Choose two qualitative research studies from this week’s resources and analyze the relationship between qualitative analysis and evidence-based practice.

Evidence-based practice is integral to social work, as it often informs best practices. Competent social workers understand this connection in general and the ways it benefits clients in particular.

For this Assignment, consider your informed opinion on the relationship between qualitative analysis and evidence-based practice.


Submit a 2-page APA format paper that addresses the following:

  • Choose two qualitative research studies from this week’s resources and analyze the relationship between qualitative analysis and evidence-based practice.
  • Consider how the qualitative study contributes to social work practice and how this type of knowledge would fit into building evidence-based practice.


Luke, N., & Banerjee, R. (2012). Maltreated children’s social understanding and empathy: A preliminary exploration of foster carers’ perspectives. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 21(2), 237–246.

Venkatesh, S. A. (1997). The three-tier model: How helping occurs in urban, poor communities. The Social Service Review, 71(4), 574–606.

The Three-Tier Model: How Helping Occurs in Urban, Poor Communities

Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh Harvard University

The organization of provider-client relations in helping processes within urban, poor communities has shifted in accordance with structural shifts in large, American inner cities in the last 30 years. I argue that this set of relations is best understood as a three-tier structure, with each tier composed of networks of individuals, organi- zations, and social groups that can be differentiated by various factors, including size and capacity and community relations. The three-tier model is a useful heuristic both to understand contemporary patterns of service delivery and to design social policies to strengthen the social fabric of urban, poor communities.

In the 1980s, resurgent academic interest in American inner cities led to a flurry of studies concerning the predicament of the urban poor. With some notable exceptions, most scholars directed their attention to macrosocial factors causing the decline of central cities.’ An im- portant gap remains in our understanding of American cities, one that concerns the consequences of social structural poverty for the everyday life experiences of those who reside within urban, poor com- munities. Though we are aware of the deleterious effects of unemploy- ment, gang activity, crime, drugs, and so on, we know relatively little about the ways in which the poor make ends meet in such conditions. For example, if they cannot rely on the labor market for income, how do they fulfill their daily needs? In this article, I hope to shed light on one such area that remains underexplored: how helping occurs within urban communities that are economically depressed and that

Social Service Review (December 1997). © 1997 by The University of Chicago. All rights i 0037-7961/97/7104-0003$02.00

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lack sufficient public and private institutional resources. In using the term “helping,” I refer to the myriad ways in which individuals, groups, and organizations interact to provide assistance, support, and re- sources to one another. By posing the question in this way, I want to direct attention to the ways in which helping is as much a community process, one with an identifiable structure and organization, as it is an exchange between two individual parties.

The study of coping and helping behaviors on the community level is a broad field of interest that subsumes many types of actual behav- iors. In her seminal work. All Our Kin, Carol Stack described in great detail the social networks and support mechanisms that enabled resi- dents of a poor, urban community to achieve day-to-day stability.̂ Kathryn Edin, in a similar vein, analyzed the survival strategies of female welfare recipients whose needs outpace their public assistance payments and subsidies.̂ To complement these and other such studies, I address another specific aspect of helping in urban, poor communi- ties, one that has been given less attention; namely, the social relations and patterns of interaction among residents and community organiza- tions that have formed through the delivery of social services.

Currently, we have a limited understanding of how urban communities are socially organized to fulfill such basic needs as social service delivery. Consider the expressed frustrations on the part of actors who design, implement, fund, and evaluate social policies that affect the urban poor. Many are searching for more effective ways to redirect resources to the urban poor and strengthen their communities.* There are several specific issues that recur in these cries: significant segments of the urban poor seem not to be participating in policies and programs that are specifically designed to reach their communities; funding—under private and public auspices—has not had prolonged effects, that is, after the program or initiative is completed; and philanthropy and government assistance is unable to generate community-level benefits, that is, beyond the level of particular individuals and households. Common to these concerns is the belief that the real goal is to help communities overall, not just a select few who live and provide resources there.

