THE SETTLEMENT MOVEMENT 1886-1986
One Hundred Years on Urban Frontiers
By Margaret E. Berry
Editor’s Note (1): This booklet was published for the 1986 Centennial of the U.S. Settlement Movement by United Neighborhood Centers of America (UNCA). In addition to being a history of the settlement movement over a period of one hundred years, it includes valuable references and sources of additional information about settlements. The author, Margaret E. Berry, was a former director of the National Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers, the predecessor of UNCA.
Editor’s Note (2): The photos, images and internal links to individuals, organizations and eras were added to the text to enhance the content of the booklet and provide more information for the user.
The settlement movement began officially in the United States in 1886, with the establishment of University Settlement, New York. Settlements derived their name from the fact that the resident workers “settled” in the poor neighborhoods they sought to serve, living there as friends and neighbors. This exciting new form of service was modeled after Toynbee Hall, established in London in 1884 by Canon Samuel Barnett. He devised it as a practical tool for remedying the cruelty, exploitation and bleakness found in city life, and based his program on simple but profound principles: that each person had the capacity to grow and the right to enjoy “the best”; that evolutionary rather than revolutionary change would be effective; and that the welfare of the nation as well as its neighborhoods was dependent on personal communication across the barriers of economic and social class. These principles were seized on by others, and settlements spread rapidly in England and to other industrialized nations.
In the United States the focus was also on city slums and the amelioration of wretched living conditions. The idea of “settling in” to learn as well as to help was eagerly embraced by a variety of caring groups. Sponsors included women’s colleges, theological seminaries, college Christian associations, churches, and the Ethical Culture Society. 1 Reflecting the strength and cultural richness of immigrant neighborhoods, many programs were also started by indigenous organizations created by Catholic, Jewish and Black populations. There were approximately 400 settlements established from coast to coast between 1889 and 1910. The neighborhoods they sought to understand and serve were exotic and colorful. According to the Handbook of 1911 they contained one or more identifiable racial or ethnic groups including Native American, Black, Irish, English, Scotch, Jewish, French-Canadian, Italian, German, Belgian, Dutch, Austrian, Bohemian, Slavic, Scandinavian, Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Roumanian, Dutch, Portugese, Spanish, Basque, Syrian, Greek, Armenian, Mexican, Japanese and Chinese.
These new Americans brought with them rich cultural diversity and a sense of hope and striving which fitted in to the “American dream:’ The settlement program was geared to upward mobility and a commitment to help each struggling group to become part of the main stream. The cultural complexities of these neighborhoods also required humility on the part of the “settlers,” who had to learn before they could give, and who thought in broad social terms of community welfare rather than in moral terms of “charity” and “uplift”. The U.S. settlement movement was also characterized by the leadership of many women, who found in this type of service a fitting use of their energy and skill. Alienated themselves from a society which failed to appreciate or utilize their abilities, they found in the settlement movement an acceptable and satisfying calling. Jane Addams, Lillian Wald, Mary Simkhovitch and many others, along with notable residents like Florence Kelley and Frances Perkins, found settlement work their entry into significant national affairs.
Goals and Values
The American settlement movement looked at all human life as precious, and saw it as interrelated–from person to family to neighborhood to city to nation. It saw the nation as indivisible and the settlements as the “distant early warning stations” which would inform the wider society of symptoms of social illness from which none would be immune. Rather than dispensing charity they were seeking the common national welfare, stressing a reciprocity between classes. This spirit was closely allied to the social gospel movement.
The settlement movement asked what was needed in deprived areas to make a good life possible. It saw government as the creation of society and as the instrument through which the good life could be brought within reach of all. If public baths or a playground or a citizenship class proved useful in one neighborhood, surely it was something which should be made available to all neighborhoods. The function of the settlement, and of city and national federations, was to interpret the significance of such public social programs and to push for their wider provision on the appropriate city, state or national level.
A few settlements saw their task as experimenting with new ways to structure city life. Stanton Coit, the founder of University Settlement, had a vision of neighborhood guilds made up of units of 100 families, which would be self-determining and self-supporting, and able to carry out whatever local reforms were needed. In Boston, the work of Robert Woods presaged many of the concerns of today’s city planners, as he sought to define the function of neighborhoods and districts, and the place of the settlement in furthering democratic decision-making.
Whether the primary interest was democratic participation in city government, or educational and social programs which enhanced personal growth and improved living conditions, over the years the U.S. settlement movement affirmed its overall commitment to social reform. A statement developed in 1959 by a cross-section national committee concluded: “The neighborhood center stands at the cross-roads where two forces meet that have impact on individuals and families. One is neighborhood life, in which the settlement serves as the locus for enjoyable and constructive association and neighborhood action: the other, forces in our culture emanating from outside the neighborhood. Today the role of the settlement has two aspects as the two faces of a coin; function–that is, its services to individuals and its neighborhood; and cause–its leadership in analyzing, mitigating, and helping to eradicate the factors that make for suffering and breakdown.”2
Program and Methods
Settlements were characterized not by a set of services but by an approach. If the original stimulus came from sponsors outside the neighborhood, the approach consisted of moving in to the needy area, reaching out in a friendly way to the neighbors, and deciding together with them what was wrong and what was needed. In cases where the initiative came from indigenous neighborhood leaders or organizations–and this has been increasingly true in recent decades–the program has been flexible and reflected neighborhood judgment about priorities. Because of this, settlements have ranged widely in the activities they provided. They pioneered in nursing services, clinics, convalescent homes, milk stations. They established camps and playgrounds. They taught English and citizenship. Kindergartens began there, as did experiments in trade and vocational training. Settlement workers studied housing conditions, working hours, sanitation, sweatshops, child labor, and used these studies to stimulate protective legislation. They worked to remedy abuses by loansharks, pawnshops, and predatory installment buying practices. And always there were the activities which brought fun and fulfillment to life–music, art, theater, sociability and play. The list is as varied and as changing as the needs. In this hundred years there have been clear trends. In some periods the program reflected national calamities such as severe depressions or world wars. As the century advanced, many activities pioneered by the settlement disappeared because they were taken over by public authorities (e.g. playgrounds, adult classes, kindergartens, health clinics). In other cases certain “evils” which occupied a major part of the settlement’s time were eliminated through protective legislation (e.g. tenement standards, municipal sanitation, child labor), leaving the agency free to move on to new priorities. One dramatic change has come with the increase in life expectancy, from 47.3 years in 1900 to 70.9 years in 1970. This great increase in the number of aged in the population is reflected in a proliferation of programs like meals on wheels or adult day centers, none of which existed during the first sixty years. Another change appears in the current emphasis on preparing youth for responsible parenthood, partially reflecting the fact that the average age of sexual maturity in girls occurs between 12 and 13, as compared with age 17 in 1830.
