant
community without addressing issues of social justice at a time when
this country is engaged in a war on immigrants? How can we address
issues of gang violence while we ignore the dismal opportunities and
options that our society offers to youth of color?
We now understand that the emerging problems that communities face
have such complex and interdependent origins that we can only fix them
if we use comprehensive community problem-solving efforts rather than
single-focus approaches. We need to meet and communicate with each
other, including representatives from all parts of our communities.
We need to step outside the agencies and into the community.
I have always considered our
collaborative work in building healthy communities to be a spiritual endeavor,
although I’ve generally kepts those thought private... I rarely
describe this work as “spiritual” because many people associate
spirituality with religion. However, in talking about spirituality I am not
talking about religion. And as I walk farther in this life I find that the
spirituality that I’m talking about comes from many places.
For many years
I have been influenced by the thinking of health visionary Leland Kaiser. He
distinguishes between religion and spirituality this way: “Spirituality
is often confused with religion. They are very different things. Religion refers
to a specific set of beliefs, a tradition, a prescribed set of practices. Spirituality
refers to a broad set of principles that transcend all religions. Spirituality
is about the relationship between ourselves and something larger. That something
can be the good of the community or the people who are served by your
agency or school or with energies greater than ourselves. Spirituality means
being in the right relationship with all that is. It is a stance of harmlessness
toward all living beings and an understanding of their mutual interdependence” (Kaiser,
can guide us in all the work we do.
Spiritual principles can
guide us in all the work we do.They can help us understand the shortcomings
of our present community systems and can support us as we work with
the community to design better ways to proceed. Spiritual principles
can guide us as we help communities move toward sharing abundance,
honoring the natural environment, promoting social justice and compassion,
and operating from a stance of collaboration rather than competition.
A spiritual grounding lets us use loving compassion as a guide for
our decision making. It helps us honor every member of our community
as a valuable asset and appreciated resource.
It feels odd to be talking
about reintroducing spiritual principles into community building and
helping. We usually assume that our community-building efforts and our helping
systems are built on spiritual principles. Although spiritual ideals may have
begun much of this work, the present functioning of nonprofit systems has wandered
far from those roots. The system as a whole is now motivated by competition,
bottom lines, and capturing market share.
I have recently been reading
a profound spiritual manuscript that has stimulated my thinking. The
manuscript suggests that “American institutions now without exception are
primarily shaped by what they perceive to be the necessity of winning in a dangerous
and highly competitive marketplace. . . . There is no longer any heart-center
functioning in American public and political life” (Gill, 2008).
What a loss to have a community helping system without a heart center.
This thought leads me to the idea that our community helping systems
are utterly inappropriate settings for market-based decision-making.
Spiritual principles need
to form the foundation of all of our work at building healthy communities.
Community solutions demand community collaboration built on spiritual
principles. These principles offer our only hope for creating a positive vision
and shaking us out of our old patterns, the ones embodied in our dysfunctional
helping systems, and providing a new and hopeful sense of direction. Our attempts
to re-engineer the existing system have not been powerful enough to get us out
of the competitive, market-based mindset.
The advantage of this approach
is that it calls upon the strong spiritual nature of those in the helping
system and their capacity to operate from a place of appreciation, acceptance,
compassion, and interdependence. This is a well of spiritual goodness that we
do not usually tap. For society and the helping system, it provides endless energy.
For individuals, it prevents burnout.
Six serious limiting factors in our helping system
the next few Collaborative Solutions Newsletters, I will address six
serious limiting factors in our helping system that I believe are holding
us back from reaching our full potential. I will also show how applying
spiritual principles to these issues can make the difference between
success and failure.
perspective on the nonprofit helping system comes from working in the
system for over 40 years at all levels—as a line staff member,
a manager, an executive director, a board member, and most recently
a trainer and consultant. Because I’ve seen the system from so
many angles and for so many years, I now think of myself as having
the view that I would get by flying at 10,000 feet over a community
and observing how it works. The problems I see are not caused by bad
people doing bad things, but by a system that has responded to social
forces and wandered far from its intended role.