Part of the inability to effect communitywide change derives from the particular relationship that social policy actors have engendered with urban poor communities. Those actors involved in foundation and government-sponsored initiatives—either through an advisory or technical assistance capacity or through direct receipt of funds—have circumscribed contact with (and knowledge about) the communities they represent. Generally, they are in the elite class of community institutions (see section titled “The Elite Tier”). They hold influential positions in their communities and can affect how resources are distrib- uted to different groups and areas. Because of factors that I address below, this elite stratum has grown detached from many sectors of the

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population. Not only are they unable to estabhsh meaningful contact with large numbers of residents, but they also find themselves unable to respond to the range of needs, priorities, and demands of their respective communities. Nevertheless, they are often the only commu- nity representatives who are called on by foundations and govern- ments when devising and implementing social policies that wiil affect poor communities. Other actors, who may help fill the gap because of their contacts with neglected community sectors or their specific experience and expertise, are left out altogether.

To redress this myopia and imbalance and to enable social policy to apply its resources to poor communities more effectively, I argue that a fundamental revision of our current approach to community building is necessary. The reliance on a limited number of community institutions in our policy efforts needs to be replaced by a more encom- passing vision of community social organization that takes into account the limited, albeit important, contributions of this elite sector and the potential utility of a range of other institutions and “helpers” who are in contact with marginal and neglected community constituencies. A social policy strategy that can capitalize on this diversity, as opposed to exclusive reliance on a well-known but isolated set of elite institu- tions, will have a better chance of strengthening the general function- ing of a community.

This article offers a conceptual framework—the three-tier struc- ture—that can facilitate more responsive social policy development in relation to urban poor communities. The organization of provider- client relationships in helping processes within large American inner cities can be characterized as three tiered, with each tier composed of groupings of individuals, organizations, or social groups that can be differentiated by various factors, including size and capacity and rela- tions with their community.” By employing the three-tier conceptual framework, one can bring into sharper relief aspects of the decision- making process by which residents choose (or do not choose) to seek out a particular individual, group, or institution for assistance; by which providers attempt (or do not attempt) outreach to a particular clientele for social service delivery; and by which informal (i.e., nonin- stitutional) avenues supplement or replace a formal means of provid- ing assistance. I also argue that the three-tier structure can be a useful heuristic for formulating public policy. That is, the model can serve as a framework for persons and organizations that seek to strengthen community capacities through social policy development.

Data and the Setting

The data for this article are taken from my ethnographic observations of social life in several urban poor communities in Chicago, the major-

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ity of which are poor and composed of either Latino or African- American populations. For 4 years I conducted participant observa- tions, systematically observing the ways in which the urban poor en- gage in helping and in the delivery of various human services. At times I employed formal interview techniques, carrying a tape recorder and asking staff members, community stakeholders, and individual resi- dents a standard protocol of questions. Generally, however, I would try to observe actual interactions and document actual instances of helping that occurred. For example, I attended recreational leagues sponsored by city street gangs, I volunteered at an arts and crafts workshop held in the back room of a small storefront church, I rode along with a police officer who spent his off-duty hours monitoring neighborhood crime, and I attended community meetings of service providers who planned strategies to overcome obstacles such as gang boundaries. Unless indicated, the excerpts that I have included are taken from casual conversations with institutional representatives, street gang members, and so on. Other information is taken from questionnaires.

Although much of the data are ethnographic, an argument can be made for the generality of the findings and the potential usefulness of Chicago-specific dynamics for other metropolitan regions. Other researchers have documented forms of coping and resident-institution relations similar to those I found in Chicago.̂ However, none of these approaches systematically modeled the organization of social support processes on a community level. Instead, one can find incidents of support and helping that resemble the cases that I report. Perhaps the most important factor that substantiates the generalizability of my findings is the common predicament faced by cities across the United States: large manufacturing industries have departed and nonmenial wage labor has not been replenished; communities perceive height- ened social unrest and violent criminal activity; city budgets are lower and municipal governments are asked to do more with less; and nu- merous families have chosen to live outside of the central city, commut- ing to jobs and commercial establishments within metropolitan bound- aries.̂ These dynamics are occurring not only in the “Rust Belt” corridor but also in cities such as Los Angeles, Denver, and San Francisco.®

The Three Tiers of Helping A “tier” can be understood as a stratum of actors delivering social services within an agreed on geographic space, such as a community or neighborhood. The tier category does not refer to any necessary degree of familiarity; that is, all of the actors in a particular tier need not know of one another in order to be considered as belonging to

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that tier. Neither are tier boundaries so impermeable that absolutely no intercourse exists among actors within different tiers. Nevertheless, in practice, there exist patterns of inclusion and exclusion that warrant consideration of tier-specific communication and collaboration.