There have been trends in staffing, too. In the pioneer houses the residents comprised the staff and functioned under the social and educational leadership of the director. The residents were learners, living in a more or less continuous seminar. Their observations were expected to carry evidence about neighborhood problems to the larger society and to result in reform. But as activity programs grew to meet observed needs, staffing needs also expanded and could be met only by recruiting volunteers or paid workers with specific skills. Residence no longer focused on formal social research. The residence, or more particularly its dining room, attracted a more diverse group of residents and workers from other neighborhood agencies, often with interesting public figures as guests. Learning about the area and interpretation of its needs took place in a more diffuse and informal way.
The residence as a learning center, however, required staff leadership and later generations of executives were not willing to focus in the residence their personal as well as professional life as the pioneers had done. Without such leadership, the educational function of the residence diminished, and it was impossible to justify the large subsidies which had always been necessary. By the 1950’s the place of the residence as a central element in the program had long gone, and the word “settlement” was increasingly supplanted by “neighborhood center”.3
The expanded staffs of volunteer and paid workers had many different skills–research, social group work, case work, community organization, education, recreation, camping, and the arts. Settlements were always short handed! During the Depression and until World War II many skilled and desperately needed workers came from the National Youth Administration (NYA) and the Workers Project Administration (WPA) forces, including art and theater. Smaller numbers came in the Sixties through Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA).
Another distinct trend could be seen in the mid-Sixties, with the employment of large numbers of neighborhood residents, a trend hastened by the ideology of the War on Poverty with its emphasis on training paraprofessionals and establishing career ladders.
Whatever the skills needed, settlements always had a concern that staff be well prepared. Evidence appears in 1903 when Graham Taylor of Chicago Commons began Training Courses in conjunction with the University of Chicago. These developed into the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy, which became the School of Social Service Administration of the University of Chicago. Resolutions of the National Federation underline the commitment to quality work: a resolution in 1921 supports the efforts of Graham Taylor “to place social work on a professional basis”; another in 1928 agrees to study the natural group as an “instrument of recreation, education and character building”; and one in 1934 agrees to cooperate with the American Association of Social Workers in defining a qualified social agency. Throughout the Thirties and Forties institutes were jointly sponsored by the Federation and schools of social work and there was a close working relationship with the evolving Council on Social Work Education.
Of all specializations, the strongest affinity was with group work because of its relevance to settlement values–its emphasis on human relationships and on democratic decision-making, including social action. At first, group workers had to fight for acceptance from devotees of the arts, who tended to dismiss group work as being “without content”. The group workers for their part viewed the arts disciples as elitist. Inspired by the concept of self determination for membership groups, these yeasty new professionals accomplished the democratization of some of the national organization’s own procedures. During the Fifties a quarter of the group work graduates went into settlements: in 1965, 42% of the full-time workers had a masters’ degree in social work. This common educational background contributed to identification with the national movement. In the Fifties, with so much program comprised of outreach with street gangs and work with block organizations and tenant groups, there was also a premium on employment of community organization graduates. 4
The concern with training peaked with the establishment of the National Training Center in Chicago in 1960, located first at Hull-House. It was to provide a link between universities and practice, and between 1960-67 it had enrolled 1600 workers from 34 states in 67 varied courses, and had provided substantial VISTA and Juvenile Delinquency training through federal contracts.
The Fifties and Sixties brought a kaleidoscope of events which shook the country–and the settlement movement–to the core. Against the background of the undeclared war in Vietnam which created ever-mounting rage, there were intertwined movements of profound significance for low-income neighborhoods. One was the rediscovery of poverty and a crusade for its elimination. The other was the Civil Rights Movement.
The Fifties started with vigor and optimism–great internal migration, tremendous physical change in cities, housing starts, and the “baby boom”. National concern for some urban problems appeared in federal programs to combat juvenile delinquency through coordinated neighborhood youth services, and in vast urban renewal programs spurred by the Federal Housing Act of 1954. By 1960 the nation had rediscovered poverty, and a liberal and compassionate administration launched an array of services. By 1964 programs like Head Start, legal services and job training were in place, with the Office of Economic Opportunity as the central planner. The Housing Act of 1965 added more resources, and experimentation in meeting urban problems was also sparked by private efforts such as the Ford Foundation’s Gray Areas project.
This was a heady time for neighborhood centers: there was national interest and for the first time, federal money began to flow in support of local social programs. Neighborhood centers were enabled to undertake important work in juvenile delinquency demonstrations, and to participate significantly in the rebuilding of cities, since the 1954 Housing Act required citizen participation be written in to each city’s plan. Settlements again began to see the “neighborhood as the client”: and moved massively out of their buildings to provide “detached workers” for street gangs, and neighborhood organization workers for the array of block clubs, tenants’ organizations, and other levels of citizen organization.5 Whether centers fought urban renewal changes which destroyed stable neighborhoods, or collaborated by handling relocation contracts, for example, settlements and their neighbors were involved in crucial economic decisions. In this time of rapid change, they were increasingly part of many experiments in combining public and private resources in relation to schools, housing projects and services to multi-problem families.6
The War on Poverty which followed proved both a boon and a challenge. Establishment of local community action or neighborhood service programs under the banner of “maximum feasible participation” of those affected challenged settlements ideologically, for many had moved far too slowly in bringing neighborhood residents into their central decision-making. They did respond to this challenge, and by 1968 a quarter of the local board members were neighborhood residents.
The sudden establishment of some 400 publicly funded centers raised long range questions of their relationship to private ones. Soon their ideological fervor diminished as the idea of complete local control met massive resistance: city governments asserted ultimate control, and it became obvious that the victims of poverty had limited power to attack problems which lay in the national economy. These public service centers tended over time toward a standardized though useful program, primarily offering services of public departments on a decentralized basis. But their existence, plus the hundreds of Community Action Corporations (to set up services for poor people), made it clear that the traditional settlements/neighborhood centers had no monopoly on neighborhood service and action programs.