Here are the six issues that we need to address and that I will be
- We have overemphasized the deficits in our communities.
- We have
lost social change and social justice as our goal.
- Our nation continues to be dominated by racism and our helping
systems are characterized by a lack of cultural competence.
- Our helping systems suffer from professional dominance. Our communities
are not driving the process of fixing their own problems.
- The dominance of professionals has also led to another pernicious
aspect of our helping system: competition
- We have lost our spiritual purpose.
As a result of these limitations, we continue to fail in
our attempts to solve major problems facing our communities and our
nation. We need new ways, at a higher level, to overcome these limitations.
We need to find new resources that will give us the strength to build healthy
As I think
about how a helping system might be designed in the future, I find it useful
to map a course suggested by spiritual principles. Over the last decade, I have
been deeply engaged in pursuit of spiritual understandings of life. I have found
that non-religious spiritual principles—such as
compassion, interdependence, appreciation, and deep acceptance—open
up my way of understanding many issues and lead the way to change.
The path I have been following has many branches, and the insights
I have developed on this journey support each other in intriguing
and useful ways. Judaism, which is part of my personal heritage,
has in recent years become a rich discovery for me as a spiritual
practice. I participate in weekly Jewish meditation services and
a monthly Jewish spiritual study group.
In addition, for more than a decade I have participated in meditation
and philosophy classes offered by Ellen Tadd, a nationally recognized
teacher and clairvoyant (Mayer, 2007). The ideas I have been introduced
to by Ellen and her guides have deeply influenced my work.
spiritual studies and practices have led to new questions and possibilities
in many aspects of my life, including a new look at my work in social
change. After 9/11, I initiated and participated in an interfaith study
group on spirituality and social change. We asked ourselves the following
big, two-sided question: “How does our spirituality inform our
work in social change, and how does our work in social change inform
our spirituality?” Seven years later, this group is still meeting.
We continue our struggle to understand how these components—spirituality
and social change — interact within our lives and our work.
My participation in the interfaith group has brought me some personal
clarity, but has even more strongly reinforced my need to find (or
make) settings where I can continue this fascinating discussion, which
I would now like to open up to the readers of this newsletter..
I suggest that spiritual principles such as compassion, interdependence,
appreciation, and deep acceptance—by themselves and combined—may
offer us a fresh perspective in looking at the issues facing the nonprofit
helping system. As we chart a new course, we inevitably face questions
like, “What is our vision and what do we value?” Where
value questions are involved, spiritual principles can provide direction.
Six Critical Issues for Our Helping Systems and New Directions
Suggested by Spiritual Principles
Issue 1: We have overemphasized the deficits in our communities.
years ago, I first read and heard John McKnight’s critique
of the formal helping systems that I had been a part of throughout
my career. I found his analysis to be powerfully critical, highly disturbing,
and very accurate in its description of the way the helping system
went about doing its business.
McKnight’s perceptions opened my eyes to the realization that
helpers love deficits. In fact, the entire helping industry is built
on deficits. The more deficits (or needy people) we have in our communities
and the more problems (deficits) each individual has, the more work
we helpers have in front of us. We helpers love to be needed, and nothing
shows we are needed better than the deficits of people and communities.
It’s also true that the longer our waiting lists are, the easier
it is for us to plead for more funds. For those of us who have gone
into helping professions because we really do want to make the world
a better place, it can be hard to accept our reliance on seeing, labeling,
and treating the negative.
that the professional human service approach can “push
out the problem solving knowledge and actions of friend, neighbor,
citizen and association.” He further suggested that as
the “power of professionals and service systems ascends, the
legitimacy, authority and capacity of citizens and community descends” (1989,
John McKnight’s writings challenged the ways I had been thinking
and working. He offered a refreshing view both of the community and
its capacities and of the helping system and its strengths and limitations.