The first tier of providers, the “elite tier,” includes organizations that have established themselves within their communities through the continuous provision of programming, resources, and assistance to individuals and households. The second tier, “midsized and flexible providers,” is composed of organizations that do not have a noteworthy history of service provision in a community, that are smaller in size or capacity than those in the first tier, or that are not service providers but are engaged in helping to fulfill a void in the community. Finally, the third tier, “grassroots helpers,” includes a diverse array of individu- als and organizations who operate on a geographically restricted basis and whose success and longevity are a function of their ability to cultivate highly personal relationships with their clientele.

The tiers can be distinguished along four dimensions. Eormality re- fers to both the status of the actor who delivers the service and the mode of delivery. With regard to status, an actor may be considered a formal provider if the delivery is conducted under the auspices of an organized structure—the organization requires all service delivery to be sanctioned and to follow stipulated guidelines. If, for example, a medical doctor employed by a hospital walks around a neighborhood alone offering treatment during her off-duty hours, she is not a “for- mal” provider. Further, the actual delivery of the service is formal to the degree that it is expected (i.e., both recurrent and predicted) and falls under some set of understood—legal or agreed on—guidelines. If the medical doctor told community residents that she would be walking around the neighborhood each week and delivering X, Y, and Z services, the mode of delivery would be formal (although the auspice is not). If she simply enjoyed walking through the community and delivering services at her whim, then the mode of delivery would be informal (irrespective of whether the auspice was formal, i.e., whether or not she represented her employee). In my discussion of tiers, I will delineate whether formality is being invoked in the delivery process or the auspice under which service delivery is conducted.

The second dimension is community relations. A provider ofa service may have a close relationship to a particular group of residents but have less exposure—what I refer to as “social distance”—to another set of individuals. To take an obvious example, an employment agency may not be in close contact with the nonworking residents. This dimen- sion is significant because each tier can be characterized by its relation- ship with different sectors of the residential population as well as by the types of relationships that it forms with these sectors. Attributes of relationship include degree of social distance to population sectors

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as well as “flexibility,” which is the ability to alter delivery based on changing constituent needs and community dynamics.

The third dimension, social networks, refers to the similar types of social relations shared by actors in each tier. This dimension is not meant to imply that all actors of a particular tier interact only with those in the same tier. By contrast, any two particular organizations, in two different tiers, may share a collaborative partner or may work with one another on occasion. Instead, social networks are an attribute ofthe tier in general. That is, patterns of association, communication, and collaboration as well as the forms of relationships with sources of fiscal support will be structured differently and uniquely in each tier.

The fourth and final dimension is size and capacity. Size can refer to staffing, budgets, and number of services offered whereas capacity refers to the number of individuals and households served.

Two Case Studies

The Crenshaw community and the Hamilton Club.—The Hamilton Club is a multipurpose social service agency whose clients come from a large public housing development community on Chicago’s South Side. The club is a two-story structure with a large gymnasium, a computer center with 20 personal computers, arts and crafts facilities, video equipment, and access to van and bus transportation. The club is a branch of a larger, national organization and is considered an “experi- mental” site because its client pool comes from a public housing com- munity that has the highest crime rate in the city and that experiences marginal ties with mainstream institutions (96% of the adult popula- tion is unemployed and 92% of the heads of household report receipt of public assistance; 66% of the residents are under 20 years of age, and the local high school dropout rate exceeds 50%).̂

During the first year of its tenure, the Hamilton Club focused pri- marily on member recruitment and community outreach by providing recreational, educational, and social activities for children and youth— who were its ostensible target population—and for young adults and elder residents. For the first 18 months, attendance rates among the children and youth were fairly low, and adults and senior citizens participated sporadically. The club was continually burglarized, its windows were broken from stray bullets of local street gangs, and the staff were repeatedly harassed, physically and verbally, by local youth. Additional difficulties arose for the club because many residents chose to participate in the recreational leagues that were sponsored by the local street gangs rather than by the club. Events that the club orga- nized were not well attended, whereas similar events sponsored by gangs overflowed with community residents.

To respond to the low levels of use, the director held a series of community forums for families to express their concerns and desires.

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He found that many factors contributed to low resident involvement. In addition to residents’ inability to pay membership dues, social activi- ties were not attractive to youth and young adults who were too busy searching for work. Residents refrained from visiting the club in the late afternoon and evenings due to the violent shootings and gang activity that had become prevalent in the last few years—the club was located at the territorial boundary of two rival gangs. The director also learned that the gang leaders and the leaders of the local tenant organizations had extraordinary influence on the interaction between the residents and the club. The local gang leaders could prevent the majority of neighborhood youth from attending the club, and several women who were on the local tenants’ management committee could similarly keep the adult population from participating in club-spon- sored events.