Meanwhile, funds from the War on Poverty also went to settlements in relatively massive amounts. By 1965 neighborhood centers nationally were receiving from public funds a total equal to what they received from United Ways. The interest of many governmental departments focused on creative planning for neighborhood services. In 1966 President Johnson pledged a “neighborhood service center in every ghetto’, and 23 million was appropriated for HEW, HUD, DOL and OEO to mount demonstrations in 11 cities. Additional experimental approaches were set up through interagency cooperation for 14 additional cities. The National Federation was drawn into this planning process, including conducting a study funded by the President’s Commission on Urban Problems.7 Before these initiatives could bear fruit, the political climate changed and federal interest waned.
In these two decades, then, the settlement movement had taken its biggest leap into the unknown. It had moved decisively into the complexities of public-private financing involving many federal and state agencies. Funds had been vastly increased for undernourished programs, and imaginative leadership was stimulated and rewarded. The troubling question was whether voluntary neighborhood centers could retain a unity of direction and commitment to neighborhood participation, or whether their programs might become a shopping mall of services, determined largely by the availability of public grants. A broader question was how to cooperate fruitfully with an increasing array of neighborhood-focused programs brought into being by public departments, or by indigenous neighborhood self-help groups.
Civil Rights Movement
During these two decades the Civil Rights movement was a parallel force. Focused at first on the South and the removal of legal barriers to black participation, in the Fifties it brought progress in relation to jury service, voting, school boards, and the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision declaring school segregation illegal. The brave marches, sit-ins and boycotts based on non-violence raised massive resistance which was violent, but they also brought success, backed by a national awareness that long-delayed justice had finally arrived. The 1963 March on Washington was a symbolic high point of this phase, which was firmly established by the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1965.
Neighborhood centers were allies in this cause. Many centers served black neighborhoods. The first major study of black urban life was made in Philadelphia in
1895-97 by William E.B. DuBois for College Settlement. Mary White Ovington, a New York settlement worker, in 1916 wrote a study of New York’s black population (Half a Man) which was significant for its usefulness to anthropologists who were combating the myth of racial inferiority. Settlement leaders were supporters of the Niagara movement in 1905 which led to the founding of the NAACP in 1910, and the Urban League in 1911. They participated in planning a National Interracial Conference in 1928. Meanwhile, local centers generally worked against prejudice, and in the South, many of them moved step by step against legal barriers to integration. The emphasis locally and nationally was on “inclusiveness” and there was satisfaction by 1965 when the major legal battles for desegregation had been won.8 The national movement was represented on one of the most dramatic frontiers through its Mississippi Project, where from 1966-1970 it supported leadership to sustain the grass-roots community and political efforts born of the civil rights movement in the three counties around Jackson. What few people had foreseen was the gathering storm of unassuaged rage which swept the northern cities: between 1964 and 1968 there was a total of 150 significant riots. The Detroit riots left 43 dead, 1000 injuried, and 2,700 businesses destroyed. This evidence of continuing desperate need provided stimulus for federal social programs and some economic help from the business community. Neighborhood centers were on the front lines as cities burned.9 They were there in Washington on the Solidarity March which climaxed the Poor People’s Campaign in the summer of 1968. They mourned the assassination of Martin Luther King which was a tragic part of the nightmare.
The rise of black nationalism came during this period. Neighborhood centers were heavily involved in this, too, as many were viewed as a symbol of the “establishment” to be taken over by local residents. The long-standing settlement goal of integration was challenged by “Black Power”, followed to a lesser extent by “brown”, “red”, and “yellow” expressions of self-hood. This “movement within a movement” was valued for its assertion of self-pride, but at times it came into anguished conflict with the long-held value of integration. As Ruby Pernell wrote at the time, “The revolutionary character of the Black Movement puts the passion and excitement and struggle back into the Settlement Movement. It places squarely before us all the absolute core of our local and national problem in human relations and social and economic justice. Beyond this there is nothing so solid and unyielding: so the challenge was to welcome this new force and at the same time fight against the polarization of society, keeping faith in the common good and in social interdependence. Certainly black leadership has played an increasingly dominant role on the local and national scene since that time, and accommodations have been worked out. At the close of this “settlement century”: race relations is still a major problem facing the nation and its poor neighborhoods, with the gap between rich and poor widening and national resolve apparently weakening.
Entering a Second Century
The Sixties came to a sad close, the nation exhausted by the economic and spiritual drain of Vietnam. The Poverty Program was dismembered. Disillusionment and the sense of political betrayal occasioned by “Watergate” broadened, until by the end of the Seventies an administration came to power which viewed government as a burden “on the backs of the people”, rather than the instrument through which citizens carry out their common purposes. The subsequent dismantling of social and economic programs in the Eighties left all voluntary agencies struggling to maintain earlier gains, and to assert their common purposes. The retreat from social welfare goals can not be ascribed completely to domestic political events: it was typical in all the developed countries, according to reports made in 1985 at the Toynbee Hall Symposium. 11
In this time when great dreams seem to have been abandoned, what can be learned from a century of heroic settlement effort? On the urban frontiers, neighborhood centers performed illustriously in responding to the social and educational needs of each new wave of immigrants. The settlement movement left a legacy for the whole nation through its common effort for social reforms, insuring that life for all has become more safe, fulfilling, and humane. Progress in social reform, to be sure, was not steady. It came at times when cities, states or the nation were ready to listen to the “distant early warning signals” sent by settlements, when there was a readiness to respond to need, to commit resources, or to undertake social innovations. Such a period occurred at the beginning in 1886 in London, when people of conscience and power were moved by what they heard from Toynbee Hall. It was most dramatically true in the U.S. in the Thirties, when the whole array of federal programs known as the “New Deal” burst into life to sustain a desperate nation. It was possible because settlements and others had patiently worked out the blueprints during the lethargic Twenties.
Today, although the commitment to social reform may be no less, the problems seem more complex or intractable than in the days of the pioneers. They have outgrown the neighborhood or city, and many can be solved only by national means. There is no longer the same confidence that people will do what is “right” when they have the facts. Reform movements have proliferated and have become specializations in themselves, relying on coalitions and mass communication. Neighborhood centers will still be committed to change, still bear evidence of wrongs to be righted–but they will be part of coordinated efforts along with others.