He observed, “It isn’t until the capacities of people are
recognized, honored, respected and lifted up that the outside resources
make much difference”(1989, p. 9). He considered the health and
human service systems, which I’ve referred to as the formal helping
networks, as secondary to empowering and valuing the assets and capacities
of individuals and communities, or the informal networks.
that “ultimate wisdom is in communities not
in an expert” (1990, p. 3). He argued that America’s real
strength is the “community way.” He noted that when nineteenth-century
French observer Alexis de Tocqueville cast a critical eye on the newly
founded United States, he observed a remarkable and praiseworthy thing:
that in this country there are groups of ordinary people who get together
to solve problems, and that these groups give power to citizens to
make more power by solving problems.
Application of appreciation as a spiritual principle.
what do we do now, when, after nearly two centuries, we appear to have
lost sight of one of our nation’s greatest strengths?
For many of McKnight’s
followers, the answer to the overemphasis on deficits has been to focus on assets.
Viewing the strengths of individuals and communities does allow us a fresh and
valuable perspective. However, the assets approach now being promulgated often
produces a mechanical listing of community assets. Combining an assets-oriented
review with the spiritual principle of deep appreciation allows us to
rethink the way we work from a more expansive point of view, one that
allows us to perceive new approaches, to proceed in new directions.
Appreciation involves accepting that which is—both the positives
and negatives (Tadd). To be appreciative, one must be present and thankful.
When we appreciate individuals and communities and their strengths,
we celebrate what is, we acknowledge of the wonderfulness of life,
and we open up our abilities to develop a feeling of unconditional
love for everyone and everything in every situation.
To love everyone
unconditionally is a tall order. The advantage of basing our responses to problems
on spiritual principles is not that this approach yields easy solutions but that
it sets a clear direction and intentionality for the solutions we will devise.
Applying the spiritual principle of deep loving appreciation to the
overemphasis on deficits allows us to step back and examine our own
roles, the roles of our agencies, and the roles of the overall helping
systems in our community with regard to the issues at hand. When we
approach our communities with the idea of appreciation in mind, do
we see things differently? Do new approaches suggest themselves? Do
new ways of organizing our services appear? Do new ways of looking
at the community’s residents emerge?
your own community from a place of deep appreciation of its strengths, its assets,
and even its shortcomings.
A story may help us see what the application
of appreciation may look like.
In one low-income Latino community, a community center I was working
with was beginning a community-building effort. Members of the organizing
group started with door-to-door visits to homes in the neighborhood,
building toward a community meeting. They hoped that this meeting would
bring together residents who would form an ongoing group that would
work with the community center to address local issues.
When the meeting occurred, at one point we organizers asked the participants
to break into small groups and respond to an inquiry typically used
to identify assets: What did they like about their neighborhood? What
were their neighborhood’s strengths? As the large group reconvened
to compare the small groups’ findings and the aspects of the
community that people liked were recorded on newsprint for everyone
to see, the whole group broke out in raucous applause. Most of them
had never heard anyone say anything positive about their neighborhood.
Hearing each group catalog strengths and seeing those good things written
down was an important experience for the people in that room: this
was not just a listing of assets; this activity displayed a sense of
deep appreciation for the place where they lived.
we make all asset listings be this appreciative?
Issue 2: We have lost social change and social justice as
was recently presenting my thoughts on the limitations of our present
helping system at grand rounds at a medical school on the West Coast
when an audience member who was about my age stated, with passion,
that when she started her career social justice had been a primary
motivation for people who worked in human services, but now that source
of inspiration seems to have disappeared. Her observation struck me
as obvious but profound, and I quickly agreed. The evolution has been
slow and sometimes imperceptible, but the dominant concern of our helping
system and of the people in that system has shifted from issues of
social justice to the provision of services, billable hours, and reimbursable
events. This may not be true for new students and young workers as
they enter the field, but they quickly encounter the predominant values
and practices and their idealism gets shut down or goes underground.
helping system focuses on helping clients adapt to bad circumstances rather
than changing those circumstances. Too often, the helping system blames the
victim for his or her disorder (Ryan, 1971) and fails to understand the environment
and the social context, thus ignoring the root causes of the problem.