To increase membership and participation rates, the director made several changes that differed from the club’s stated rules and regula- tions. Social activities were temporarily discarded and a jobs program was instituted in which placement, training, and education were of- fered to younger and middle-aged adults. Businesses were contacted and bi-weekly recruitment sessions enabled residents to meet prospec- tive employers. More important for the residents, the director opened the club for informal economic activity. The parking lot was trans- formed into a garage for local mechanics who worked on residents’ cars; the kitchen was made available to individuals selling prepackaged lunches and dinners, as well as sundry items; women who made cloth- ing and jewelry were given access to the club to sell their wares; a second-floor room was made into a barbershop and beauty salon; and residents were allowed to host weekend dance parties, netting several thousand dollars each week by charging admission and selling food.

The director also helped to form a truce among the rival gangs, a challenge the police did not accept. He promised the gang leaders use of the club for their meetings (and weekend parties) in exchange for an agreement not to engage in violent activity, which included drug distribution and gang recruitment, near the club. Finally, the director placed the leaders of the local tenant organizations on the club’s pay- roll. He acknowledged the authority that these women held in commu- nity affairs and decided to harness their power for his own benefit rather than usurp it.

The residents applauded the director’s new steps at improving com- munity relations. Almost immediately the membership and participa- tion rates grew, outreach and advertising became easier to conduct, and, most important, the violence and vandalism almost disappeared. Now, instead of posting signs on the club’s window or speaking ran- domly to residents, the director went directly through the local infor- mal channels of communication; the four tenant management leaders

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and the three gang leaders were told, and these leaders told all of the households in their respective buildings. The informal networks of leadership and authority were not only used to convey club activities, they were also avenues by which the club staff learned about commu- nity concerns. For example, residents often skipped medical appoint- ments because of lack of transportation or money for public transpor- tation. Hearing of this, the club sponsored free vaccinations and monthly checkups by local health providers.

The efforts of the club to modify its own approach, work within the local networks and authority structures, and accept many of the illegitimate activities of the residents and gangs has had constructive and destructive consequences. Club membership has continued to grow and its status has solidified within the community. However, in doing so, the club has deviated from (and in some cases transgressed) organizational and legal codes of conduct. Children and adults feel much safer when walking to the club and around the community in general; however, to ensure this safety, the director has made compro- mises with local street gangs. Such compromises produced unintended consequences. Many of the residents chastised the director, accusing him of allowing gang members to “take over” the club, some parents allow their children to participate in only club-sponsored field trips and activities that take place outside of the community, and others have refused to allow their children to become involved in any activity held at the club. Finally, according to some club staff memliers, the effective delivery of services has become too dependent on the local tenant and gang leaders’ willingness to transmit information; thus, residents who are not in good standing with these two groups may be omitted effectively from communication channels and therefore unaware of club activities and programs.

Ms. Maggie Madden and friends. — Ms. Maggie Madden and her friends live in a 4 x 6 block area in Washington Park. Her neighbor- hood contains mostly single-family homes, with several three-story apartment buildings—some habitable, others abandoned—inter- spersed throughout the area. Like other parts of Washington Park, the majority of residents work irregularly, if at all. In the autumn of 1992, Ms. Madden and her friends formed the 22d St. Neighborhood Block Club. Their primary motivation was to organize after-school social and recreational activities for their children. There was a Youth Center nearby that offered programs for the neighborhood youth. The center was a local chapter of a nationwide social service organiza- tion that had been involved in Washington Park for nearly a century. The members of Ms. Madden’s block club refused to patronize the center because its staff routinely revoked the privileges of their chil- dren for several weeks or longer if they fought, used foul language, or threw food. Ms. Madden believed that the staff was far too strict.

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Moreover, the majority of staff members were not community resi- dents and, according to Ms. Madden, lacked an adequate understand- ing of residents’ everyday needs and concerns.

The poor relations with the Youth Center presented a problem for parents. Many worked in the late afternoons at domestic jobs outside of their community, and the center served as an inexpensive day-care service for them (one far less costly than an in-house babysitter or a formal day-care provider). When they were unable to send their chil- dren to the center after school, parents simply left them at home alone. However, this was an unacceptable compromise because, when left alone, their children would wander through abandoned buildings or get hurt when playing in empty lots.

