From Amelioration to Transformation in Human Services: Towards Critical Practice
Evans, Scot D.
This organizational case study is concerned with the potential of human service organizations to go beyond ameliorative service provision to help change harmful social conditions. In this dissertation, I lay out a conceptual framework contrasting ameliorative and transformative human service approaches and follow one community-based organization’s attempt to shift paradigms towards more transformative action. I describe the substantive changes this organization experienced as a result of this two-year change process as well as the factors that facilitated and constrained change. In this two-year change effort, I was an active participant and documented the process through observation as well as interviews and focus groups with staff, board members, and external partners. I learned that the organization made substantial changes in philosophy, shared purpose, and internal and external practices and that there were ripple effects in the community. Additionally, changes were observed in individual beliefs and individual and team practices. In sum, initial organizational conditions, clear change messages, internal and external agents of change, enabling structures, a dialogical learning process, and supportive organizational and community contexts facilitated the change process. This case teaches us that this type of transformation in human service organizations is possible.