What is constantly being reaffirmed is the continued validity of the neighborhood approach, so obvious it is almost unseen. Neighborhood centers are there. They are accessible, rooted in their geographical neighborhood or district, with ties to the family and all its members, crossing lines of race, religion, national origin and economic status. They are still where the action is. By and large, they have truly “held their programs lightly”. Their flexible approach is appropriate to large or small efforts; it is immediate, useful and versatile. Sometimes aspects appear in different forms, as in the case of the Peace Corps, or Head Start.
There is much unfinished business for neighborhood centers in local areas. Their programs are needed, not so much to provide universal coverage in services as to be the “experimental stations” to develop and test ideas for the future. Blueprints are still unfinished for a continuum of support services for the aged; preparation for responsible parenthood; job training with entry into the world of work; low-rent housing for families; citizens’ advice bureaus. The ideal public-private neighborhood service center has not yet been designed. The urban frontier remains an exciting laboratory, worthy of the most creative efforts of neighborhood workers.
Many neighborhoods still need stimulation and support. Neighbors can make use of advocacy on their behalf, and links with the broader community. But this second century makes possible–even requires–a different style. The legacy of the recent “turbulent decades” is an assertiveness on the part of residents, a pattern of self-help organizations, and an expectation of democratic participation. This generally prevailing spirit makes possible a more equal partnership between neighbors and staff, sometimes taking the form of offering technical assistance to independent neighborhood groups. No longer is the emphasis on being spokesmen for inarticulate neighbors, but on supporting them as they speak for themselves.
Neighborhood centers have a common heritage, but they are no longer unique. They share with many others a concern for improving the quality of local life, and a direct, pragmatic approach to solving its problems. This awareness makes it possible to forge different alliances and seek varied forms in the decades ahead. Rooted in an honorable past, neighborhood centers are free to choose new paths and new partners.
The U.S. movement considered itself from the beginning to be part of an international community. Owing its own origin to Toynbee Hall, it consistently tried to share its concepts with other countries. This happened as a matter of course when individuals traveled–a 1920 letter from Robert Woods, who was on a trip around the world, provided an appraisal of the settlement potential in the Philippines, China, India and the Near East! Ellen Coolidge went to Paris in 1921 to help establish the French federation: Emeric Kurtagh journeyed in 1937 to his native Hungary with the same purpose; Lillie Peck spent 1951 developing a demonstration center in Bremen. These individual efforts have been extended through more formal exchanges Altantique, the German Youth Leadership project, placement of refugee workers during World War II, the Cleveland International Program (started by a neighborhood center executive, but extended to all social welfare), and international visitor programs sponsored by governmental departments. Over the years these have added up to hundreds of contacts. A special exchange has been the memorial Barnett Fellowship, established jointly in 1924 by the national federations of Great Britain and the U.S.
The impulse to share took on its most important institutional form with the establishment of the International Federation, which held its first conference in London in 1922. Ellen Coolidge, a Board member from Boston, and Lillie Peck, a staff member and later executive of the National Federation, separately and together visited European countries and forged links of communication after World I, a process repeated by Lillie Peck after World War II. U.S. representatives have participated in all the international conferences, held every four years except for war’s interruptions, and have been active in the International Federation. The U.S. settlements were hosts to neighborhood workers who attended the Washington International Conference on Social Welfare in 1966, and set up a “seminar on wheels” which included some Canadian centers on its itinerary. The centennial year of 1986 will reach a fitting high point when the International Federation will hold its conference in New York in October, a joint enterprise with the United Neighborhood Centers of America and the United Neighborhood Houses of New York.
Neighborhood centers in the U.S. were not generally pacifist, and during wars they worked to sustain neighborhood morale. At the same time, they focused on means to end war. On a point of contemporary interest, the Board of the National Federation wrote to the President in 1927, urging conciliatory action in regard to U.S. differences with Mexico and Nicaragua! And in 1921, Jane Addams, who was a pacifist and suffered rejection because of it, headed a national committee to suggest ways that local settlements could celebrate peace between England and Ireland.
The United Nations was viewed with great hope, and centers supported it through informational materials and educational seminars. In 1952, as a proxy for the International, the U.S. Federation was accredited to the Economic and Social Council of the UN as a Non-Governmental Organization, Class II. It has participated ever since in activities of the UN and its various bodies, and with the U.S. Mission to the UN.
In the original constitution of the IFS the U.S. was assigned the rather overwhelming responsibility for work in Central and South America. This charge has been partially met from time to time through scholarships for South American workers established by southwestern centers; through participation in Pan American social welfare conferences; and most notably through a demonstration project funded by the Agency for International Develop ment. From 1964-67 this provided for two workers in Venezuela, who headed demonstrations in Caracas barrios and in villages around Puerto La Cruz. This presence was an entree to social welfare developments in South America generally.
The commitment to a world of peace and sharing remains the unfinished agenda of all.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN 1886-1946
The following pages, based on research by Albert J. Kennedy summarize the specific ways in which settlements enriched or improved neighborhood life during the first sixty years. Sometimes they showed the way through demonstrations. Sometimes they were leaders or participants in social causes in cooperation with others. Through the decades one can see many goals accomplished as certain activities disappear from the agenda. In many cases as with kindergartens, playgrounds, adult classes, sanitation, workmans’ compensation, mothers’ pensions, it is because these have become public responsibilities.
Dates given refer to a specific event, or more often, to the period when an activity was most prevalent.
From Alice Hamilton, M.D. Professor of Industrial Medicine, Harvard University Medical School: “I should never have taken up the cause of the working class had I not lived at Hull House and learned much from Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, Julia Lathrop, and others. Life at Hull-House had accustomed me to going straight to the homes of people about whom I wished to learn something and talking with them in their own surroundings, where they have courage to speak out what is in their minds.”
Improvement of Sanitation and Public Health
Made efforts to improve sanitation and enforce health codes (1886-96) and established pioneer pasteurization station (1897). Dr. Alice Hamilton investigated Chicago typhoid epidemic (1902) and others assisted in New Orleans yellow fever epidemic (1905). San Francisco nurses made sanitary inspectors (1906). Dr. Hamilton embarked on life work on control of lead and other poisons (1918).
