Maintaining the Status Quo: Why We Can’t Forego Social Change Work in Social Services

Maintaining the Status Quo: Why We Can’t Forego Social Change Work in Social Services

In June, Black Lives Matter co-founder and Special Projects Director for National Domestic Workers Alliance, Alicia Garza sat down with NoVo Foundation Program Officer Jesenia Santana for a conversation about what is needed to end violence against girls and women. From discussing the practice of intersectionality to uplifting examples of successful community-based models, Alicia Garza provided tremendous insight into what she believes creates powerful and inclusive social movements. Through this 5-part blog series, we will be sharing with you the movement building lessons we’ve learned from our conversation. For the complete audio of our interview with Alicia Garza, click here.

Social services can be all-consuming work. Because of the incessant chase to meet the needs of survivors of violence, a large part of the movement to end violence against girls and women has been and still is about providing essential services. With crisis being a regular visitor in the lives of survivors of violence, meeting the demand for social services seems more imminent and worthy of our time and money than social change work. Movements can wait. People in crisis cannot.

However, without social change work, there will always be more and more fires to put out, more and more people in crisis. This is why Move to End Violence has advocated for a collective shift in our focus to include social change work if we truly want to end violence against girls and women. One essential aspect of that social change work is politicizing people.

“This country does a really good job of blaming people for their own conditions. It does a really good job of obscuring who’s really behind the misery that you are facing,” says Alicia Garza, when asked why she incorporates social change in her work with black communities and domestic workers.

Using the example of unemployment in her community, Alicia explains that people are often told that the unemployment rate in America is high because illegal immigrants entering the country are “stealing jobs from Americans.” But, as she saw in her work with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, when you give people time and space to truly understand the forces that are shaping their condition, many become aware of an alternate story that exposes corporations as the culprits for exploiting cheap labor in foreign countries and for the high rate of unemployment.

For NDWA, the politicization of domestic workers begins with giving them space to question the dominant narratives that are designed to deflect blame and attention from the real culprits for the social ills and oppression that people experience in their lives.  From there, the hunger and energy for social change work builds and people are ready to act. Domestic workers, activated by their sense of injustice, have already passed a “Domestic Workers Bill of Rights” in seven states. This is social change work. This is work whose purpose is to target, disrupt, and replace the systems of oppression that create the need for social services.

Understanding the importance of incorporating social change work with social service is one thing. Knowing how to do it is another. At Move to End Violence, we want to share resources and tools with others who are in this movement with us, working long-term towards creating a violence-free world. On September 20th, we are launching a Transformative Movement Building Webinar series in partnership with Movement Strategy Center. There are six webinars in total that cover topics from developing vision and purpose to creating strategies for transformation. Reserve your spot in the webinar(s) today by clicking here. There is no cost to register!


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