The parents approached a local day-care center and tried to negoti- ate a monthly rate cheaper than the usual fee. Unable to do so, they went back to the Youth Center; in exchange for reinstituting their childrens’ membership privileges, parents promised to speak with their children regarding inappropriate behavior and language. They also offered to perform volunteer work at the Youth Center for several hours each week. However, the director of the Youth Center stood firm and told the parents that negotiation was not possible. At a later date, I asked the director why a settlement could not be reached. He answered that many of the children in question were “troublemakers” and it would actually be better for the Youth Center (as well as for the “good kids”) if the troublemakers did not participate in their programs. Although he was unhappy that the Youth Center’s programming was only reaching a very select group of the community’s youth (which he estimated to be 25%), he argued that his organization could “not take a chance” with the troublemakers.

Some of the parents empathized with the director’s viewpoint but argued against his suggestion that counseling was the solution to the problems the troublemakers were causing; instead, parents argued, the director needed to understand that this community had a variety of problems, including poverty and inadequate schools and services, that could not be remedied with psychological counseling.

The residents decided to look for other people and organizations that might be able to help them. Ms. Madden’s brother had received some training at a local vocational school located in the community. The school occupied a small three-story structure with a large enclosed backyard. Ms. Madden asked the director of the school if the 22d St. Neighborhood Block Club could rent the backyard for use as a temporary after-school day-care center. Though somewhat hesitant, the director decided to help Ms. Madden’s block club because of the number of parents who were working and who might have had to quit and turn to public assistance because of a lack of adequate day care.

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The parents decided that a common fund would be started, to which each parent contributed money, in order to hire two part-time day- care assistants. They contacted several employment agencies, but the prices were too high. Instead, they knew many mothers who were currently receiving public assistance but who would welcome addi- tional income. They hired three such women to provide care in the after-school hours; whenever possible, Ms. Madden and her friends also volunteered their time. The 22d St. Neighborhood Block Club approached local grocery stores, many of which agreed to donate soft drinks and food for the children. They called local museums and arranged for free tickets and tours. Finally, they obtained office sup- plies as well as low-interest loans from a storefront church for small purchases.

The day-care center ran successfully for nearly 18 months until the director of the vocational school closed it down because of predictable legal and insurance problems. Both Ms. Madden and the director began searching for another place to house their informal day-care center. In the interim, the parents decided not to return to the Youth Center and chose to allow their children to remain home for the summer. The choice was a difficult one for them. Without a place to gather, the children are exposed to street crime, gang activity, and the pressures from other peers to get involved in these activities.

Numerous examples can be given of relatively spontaneous and informal assistance on the part of residents and organizations in urban, poor communities throughout America. I have chosen to include the above two examples because they help illustrate the general process by which urban, poor residents assist one another and because they challenge some of our strongest beliefs regarding social organization and service provision among the urban poor. For example, the most prominent organizations, that is, those with the largest budgets, man- power, and national prestige, may have only a limited reach within the residential population. Youth gangs, depicted in the popular press as solely “criminal” organizations, may, because of their wealth and local power, also act as service providers. In addition, the above two examples provide a good springboard for a more in-depth consider- ation of the three tiers of service providers.

The Elite Tier Organizations within the first tier carry recognizable names, both to the targeted recipient population and to the public at large. In some cases, they may have deep, historical roots in the community. Especially for those that have remained at the forefront of community-based service delivery for long periods, their presence is the outcome of successful struggle and adaptation. Changing political climates, shift-

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ing availability of public and private resources, and deteriorating com- munities raise unpredictable obstacles that have to be overcome in order for these organizations to survive, a feat that produces both stature and a sense of commitment to the community. Of the organiza- tions that exemplify this strength and reliance, several have achieved a nationwide presence. These include the Young Men’s Christian Asso- ciation (YMCA), the National Urban League, and the A.M.E. Church. Others have established a prominent identity on a local level, such as the Amer-I-Can program—an important community resource that trains individuals whose occupations place them in contact with trou- bled juveniles.'”