Local Medical Services
Instituted kindergarten medical inspections (1886-96) and baby-saving campaigns (1886-1906). Set up milk stations (1903). Pressed for school doctors and nurses (1897-1902). Established baby clinics (1903), evening clinics (1910), dental clinics (1908), pre-natal clinics (1910), birth control clinics (1927) and child guidance clinics (1927-36). Pressed for municipal milk and baby stations. Instituted health exams for camp.
Lillian Wald led in organizing public and private visiting nurse services and many settlements established neighborhood nursing (1897-1906). Midwifery studies done (1905-6) which resulted in Boards of Health assuming supervision. Convalescent homes established (1907-16).
Instruction centers in hygiene established (1917-26). Provided education for housewives and storekeepers in storage and display of meat and vegetables (1897-1906).
Participants in movement for compulsory insurance to meet cost of sickness (1937-46). Barnett (international exchange) Fellow Dr. Douglas Orr studied British system (1938). National study of family health and medical practices directed by Helen Hall, “When Sickness Strikes.” Both studies important base for national legislative testimony.
EDUCATION AND RECREATION
From John Dewey. Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University: ‘The foundation of social settlements marks a genuine epoch in the life of the country. Aside from the special useful activities in which different settlements have engaged, it is quite impossible to measure their influence upon public opinion and sentiment in creating a sense of social responsibility.”
Early Childhood Education
Established kindergartens in every settlement until public schools absorbed them about 1897. Acted as interpreter between schools and immigrant parents; organized school lunches; campaigned for adequate buildings and sittings for all children; helped take school census; worked for removal of schools from ward and city “politics” (1886-96). Pioneered in preschool education from 1917 on, with play schools, Montessori schools, parent education, increased education in day nurseries, and beginning of after-school care for children of working parents (1897-1926). Federally funded nursery schools were established broadly in settlements in 1933 and nursery, preschool and day care programs were thenceforth part of the core program.
The “exceptional” Child
Scholarships for ambitious children were part of settlement offerings from early days to the present. Many als sponsored trips, international visits, and other enrichment to broaden educational horizons. A school for shut-in children was started at Hull-House in 1905, and for retarded at Henry St. in 1901. Settlements made studies of children with problems, and since the Thirties have provided leadership to schools for therapeutic groups.
Started program of athletics, tumbling and boxing. Gyms made basketball a major sport (1886-1906). Built many new gyms; basketball teams competed with colleges; gyms provided training areas for police, firemen, school athletic instructors, playground leaders and sports writers (1907-16). Built many new gyms and swimming pools; increased athletic leadership provided by WPA (1927-36).
Increasing Neighborhood Recreational Resources
Borrowed land and provided supervision for play; formed playground associations; set up demonstration playgrounds and furthered development of neighborhood playgrounds; promoted establishment of public baths, and set up vacant lot gardening (1886-1926).
Recreation as a Public Function
Helped secure laws authorizing public and school playgrounds; secured municipal playgrounds; established public and school baths; started vacation schools; pressed for municipal gyms (1897-1906). Loaned leadership for first school play centers. Promoted establishment of city departments of recreation and/or parks. Induced boards of education to expand concept of play to include social activities, arts and adult education (1907-16). In Great Depression sponsored massive provision of leadership for recreational and artistic activities.
Started camps in early 1900’s until by 1946 settlements provided important share of total camping resources.
Play Opportunity as Part of Environment
Promoted slum clearance and neighborhood rebuilding (1927-36).
From Lewis Mumford, Author: ‘The colonization of the slums by means of the settlement house was an important event; not merely did it give the slum dweller himself his first glimpse of art, literature, drama, music, play; not merely did it provide a place for clubs and social groups to meet. Something else happened. The success of the settlement house called attention to the fact that more prosperous neighborhoods were in fact equally devoid of the elementary organs of association; civically speaking, every middle-class neighborhood was a nonentity, too.”
Set up choral groups (1896). Founded 43 music schools and departments by 1916 and 83 more by 1926, leading to establishment of national office, publications, research and training in social music (1928). Helped develop Federal Music Project, which provided quality teaching to group serving agencies.
Graphic and Plastic Arts
Provided leadership in campaigns to open New York and Chicago Metropolitan Museums on Sunday (1892). Held exhibitions and drawing classes (1886-96). Studios developed such as Hull-House Gallery, Greenwich House Pottery, Phila, Sketch Club, Hull-House Labor Museum (1891-1906). Folk craft guilds organized producing rugs and embroideries; art departments increased and needlework guilds reached high point with exhibit of arts and hand crafts shown in chief cities (1925-6). National exhibit of pottery (1929); exhibit of children’s drawings at Chicago World’s Fair (1933); Metropolitan Museum inaugurates neighborhood art exhibits (1933). Karamu House Players present Cleveland Art Museum with fund for Black art and two scholarships. Supported WPA Art projects (1927-36). Art programs and exhibits continue (1937-46).
Hull-House Players tour culminates in appearance at Abbey Theater in Ireland (1901). Theater started at Educational Alliance (1906). Neighborhood and city festivals; inter-settlement drama leagues (1907-16). Seven new little theaters established in N.Y.; children’s theaters, puppet and marionette theaters, tournaments of plays, city-wide festivals (1922 ff). High point of little theater companies and settlement stages, foreign-language dramatic and operatic groups, city-wide tournaments and festivals and open-air theater in N.Y. Significant sponsor ship of dramatic groups using WPA workers (1927-36).
Settlements started immigrant domestic science classes (1886-96). Set up home-making departments and domestic arts schools, and persuaded public schools to take on cooking classes (1897-1906). Increased home-making departments, and also in schools. First edition of Settlement Cook Book, Milwaukee (1907-16). Mothers’ clubs develop Chicago Homemaking Institute (1926) and Better Home Exhibit (1928). Increase of classes in dietetics, nutrition, and clothing renovation with WPA teachers (1933).
Participated in development of art dance movement (1907-16). Delacroze classes and dance for small children (1917-26). Dance troops expand with WPA leadership (1927-36). Pasadena Mayan Dancers and Karamu Dancers at Washington and at New York World Fair (1937-46).
Started small libraries, story hours, picture loans (1886-1906). Started neighborhood libraries and extensions including homes, school rooms, playgrounds, camps and prisons (1897-1906). Settlement libraries turned over to public authorities, and settlements pressed for local branches. High point in club and house newspapers (1907-16). Poetry promoted; cooperation with libraries in story telling, exhibits, programs for unemployed (1927-36).