For example, research on health indicates a huge portion of a person’s
capacity for health is set by social determinants, such as income,
race, and socioeconomic class. As soon as we understand how important
the social determinants are, we quickly see the need to make a commitment
to social change and social action in order to get the positive results
that we want. Only 10 percent of an individual’s capacity for
health has to do with access to health care, yet that is where we spend
much of our focus. Poverty and racism cannot be remedied by providing
Articles on successful nonprofits
are beginning to show that working for social justice and systems change is
more than “the right thing to do” in order to change our communities
and get results. It is also the way to create the most ”high-impact nonprofits” (Grant
and Crutchfield, 2007). The usual literature on nonprofit management success
suggests that we need to look at key variables from the world of business,
such as perfect management, brand-name awareness, a breakthrough new idea,
textbook mission statements, high ratings on the usual business measures, and
large budgets. Grant and Crutchfield’s research debunks these myths and
offers alternatives to these prevailing practices. They observe that conventional
wisdom for extending the reach of social innovation “starts with strengthening
internal management capabilities.” On the contrary, Grant and Crutchfield’s
study of twelve high-impact nonprofits “shows that real social change
happens when organizations go outside their own walls and find creative ways
to enlist the help of others.” By reaching out, these high-impact nonprofits “create
more impact than they ever could have achieved alone. They build social movements
and fields: they transform business, government, other nonprofits and individuals;
and they change the world around them.” Although these outstanding organizations’ activities
may begin with the provision of “great programs,” they “eventually
realize that they cannot achieve large-scale social change through
service delivery alone. So they add policy advocacy to acquire government
resources and to change legislation.”
The six practices that Grant and Crutchfield found to make a difference
are: (1) serve and advocate; (2) make markets work; (3) inspire evangelists;
(4) nurture nonprofit networks; (5) master the art of adaptation; and
(6) share leadership. The fourth and sixth points—nurture nonprofit
networks and share leadership—are crucial for our work in promoting
collaborative solutions. Grant and Crutchfield state, “Although
most nonprofits pay lip service to collaboration, many of them really
see other groups as competition for scarce resources. But high-impact
organizations help their peers succeed, building networks of nonprofit
allies. . . .”
suggests that our retreat from social justice has diminished our impact and
reduced our success. When we look at the whole community as an interconnected
system whose health we can improve, we open the door to a more comprehensive
understanding of the issues and to broad community involvement in devising
Application of the spiritual principles of interdependency and interconnection.
a spiritual perspective, the answer to our failure to address root
causes and to work for social change is to acknowledge the profound interconnectedness and interdependency of
all beings and all systems in life.
is a single system. We know this from physics, biology, ecology, and community
psychology, as well as spirituality. We need to understand the interdependence
of all the aspects of the lives of our clients, the interdependence of all
parts of the helping system, and the interdependence of all sectors of the
community. The fundamental reality of human life is interdependence, not competition.
Globalization will be the ultimate teacher of the interdependence of all beings.
The healing heart recognizes its interdependence with all beings; the emergence
of community, in many layers and forms, is simply an embodied expression of
that recognition (Gill, 2008).
From the perspective of interdependence we cannot separate the individual
from the social determinants. A complex translation of an understanding
of interdependence into community work involves the awareness that
any person’s present and future state is determined by a wide
range of factors —often called social determinants—that
have an impact on that individual’s life.
approach takes this as its basic premise. The Ottawa Charter, which provides
the basis for the healthy communities movement, defines the prerequisites of
health as peace, shelter,
education, food, income, a stable ecosystem, sustainable resources,
social justice, and equity. The charter acknowledges
that all these social determinants matter and that they are interconnected.
