Service providers are on the front lines of our nation's struggles with the effects of poverty and inequity. While the sector has always focused on helping people, service organizations underwent significant changes in the 1980s when government began to contract out service delivery on an unprecedented scale. Over time, organizations absorbed the service functions that were largely abandoned by the state -- meeting people's basic needs for food, shelter, health, and safety. Facing increased competition for government contracts, increasing demands for services and tougher measures of accountability, many of these organizations adapted to the trends by becoming business savvy, professionalizing staff, and looking for models of efficiency. Other organizations did not participate in the new government contracting system and instead focused on organizing and advocating for changes in the government's social welfare policies. These major shifts in the sector are often described as creating a divide between "providing services to oppressed populations or organizing them to challenge power structures." But in practice, service groups fall at various places along a spectrum, and increasingly service organizations are integrating their mission to meet individual needs with their aspiration to address the larger systems, policies, and structures that contribute to the problems people face.This report examines how two organizations developed and executed strategies that advanced their commitment to bridge the service-organizing "divide" by thinking beyond individual needs to address problems at a community level.
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