From James Ford, Professor of Social Ethics, Harvard University: “Except for census data, the statistics of municipal departments, and the reports of engineers, architects and physicians of the nineteenth century, research into the economic and social factors of housing virtually began with studies by university graduates made in settlement houses. Virtually all leaders in housing reform in the 1890’s and early 1900’s were persons with a settlement background. At first they were the residents, but subsequently boys and girls of slum neighborhoods who had enjoyed the advantages of settlement activities became leaders in housing reform.”
Assuring Decent and Sanitary Housing
Made studies and gave testimony (1896-1906); organized housing associations; acted as inspectors (1902); published tenants’ rights (1903). Sponsored model tenements and remodeled houses (1907-16). Organized neighbors to remedy violations; worked on state codes (1916-26). Succeeded in revision of N.Y. State “model” law which outlawed vertical fire escapes, rooms without windows, apartments without toilets (1930-35).
Leadership in City Planning
Helped accomplish defeat of obsolete tenement law (1907). Supported start of neighborhood planning and first national city planning conference (1908). Worked for establishment of city and state housing commissions (1918). Studied displacement in slum demolition (1936).
Provision of Low-rent Public Housing
Helped in formation of state and national public housing associations (1910-33). Gave leadership in experiments in large scale building operations; agitated for state sponsored slum clearance, and use of public funds for housing (1916-26). Worked for passage of National Public Housing Law (1937).
Helping “Projects” to Become “Communities”
Cooperated with public housing authorities nation-wide by providing social, recreational and community organization services in projects from 1937 to the present.
From Robert C. Weaver, former Secretary, U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development: “I want to express to you my appreciation for your significant help during this session in support of HUD legislation. New tools were provided . .. regular appropriations supplied funds for the continuation and expansion of existing programs . .. and a start on new programs was made possible. All of these results were accomplished largely through the support which you and your associates gave as these measures were considered by Congress.”
AN AMERICAN STANDARD OF LIVING
From Charles A. Beard, Historian: “Anyone familiar with the course of social legislation since 1886 and the personalities associated with it knows that settlement workers and persons influenced long ago by pioneers in the settlement movement have taken leadership in social thought and action. It would be an interesting record to have the names of American social thinkers since 1886 who have been deeply affected by the discussions and activities of settlements. I can say for myself that I was introduced to a new world at meetings in the Hull-House during the summer of 1896.”
Ameliorating Suffering During Depression
Offered relief, work relief, soup kitchens, advocated public works (1892). Set up thrift shops and work rooms (1907-16). Supported work relief and advocated advance planning of public works to meet cyclical unemployment (1920). Raised money for relief; worked to make relief administration more flexible and humane; testified for unemployment legislation before municipal, state and federal committees (1930-33). Made national study under chairmanship of Helen Hall, documenting signs of coming catastrophe, and published findings in Studies in Unemployment and popular version Some Folks Won’t Work, providing base for important Congressional testimony.
Preventing Exploitation of Labor Force
Made studies of domestic service and employment offices, industrial accidents, sweatshops, women and children in industry (1886). Further studies of hours, factory conditions, irregularity of employment, health of women in night work (1886-1916). Promoted legislation such as nation’s first factory act in Illinois (where Florence Kelley was appointed as chief inspector in 1896). Promoted passage of Mass. minimum wage law (1910) and reduction of working hours for women (1907). Influential studies included: Florence Kelley, Some Ethical Gains Through Legislation, 1903; Robert Hunter, Poverty, 1904; Louise B. More, Wage Earners Budgets, 1907; M.L. Nassau, Old Age Poverty in Greenwich Village, 1913; Mary K. Simkhovitch, City Workers World, 1917.
Cooperation with Trade Unions
Supported stockyard strikers (1904) and garment workers. Provided meeting space for unions. Supported labor and helped to arbitrate strikes in Boston, Chicago and NY in building trades, teamsters, printers, clerks, and produced pioneers in arbitration (1897-1906). Helped to organize unions of women, and to develop National Women’s Trade Union League (1903).
Insurance Against Personal Economic Catastrophe
Worked for passage of Workman’s Compensation in N.Y. State (1914); for mothers’ pensions through state legislation (1916). Promoted Organization for Old Age Security (1925) and helped pass N.Y. State Act (1936).
Made studies of pawnshops, loan sharking, insurance, cost of funerals (1886-96). Made further studies on evictions, installment buying, with resultant state protective legislation in 1903. Studied cost of milk (1937). Participated in founding of city and national Consumers Leagues (1896-1906). Promoted savings clubs, coal clubs (1906). Supported postal savings; Mass. savings bank insurance (1907-16). Promoted cooperative stores (1918-29). Supported rent strikes (1908). Worked for state consumers’ bureaus, national consumers’ conference (1939) and national study of food prices (1941).
LOCAL COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION
From Stanley M. Issacs, Former President, Borough of Manhattan, Member of City Council, and long-time President of United Neighborhood Houses of N.Y.: “United Neighborhood Houses has obtained practical results in governmental fields, such as more adequate fire protection, better sanitary conveniences and other vital improvements in old law tenements. We have influenced city, state and federal housing, the administration of relief, the services of the departments of health and education. We have stimulated additional recreation facilities in unserved areas of the city. The Housing Authority was persuaded to pay greater attention to the recreational and cultural needs of children and adults in their developments. We have been able to give some protection to low income consumers. A catalogue of such successful activities during the last four decades would fill many pages.”
Training for Democratic Participation as Citizens
Emphasize clubs and councils to give training in democratic decision making and delegated authority (1886 and ff). Extended to neighborhood clean up projects, classes in English and citizenship, help in naturalization, discussions of public affairs (1897-1906). Promoted extended use of schools for citizenship classes. Fought for woman suffrage (1907-16). Prepared newly enfranchised women for citizenship through classes in English and naturalization. Participated in youth movements such as American Youth Congress (1937-46). (Period of massive European im migration lasted from 1886 until halted in 1914).
