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Community Projects as Social Activism

Community Projects as Social Activism
From Direct Action to Direct Services

  • Benjamin Shepard - New York City College of Technology, California State University, Long Beach, USA

July 2014 | 256 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

Community Projects as Social Activism: From Direct Action to Direct Services by Benjamin Shepard is an engaging and accessible work that will get today's students excited about the very real prospect of achieving lasting, positive change within their communities. It outlines a distinct approach to community practice born out of the intersection among social movements, day-to-day organizing, and the lessons of five decades of community change practices. This invaluable resource is a must-have for anyone involved in community organization, community health, and community activism practice research and policy.

Foreword, by Steve Burghardt
About the Author
Part I: Theory, Contexts and Understandings
Chapter 1: On Community Practice
A Framework for Action

Community Practice: Theory and the “Real” World

Chapter 2: Activism in a Changing World—Looking Back to Move Forward
The Assault on the Poor

Organizing for Social Justice

Getting Started--Playfully

Chapter 3: Learning from Community Projects
Approaches to Community Engagement

Community Projects and Service Learning

Part One – In Conclusion

Part II: Practice and Power
Chapter 4: Introduction to Part II on Social Action and Power
Case Study: “Set Jean Free!”

The Changing Face of Social Movements & Social Work

Taking Power and Addressing Needs

Chapter 5: Identifying Issues
The “Winnable Win”

Case Study: Jim Eigo and the ACT UP Treatment and Data Committee

Chapter 6: Research as Action
Participant Action Research

Community Analysis Framework

Social Settlements and Community Projects

Case Study: David Crane and the “We Can’t Breathe” Campaign

The Advocate as Researcher

Chapter 7: Mobilization and Spreading the Message
Text Messaging, Media Activism, and Social Justice

Organizing and Narrative

Case Study: Jay Blotcher and the Stop the Church Protest

Media Activism

On Media and Language

Video Activism

Occupy Wall Street and the Media

Chapter 8: Direct Action and "Getting the Goods"
A Short History of Civil Disobedience

Some Practical and Ethical Guidelines for Direct Action

Direct Action: Theory and Practice

Case Study: Eustacia Smith—Social Ministry to Direct Action

Action, Reaction, and Narratives of Disobedience

Direct Action and Storytelling

Chapter 9: Legal Strategies
Know Your Rights

Case Study: Greg Berman and the Red Hook Community Justice Center

An Afterword

Chapter 10: From Joy to Justice: Mixing Fun and Community Building
Defiant Laughter and the Power of Play

Case Study: Mark Andersen and the Transformative Power of Punk

Cultural Animation

Play as a Low Threshold Entry into Politics

Part Two—In Conclusion

Part III: Praxis: From Direct Action to Direct Services
Chapter 11: Social Movement to Social Services: From the Black Panthers to the Young Lords
Black Panther Community Survival Programs

Do-It-Yourself Direct Action with the Young Lords

Common Causes

Chapter 12: From Critique to Coexistence with Capital: The Woodlawn Organization and the Dilemmas of Community Development
Improve, Don’t Move

Chapter 13: ACT UP to the World: Direct Action to Direct Services
Social Services and Global Social Movements in AIDS Activism

Chapter 14: Affinity Group to Movement Organization: Housing Works
Housing and the AIDS Pandemic

Chapter 15: Harm Reduction and Human Services: Experiments in Syringe Exchange
From the War on Drugs to Harm Reduction

Experiments in Syringe Exchange

Chapter 16: The Perils of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex
The “Iron Cage”

A Virus in the System

Beyond Psychic Prisons

Chapter 17: DIY Politics and World-Making: Mutual Aid, Anarchism, and Alternative Solutions
Do It Yourself to Create Counterpower

Anarchism, Mutual Aid, and Communities of Support

A Politics of Freedom

A Short History of Anarchism

Anarchist Social Services

Chapter 18: Multi-Issue Organizing From the Women’s Movement to Struggles for Global Justice
Women, Social Work, and Social Movements

Ella Baker and the Civil Rights Movement

Gay Liberation and LGBT Organizing

The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power

Prefigurative Politics within the Global Justice Movement

Creating a New Multi-Issue Politics

Chapter 19: Community Building against Inequality: Zapatistas, Occupations and Transnational Advocacy
The Occupy Movement

Common Preservation

The OWS Sustainability Committee

Rejecting Scarcity in Favor of Economic Democracy

Zapatismo from Oaxaca to the Bronx

Postscript: Concluding Notes on Friendships, Social Networks and Social Change

Was visually not stimulating for students and somewhat "boring".

Professor Drey Campbell
Social Work Dept, Northwest Nazarene University
September 1, 2015

An interesting book offering a wealth of strategies, based on case studies in the US, transferrable across a borders and disciplines

Lesley Godfrey
Playwork Group, Leeds Beckett University
June 19, 2015

excellent for community social work practice

Professor Catina Caban Owen
Social Work, Eastern Connecticut State Univ
May 17, 2015

the book did not meet the objectives of my course

Professor Alice Del Vecchio
Interdisciplinary Programs, Slippery Rock University
February 18, 2015
Key features


  • Shows how to successfully organize a community project/campaign using a seven-stage framework that links the theoretical underpinnings of community practice with practical lessons from the field
  • Bridges the gap between direct services and direct action in the community, drawing on the author’s extensive experience as a successful community organizer
  • Features evidence-based best practices and real-world case studies proven effective in community change programs
  • Features in-depth interviews with influential organizers of historical movements from the past five decades, including the Mattachine Society, the Black Panthers, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), the Young Lords, and the Harm Reduction Coalition
  • Offers an essential “how-to” guide for community protest—from organizing to achieving sustainable change or action

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

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