We need to consider both the individual and the social determinants,
as well as their interconnections, and then we need to focus our work
on social change and social justice. The spiritual principle of interdependence
is central here. It notes that everything in our world is interconnected.
Each individual’s life on earth is interconnected with the lives
of all others, and with the earth itself and the spiritual realm as
well. We are all composed of energy, and all energy is interconnected.
John Muir, the great naturalist, is often quoted as saying, “When
we tug at a single thing in nature we find it attached to the rest
of the world.” We know this is true of the natural world, and
we have begun to understand how it applies in other dimensions of our
lives. But there are parts of our world where we have not yet perceived
the truth of this statement. When we address community issues, whether
we do so as a group of residents or a group of institutions, we need
to train ourselves to see how our tugging at any specific issue connects
to other elements in our community and beyond. Then we need to learn
how to use this interconnectedness as a source of strength.
and spiritual traditions speak of the oneness of all beings. The new physics
and new science also elucidate the interconnections between all entities. Vibrations
in one part of the world affect energy levels a great distance away (Wheatley,
2006). On a practical level, people who are working to solve problems, whether
they involve local, national, or global concerns, are finding success with
approaches that acknowledge interconnectedness and employ it to find new answers.
We hear more and more that the creative ideas of the future will emerge
from work that crosses disciplines, fields, and sectors, as well as
Wallis, a theological activist, was recently interviewed in the Boston Globe (Paulson,
2008), he observed that “[t]he
quest for spirituality in an affluent society without the discipline
of the struggle for justice becomes narcissistic, spirituality as another
commodity. But the struggle for justice without being rooted in spiritual
soil can become angry and tired and despairing and bitter and even
violent.” We need to meld our social change work and our spirituality.
Let me conclude with a recent community
story that illustrates the power of bringing to our work a spiritual
perspectiveand specifically the spiritual principles of appreciation,
interdependence, acceptance, and compassion.
In Fitchburg, Massachusetts, the Cleghorn neighborhood has been the
part of the city where new immigrant populations have often settled.
It consists of about forty city blocks and accommodates approximately
four thousand people. At present, the most recent arrivals are Latino
and they generally live in Lower Cleghorn. The older immigrant population,
having been there a few generations, is French Canadian and lives in
Upper Cleghorn. The Cleghorn Neighborhood Center (CNC) has been trying
to get these two communities to meet and work together. Numerous efforts
to that end have been frustrating.
Recently a new opportunity arose to achieve this goal. The city of
Fitchburg elected Lisa Wong as its mayor. A 28-year-old Asian woman,
she represents many “firsts” for that office, including
gender, ethnicity, and remarkable youth. Taking advantage of this change
in the city, the CNC invited Mayor Lisa Wong to participate in a listening
session in the Cleghorn neighborhood as one of her first events. More
than thirty residents, evenly split between the Latino and French Canadian
populations, gathered one evening for this session with the mayor,
the local city councilor, and even the head of the city council, who
dropped in just to see what was happening and ended up staying for
the whole evening.
Residents sat at round tables and answered four questions. They sat
where they wished, so four of the five tables were composed of residents
from the same ethnic group and only one table was mixed. First the
participants ate, of course, and then they addressed the questions.
After each question, the groups reported their results and the mayor
responded to indicate that she had heard what they said—not to
propose solutions. Remember, this was just a listening session. The
session was translated, using headsets and a translator. The four questions
- What do you like most about living/working in Cleghorn?
- What do
you like least about living/working in Cleghorn?
- What would make Cleghorn a healthier and better
place to live and/or work?
- What would you be willing to do to make this happen?
So what happened? In response to the question “What do you like
best?” the French Canadian tables said they liked having family
and friends surrounding them, to whom they could turn. When it came
time for the Latino community to respond, they said essentially the
same thing. What a surprise to both groups to see that each group placed
its highest value on exactly the same thing (although, of course, they
referred to different sets of families and friends).This question spun
off into cautious yet explicit talk about the cultural gaps between
the two groups and how there were not enough places for them to meet.