Neighborhood Improvement and Morale
Coit organized small area guilds for reform (1887). Clean street clubs, sanitary associations, backyard playgrounds promoted (1887). Women’s clubs act on behalf of streets, playgrounds, sanitation, better schools, and finance kindergartens, medical chests, and training for playground leaders (1887-1906). Improvement association work for paving streets, sanitary reforms, additional schools and playgrounds (1897-1906). John Elliot of Hudson Guild organizes block associations to deal with civic and social needs (1907). Chicago Juvenile Protective League organized citizen’s committees to act against ‘moral hazards’ e.g. segregated prostitution areas (1917). Active in neighborhood and district war councils and draft boards and helped maintain morale of soldiers and civilians (1917). Defended immigrant neighbors from attacks on their patriotism. Supported rent associations (1923). Promoted district councils, public housing committees and associations of the unemployed (1927-36). In World War II were air raid wardens, promoted conservation of resources (e.g. Victory Gardens), and helped maintain morale of soldiers and civilians.
Political Action and Voter Education
Participated in movements for reform candidates in city wards (1886-1906). Participated in “good government” movements and woman suffrage movement (1886-1907). Influenced political parties to include reform ideas in their platforms-of major na tional importance in relation to Pro gressive Party platform in 1912. Woman leaders appointed to public commissions and participation in campaigns (1917-26). Active in ex amination of candidates’ records on social legislation (1927-36).
Publications and Studies
Hull-House Maps and Papers (1895). R.A. Woods, The City Wilderness (1895), and Americans in Process (1902). A.B. Wolfe, Lodging House Population of Boston. W.E. DuBois, The Philadelphia Negro (1901). University Settlement Studies, N.Y. (1905 and ff). Martha Bruyere, Does Prohibition Work? (1927) Graham Taylor, Pioneering on Social Frontiers (1930). Many neighborhood, district and city surveys (1907-16) including noted Pittsburgh Survey of 1914. R.A. Woods, The Neighborhood in Nation Building (1923). Caroline Ware, Greenwich Village (1920-30) (1933). Jane Addams, Second Twenty Years at Hull-House (1930). Studies of individual houses and their areas, or city-wide studies (1942 and ff).
District and City Organization
District councils and city federations formed in Chicago, Boston, New York (1894 and ff). Period of district councils stimulated and supported by Community Chests. National negotiations finally establish that district councils are appropriate for Chest or Planning Council support, and neighborhood councils for settlement sponsorship (1927-48).
Settlement personnel serve on public commissions in labor, recreation, education, transportation (1897-1906). Lillian Wald and Florence Kelley suggest and promote U.S. Children’s Bureau, and Julia Lathrop of Hull House is made first Chief (1912). Mary McDowell of Chicago secures first garbage disposal plant (1914). Robert Woods leads Mass. forces for 18th Amendment. Graham Taylor helps secure appointment of Chicago Commission on Race Relations. Jane Addams campaigns for food for starving children of Germany and Russia after World War I. Mary McDowell made Chicago Commissioner of Public Welfare (1917-26). Settlement leaders called to serve in war-related efforts such as recreation for servicemen, day care for children, relief for war-devastated areas in connection with both World Wars. Many serve with United Nations programs after World War II.
OLD AND NEW CONCERNS 1947-1986
AMERICAN STANDARD OF LIVING
Basic changes in the economy, with loss of entry-level jobs, fear of develop ment of a permanent poverty grouping, and awareness that little children now comprise 40% of the “poor”, have led neighborhood centers to focus on:
• Expanding economic opportunities through encouraging neighborhood entrepreneurship, minority business enterprises, and work with business such as the Urban Coalition.
• Protecting the children of wage earners through large day-care and after school care programs, support of year-round school breakfast and lunch programs, and other supports particularly for single parents.
• Protecting against unemployment, through support for adequate workmens’ compensation, retraining, and Full Employment programs.
• Guarding the “safety net” through improvement of Aid to Dependent Children, including measures to keep families intact, and meeting a minimum level of need nation-wide. Also, insuring that all eligible for Food Stamps are registered, and that those eligible are covered in the SSI pro gram of Social Security.
HELPING YOUTH TOWARD PRODUCTIVE ADULTHOOD
The gap between attainment of physical maturity and the time when the world of work has a place for them, leaves young people, especially those from minority groups, in a desperate plight. Neighborhood centers have kept their eye on the primary goal–a meaningful place in the adult world–and at the same time tried to deal with symptoms of the problem-school dropouts, drugs, teen-age pregnancy. Some emphases are:
• Strengthening education, through tutoring, counseling, catching potential school failure in early grades, supplementary programs, and college bound programs.
• Entry into the world of work through vocational counseling, work experience programs, Participation in designing a meaningful National Service Corps, and work with the Department of Labor and the national Collaboration for Youth to establish a national response to this critical situation.
• Encouraging responsible teen-age parenthood, through many programs to encourage a sense of self-worth and guide young people in moving toward a life goal.
• Helping youth in special difficulty, through programs to help substance abusers, those involved in street-gangs, and in other delinquent activities.
Finding livable, affordable housing in a decent environment remains an urgent priority. The current dramatic picture of “homelessness” shows many causes, but chiefly the abdication of national responsibility for building houses for low-income families. Neighborhood centers have taken initiative in local programs and been part of every national initiative to add to the housing supply. Efforts have included participation in slum clearance programs, from relocating displaced persons to planning for future neighborhood life; promoting Model Cities Demonstration projects and sponsoring developments under FHA (221 (d)(3) provisions; developing design for Operation Home Run to provide 6,000 units in 20 cities; and working for all legislation which would build housing, subsidize ownership, provide rent supplements, aid nonprofit sponsors,and end red-lining.
THE AGING POPULATION
The amazing extension of life has brought the need for long-term care to the national consciousness, particularly in inner cities where many low income elderly have been “left behind: Neighborhood centers have moved ahead with an array of personalized services for the elderly-day centers, meals-on-wheels, telephone assurance, visitor and companion programs, chore and errand service, and help with business and legal matters. The neighborhood-based agency becomes the “family” for frail and neglected elderly.
LOCAL COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION
Support to local organizations and self-help efforts is a priority, with a high percentage of neighborhood centers restudying their neighborhoods and doing program reviews, focusing agency resources on neighborhood-inspired action. Hundreds of neighborhood people have participated in the biennial Legislative Seminars since their establishment in 1946, learning first-hand the link between them and their Washington representatives.
This is an over-riding concern, permeating most of the others. Neighborhood centers continue to work for “evening the odds” and removing the barriers to full participation. They have stressed programs to instill pride in minority cultural achievements. In Mississippi, their collective effort gave three years of support to myriad rural programs in three counties, reform of the State Employment Service, and to running for political office as a method of social change.