Size and Capacity

Irrespective of their length of tenure or the particular way in which they assist their constituents, these organizations share some basic attributes that qualify them for elite tier placement. I have suggested that at the core of the elite tier are organizations that can persist in the face of changing circumstances. This “survival strategy,” to paraphrase Stack, is at bottom a reflection of size and capacity.” First- tier organizations generally have large budgets and staffs. On the one hand, their size is a function of their capacity to generate continued funding. With adequate, and at times extensive, training in grant and proposal writing, first-tier providers can continually buttress endow- ments and fill coffers. On the other hand, their capacity is enhanced by their size. Larger staffs enable them to devote the necessary energy and time to remaining fiscally sound. For some, additional strength derives from affiliation with larger citywide and national corporate structures. Examples include the Centers for New Horizons in Chicago and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Such organizations generally have a developed understanding of available funding streams and pos- sess both the knowledge and the organizational capacity to respond to requests for proposals in a timely and informed manner. Especially within contexts of limited institutional development—where there is a dearth of public and private institutions providing services within the community—the continuity of first-tier organizations becomes even more noteworthy, thus enhancing their stature in the public eye.’2

Social Networks

In the public role of first-tier organizations we see an important con- nection between size and capacity and the second dimension of tier placement, social networks. A strong public identity can become an important means by which organizations remain within the first tier. The impoverished state of the communities they serve is the source

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of considerable popular discussion because of the attention paid by the media, intellectuals, and policy makers. Charitable, philanthropic, and government organizations direct their resources to first-tier pro- viders because of their demonstrated survivability and public presence, thus placing them at an obvious advantage relative to their competi- tors. For example, they are often the first point of contact by local, state, and federal initiatives that seek to disperse funds or that wish to test new initiatives and programs. They may be chosen to represent the communities they serve in media and public forums, to serve on development boards and collaborative projects with other prominent actors, and they may be asked to provide formal or informal evalua- tions of other service providers in their communities. In each of these roles, organizations in the first tier build their communication net- works. The increases in social capital translate into a greater potential growth and service delivery, which in turn can raise their public stat- ure, potentially expanding their social networks, and so on.

Community Relations

Paradoxically, the stature, security, and growth of first-tier organiza- tions have been enhanced by the deterioration of the communities they serve, while their actual relationships with their constituents have been adversely affected by the increased “social isolation” of the urban poor from many mainstream institutions.’^ This introduces the third dimension of tier placement, namely, community relations. First-tier providers generally possess a stable recipient base. This stability is not altogether surprising since they command significant resources and are an integral part of the social fabric of their respective communities. When needed or pressured to do so, first-tier organizations will suc- cessfully attract new members and patrons. They may employ gradu- ates of their programs as role models to recruit new participants or conduct volunteer work, thus creating a powerful sense of historical continuity, or they may increase their outreach and advertising efforts to underserved neighborhoods or neglected social groups. Barring exogenous pressures, first-tier providers will be content with the size and attributes of their client pool; thus, decisions to conduct outreach, which can carry certain risks, are weighed against the stability of the present clientele.

In urban, poor communities in Chicago, the social distance between first-tier service providers and their constituencies has increased. This is part of a general development, best captured by William Julius Wilson in his notion of “social isolation.” Wilson has argued that the urban poor—both residents and their community institutions— have suffered a loss of meaningful contact with the mainstream.’* In the context of social service delivery, first-tier organizations that

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for many years succeeded in providing a diverse array of social services have lost some of their influence and contact with commu- nity residents.’^

In other cases, first-tier providers have chosen not to broaden their sphere of contact within their communities, writing off sectors of the local population as potential recipients of their services. In my inter- views with a dozen leaders of prominent Chicago service agencies, including Centers for New Horizons, the Abraham Lincoln Center, Firman House, and the Chicago Area Project, they offered various explanations for the lack of concerted organizational outreach. Some believed that their existing client pool represented the most promising sector of the community’s youth, and reaching out to the “troubled” segments was too great a risk. Others argued that most of the youth in the community required comprehensive treatment that exceeded the capacities of their organizations. Still others cited the need to satisfy the requirements of funding sources as a motivation for avoiding risk taking and maintaining their status quo.’^


The final dimension of the first tier is formality. Service delivery by first-tier organizations is generally quite formal, both in terms of aus- pice and in the actual mode of delivery. Once again, this is not entirely unpredictable given two of the other dimensions that define the first tier: size and capacity and social networks. For a first-tier organization, the correlate of larger staff and more programming and resources is greater accountability. First-tier providers will not engage in relations with their communities that contravene their bylaws and procedures. Community relations based on mutual benefit or interactions based on personal ties are not precluded, but they do conflict with the formal rules of the organization and hinder effective monitoring and account- ability. The outcome of this formality is that the provider-client, help- er-helpee relationship dominates, and the auspice under which the service is provided is largely formal and mediated through these imper- sonal social roles. This is not to suggest the possibility that in their relations with other organizations, funders, and policy makers, first- tier actors do not communicate and interact on a more personal and less formal manner.