Both groups also responded similarly to the question “What do
you like least?”—traffic safety for the children, vandalism,
and general safety in the streets.
And finally the groups were able to identify mutual issues that they
wished to work on. They then created work groups, each of which was
composed of members of both populations, on traffic safety; neighborhood
safety; and bringing back the community fair with both populations
present; and they also set up a planning group to design the next listening
session with the mayor, to take place in three months. The evening
ended with a hearty round of handshakes and introductions. The mayor
was an enthusiastic participant, an excellent listener, and a great
supporter of the emerging cooperation. By the next morning a resident
from Upper Cleghorn had come to the center to volunteer the use of
the materials and equipment, including booths, that had been part of
the summer fairs in the past.
One can see this as a wonderful example of promoting a community’s
understanding of its interdependence and interconnectivity, while bringing
to the surface acceptance, appreciation, and compassion among and between
two populations. The sequence of events clearly illustrated the interdependence
of these groups who live in such close proximity. All these spiritual
principles were an intentional part of the thinking and designing of
the session. They brought the gathering to a higher level than it would
have reached otherwise and created a supportive and productive environment
for building community.
Conclusion, until the next time
In the martial arts, the actual practice of skills and movement is
preceded by moments of centering, grounding, and focus. We can
learn from this for our work at community change. We might try beginning
our meetings with moments of silence and meditation, where the participants
all hold what is best for the community in their intentionality and
focus upon the principles of appreciation, acceptance, sense of interdependence,
My work and that of many communities and colleagues around the globe,
on numerous issues, convinces me that collaboration based on spiritual
principles is a powerful force for creating healthy communities. It’s
not easy, but it’s much easier and so much more rewarding than
staying stuck. What we need now is some clear guidance about how to
go about the collaborative process in a way that leads to successful
More questions than answers emerge in the application of spiritual
principles to our community work. Exactly what do we mean by a spiritual
principle? How will we know it is being applied? What’s the difference
between an assets approach with appreciation and one without? And what’s
the difference between a social change action based on spiritual principles
and one that is not?
My hope is to help launch us into these questions and for us all to
be part of the learning that will emerge. I look forward to that exchange.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, a wonderful rabbi, scholar, and activist who
marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, talked of the need for “moral
grandeur and spiritual audacity” (1996). What a great call that
is for us on these issues today.
My next Collaborative Solutions Newsletter will continue this discussion
by looking at the remaining four limitations and potential spiritual
principles that can be applied to them. I am interested in an open-hearted
exchange of ideas in an ongoing conversation about this topic with
groups and individuals across the country, both to share my thoughts
and to see how others see this issue.
To succeed, this will need to be a shared enterprise. I welcome your
reactions to this piece. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Peace and thanks. Tom
special thanks to Arthur Himmelman, Bill Berkowitz, Gillian Kaye, Ted
Slovin, Peggy Wolff, and my valued editor Deb Robson for their help
with this newsletter. Setting out on the path of writing about spirituality
and social change demanded lots of critique and support, which I have
received from these valuable folk.
Gill, Penny. Manuscript channeled from a teacher who names
himself Manjushri. 2008.
Grant, Heather McLeod, and Leslie R. Crutchfield. “Creating High-Impact
Nonprofits.” Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall
2007. http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/creating_high_impact_nonprofits/ .
Heschel, Abraham Joshua, and Susannah Heschel. Moral
Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays. New York: Noonday
Kaiser, Leland R. “Spirituality and the Physician Executive:
Reconciling the Inner Self and the Business of Health Care.” The
Physician Executive 26, no. 2 (March/April 2000). http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0843/is_2_26/ai_102342512 .
Mayer, Elizabeth Lloyd. Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism
and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind. New York: Bantam,
McKnight, John. “Do No Harm: Policy Options That Meet Human Needs.” Social
Policy 20, no. 1 (Summer 1989): 5–15.