Selected Bibliography of Historical Material
Jane Addams, A Centennial Reader. New York: Macmillan, 1960.
Addams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull-House. New York: Macmillan, 1920. The New American Library, a Signet Classic (paperback).
Addams, Jane. The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House. New York: Macmillan, 1930.
Barnett, Henrietta 0. Canon Barnett: His Life, Work, and Friends. London: J. Murray, 1921.
Blumberg, Dorothy. Florence Kelley, The Making of a Social Pioneer. New York: Kelley, 1966.
Bremner, Robert H. From the Depths. New York: N.Y. University Press, 1956.
Briggs, Asa and MaCartney, Anne. Toynbee Hall, The First Hundred Years. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984.
Chambers, Clarke A. Seedtime of Reform. Minneapolis: U. of Minnesota Press, 1963.
Coyle Grace L.’The Function of the Social Settlement Today” in Group Experience and Democratic Values. New York: The Woman’s Press, 1947.
Davis, Allen F. American Heroine. The Life and Legend of Jane Addams. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973.
Davis, Allen F. Spearheads for Reform: The Social Settlements and the Progressive Movement, 1890-1914. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.
Douglas, Emily Taft. Remember the Ladies. New York: G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1966.
Encyclopedia of Social Work (and former Social Work Year Book). All editions for articles on Settlements and Community Centers.
Holden, Arthur. The Settlement Idea: A Vision of Social Justice. New York: Macmillan, 1922.
Hall, Helen. Unfinished Business. New York: Macmillan, 1971.
Linn, James Weber. Jane Addams. New York: D. Appleton Century, 1935.
O’Farrell, John. Beloved Lady. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1967.
Pacey, Lorene M. (Ed.) Readings in the Development of Settlement Work. New
York: Association Press, 1950.
Pumphrey, Ralph E. and Muriel W. The Heritage of American Social Work. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961.
Settlement Handbook, The. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1911.
Simkhovitch, Mary K. Neighborhood: My Story of Greenwich House. New York Norton, 1938.
Simkhovitch, Mary K. Here is God’s Plenty. New York: Harper, 1949.
Taylor, Graham. Pioneering on Social Frontiers. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1930.
Taylor, Graham. Chicago Commons Through Forty Years. Chicago Commons Association, 1936.
Wade, Louise. Graham Taylor; Pioneer for Social Justice.
Wald, Lillian. Windows on Henry Street. Boston: Little Brown, 1934.
Wilson, Howard E. Mary McDowell: Neighbor. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1930.
Woods, Robert A. The Neighborhood in Nation Building. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1923.
Woods, Robert A. and Kennedy, Albert J. Settlement Horizons. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1922.
Books Published by the National Federation
Schenck, Janet. Music, Youth and Opportunity. 1926. About music schools. (Out of print).
Dynamics of Citizen Participation. 1957.
Neighborhood Goals in a Rapidly Changing World. 1958.
Neighborhood Centers Today. 1960.
The Neighborhood and Urban Renewal. 1963.
Neighborhood and City. (City Federations). 1965.
Drake, St. Clair. Race Relations In a Time of Rapid Social Change. 1966.
Making Democracy Work. 1968.
(For current publications list, write United Neighborhood Centers of America, 1319 F Street, N.'(V., Suite 603, Washington, D.C. 20004)
Selected Magazine Articles
Beck, Bertram. “Settlements in the U.S.-Past and Future” Social Work. Vol. 21, No. 4, July, 1976.
Ingram, Frances MacGregor. “The Settlement Movement in the South:’ World Outlook, Volume XXVII. May, 1937.
O’Grady, The Rev. John. “The Catholic Settlement Movement. Catholic Charities Review. Vol. XV, pp. 134 ff.
Speizman, Milton D. “The Movement of the Settlement House Idea into the South,” Southwestern Social Science Quarterly, Dec., 1963.
For Further Research
Scholars should consult the excellent bibliographical chapters included in Clarke Chambers, Seedtime of Refonn, Allen Davis, Spearheads for Reform, and Robert Bremner, From The Depths, noted above. All the archives of the National and International Federations of Settlements are available at the Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota, (2520 Broadway Drive, Lauderdale, Minn.) along with those of many national social agencies, and local settlements. There are other notable collections such as: The Jane Addams Papers in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection; Papers of Graham Taylor and Lea Taylor at the Newberry Library Chicago; papers of Catheryne Cooke Gilman at the Minnesota Historical Society and those of Mary McDowell at the Chicago Historical Society. Papers of Lillian Wald are at the New York Public Library.
Finally, do not fail to search local archival sources, agency files and graduate dissertation listings. Excellent historical accounts include: Boer, Albert, the Development of United South End Settlements, 1891-1956. Available at the agency, 566 Columbus Ave., Boston, 02118. Carner, Lucy. the Settlement Way in Philadelphia. Available at Delaware Valley Settlement Alliance, 1315 Walnut St., Philadelphia 19107. Brown, Susan Jenkins, The Helen Hall Settlement Papers-1928-58. At Henry Street Settlement 265 Henry Street, New york, NY 10002. Tsanoff Corrine, Neighborhood Doorways, Houston Neighborhood Centers Association, 9 Chelsea Place, Houston, Texas 77006.
From Brock Chisholm, M.D., formerly head of the World Health Organization, at a retreat called by the Hull-House Board in 1962 to determine future program:
“For the first time in human history the survival unit has quite suddenly become the human race itself. All our institutions, all our values and our attitudes and ways of doing things have been founded on concepts that have now become obsolete. Therefore, these things must be changed if we would have a reasonable hope of survival of the human race, including ourselves. Many of our most sacred institutions are going to have to be changed very extensively, given far wider responsibilities, made competent to do things that up until now they were not able to do-such as how to learn to live in peace on a world basis.
The preparation for change is, I believe, the primary responsibility for voluntary agencies. The introduction and initiation of change, where necessary or desirable, by experiment, by carrying on jobs that need to be done, and then by communicating the effects of that activity to other agencies and eventually to the whole political body–these are jobs that have to be initiated by voluntary agencies.
Whatever the problem, the application is local: it cannot be anything but local. A social agency needs a neighborhood base or it is likely to get out of touch with reality. The voluntary agency needs to be the liaison between the change going on and its implications for the neighborhood, the locality, the particular city, the particular country.”
Source: United Neighborhood Centers of America.