Tools & Resources

Continuum of Response to Social Problems

Training & Strategy Reflections & Trainings

February 10, 2009 | Download Document


Direct Service > Education  >  Self Help  >  Advocacy  > Organizing

There are different methods of organizing or ways of making social change, and all have their uses.



Direct Service

Affordable housing development. Insulating or weatherizing homes.
Shelter. Soup Kitchen.


Issue research. Teach people how to look for an apartment.Cultural events.


Neighborhood clean-up day.Baby sitting co-op.


Propose laws or regulations on behalf of people who don't necessarily know that it is being done.


The people who have the problem take action to solve it. Make the city clean
up the street or provide child care.

Here is an example of the differences:
Suppose an organizer encountered a situation in which there were a large number of homeless people in the community.

  • If the organizer went out and started convincing neighborhood religious institutions to put cots in their basements for the homeless, that would be a service approach. The organizer, and the congregations would be doing a direct service for people.
  • If the organizer started doing studies about the causes of homelessness and how it was dealt with in other cities, and then distributed the information, that is an education approach. There are many groups that exist mainly to educate people about some social issue.
  • If the organizer began to hold workshops for homeless people about how to find a house or a job, that would be a self-help approach. The idea is that people can solve their problem by improving themselves or their knowledge of themselves, and that they can often do it better in groups.
  • If the organizer went down to City Hall to lobby to get the city to open shelters and food programs, that would be an advocacy approach. The people without homes would not necessarily be involved or even know that the organizer was doing it.
  • If the organizer started talking to homeless people and organized a large number of them to first decide on the solutions that they wanted, and then to pressure the city to win those solutions, that would be a organizing approach. The people directly affected by the problem, what ever it is, take action to win a solution.