McKnight, John. Address to the New Haven Foundation, New Haven, Connecticut,
"Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, The." WHO Regional Publications.
European Series. 44 (1992): 1–7.
Paulson, Michael. “Q and A with Jim Wallis: An Increasingly Influential
Religious Leader Explains Why Evangelicals Should Worry Less about
Abortion and Gay Marriage, and More about the Poor.” The Boston Globe, February
17, 2008: D4.
Ryan, William. Blaming the Victim. New York: Pantheon, 1971.
Tadd, Ellen. Class in Meditation and Philosophy. Contact: www.ellentadd.com .
Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. [New
York]: New American Library, 1956 .
Wheatley, Margaret J. Leadership and the New Science: Discovering
Order in a Chaotic World. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler,
What is new at Tom Wolff & Associates:
New Frontiers – Community Directories on the Web Using
I am sure we have all had the frustrating
experience of creating service directories for our communities. Soon
after we have them printed, we discover they are already out of date.
With the onset of the digital age, we have moved these directories
to the web but have not yet solved the issue of keeping them updated
Now one community I am working with has brought the idea of community
resource directories to a whole new level.
In Holyoke, the community has mobilized with the leadership of Enlace
de Familias and created Holyoke Unites/Holyoke Se Une, whose mission
is “to create shared participation and leadership opportunities
among the people who live and work in Holyoke to build a more vibrant,
safe, and healthy community. Together we can improve the well-being
One of the first acts of Holyoke Unites/Holyoke Se Une was to form
a Web Work Group to create a web-based directory. This group searched
for earlier Holyoke web directories and also for model directories
across the country. After they did not turn up much, they created their
own design. Luckily they received enormous technical help from faculty,
undergraduate, and graduate students at the Commonwealth College at
the University of Massachusetts. The end product is amazing and moves
the concept of community directories up a notch.
This new web directory has some traditional options:
- Listing of agencies by name
- Listing of agencies by service type
And then some innovations:
- Listings of coalitions and task forces
- Google maps to help people locate the agencies
- Sub-calendars by category—for example, youth, family, seniors,
- Links to the agencies’ web sites
And some very unique features:
- Search engine for topics and words across the site
- English and Spanish versions with separate URLs
And finally the pièce de résistance:
- Log-in capacity so that agencies can get passwords and log in to
update their own listings and add events to the calendar
This last feature takes the concept of joint responsibility, which
is a cornerstone of community collaboration, and translates it into
the maintenance functions of the web site.
If a particular page of the website is out of date, that is the sole
responsibility of the agency itself, not of some central body.
We would love to hear from other communities where members have also
created innovative web directories.
New chapter by Tom Wolff in book : Community Psychology
Tom Wolff, “My Life
as a Community Activist”
In James G. Kelly and Anna V. Song, Community Psychology in Practice:
An Oral History through the Stories of Five Community Psychologists.
Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, v. 35, no.
1. New York: Haworth Press: 2008, pages 61–80.
The author recounts his life as a social justice activist and community
psychology practitioner. He shares his upbringing, family, and education
and his experiences working in a variety of settings. The story shows
an evolution from working with individuals to working with whole communities,
from working on issues of remediation to working on prevention and
finally focusing on empowerment, social change, and social justice.
Parallels are drawn between his life and the social issues of the time.
The author recounts the questions that emerged as his life and career
developed: Can my work in psychology relate to larger social issues?
Can I find a setting that will allow me to work to create social change
and reduce oppression? How can our spirituality inform our work for
Two-Day Coalition-Building Training in Lisbon, Portugal,
June 2 & 3, 2008
Second International Community Psychology Conference
Wolff will offer an:
Institute on Community Coalitions: Building Healthy Communities through
This will be a two-day Training Institute on
collaborative solutions and coalition building for those with many
years of experience in coalition building as well as those just starting
out. The Institute will be a mix of experiential and lecture formats
with exercises and problem-solving sessions.