Greater accountability translates into increased responsibility to monitor use of funds, progress, effectiveness of delivery, programs and resources, staff behavior, and so forth. These exigencies foster organizational rigidity. There are more levels of approval before a program can be implemented or services delivered. The program or service in question must adhere to the mission and objectives of the organization. Such steps require deliberation, discussion, and consen-

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sus, all of which make demands on organizational resources. Hence, there is a high degree of predictability in the type, level, and manner of service delivery, but the capacity to provide a service or good on demand and the ability to adapt rapidly to changing circumstances are reduced.

Midsized and Flexible Providers

The second tier of providers is perhaps the most difficult tier to charac- terize because of its diversity. In general, the tier is composed of organizations that are responding to an unfulfilled community need for a specific service, and that do so either by shifting their staffing, programming, and resources or by shifting their mode of community engagement. As indicated above, in some cases, second-tier organiza- tions may often not be service provides per se; instead, their staff may have chosen to devote or redirect the organization’s resources in order to provide the service in demand.

Size and Capacity

Size and capacity are often criteria by which second-tier providers can be distinguished from their elite counterparts. Second-tier organiza- tions will have fewer clients, a smaller or nonexistent endownment, small staff sizes, and offer only a modest set of programs and services. They may only be able to sustain current levels of growth, as opposed to expanding to meet community demands. The latter requires an ability to dedicate internal resources to organizational growth that may not be possible given budgetary and manpower constraints. Some second-tier members will have some experience in grant procurement, understand the ins and outs of proposal development, and possess ties to local foundations. For all these reasons, such organizations qualify as midsized as opposed to elite, and thus they are placed in the sec- ond tier.

The Hamilton Club illustrates that the size of an organization, con- sidered apart from other dimensions, is not necessarily a reliable indi- cator of its tier placement. The club is a member ofa larger nationwide youth social service agency that for the last 3 decades has been listed among the 20 largest nonprofit, charitable organizations in the coun- try. Although its own board of directors does not lend active support— through fundraising or overseeing the progress of staff and fiscal sta- tus—it has at its disposal the resources of its parent organization. Despite this national affiliation, the Hamilton Club is not a first-tier service provider in its community. Its other tier dimensions help ex- plain this distinction.

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Community Relations

The first defining dimension is community relations. The Hamilton Club is relatively new to the community it serves (the Crenshaw public housing development); the club was begun in 1991, whereas the housing develop- ment was built after the Second World War. As I noted above, the club made important staff and programming adjustments in order to establish itself within the community. These adaptations were not made by previ- ous social service providers, whose short tenure in Crenshaw reflected an unwillingness to listen and effectively respond to resident needs. By opening up the club to the local gangs, intervening directly to alleviate antagonisms between gangs and residents, and providing space and re- sources for senior citizens, the club made a commitment to serve sectors of the community that had hitherto been ignored.

The willingness to reach out to neglected sectors of the community is an important aspect of community relations that defines the second tier. The above-mentioned widening social distance is smaller for the second tier because of efforts to contact marginalized social groups and neglected populations. Arguably, the most neglected sector of contemporary impoverished communities is troubled youth—some of whom are in street gangs while others may simply be delinquent, have learning difficulties, or experience much domestic instability. Another important sector of the urban poor that is not actively served is the elderly. Although all the directors emphasized the needs of “troubled youth,” nine out of the 10 with whom I spoke stated that they are continually reminded by their elder patrons that there are limited resources and social services for seniors.

A second attribute of community relations that defines the second tier is flexibility, both in terms of deploying organizational resources and in responding to community-initiated demands and concerns. There are two types of second-tier organizations that evidence this type of flexibility. The first is organizations that are not service providers per se but that act in this capacity to fill a void in the community. The vocational school that responded to Ms. Madden’s block club’s needs for day care is a good example. It is important to note that the void in Ms. Madden’s community was not a lack of day care (there were two other day-care centers in the area) but a lack of affordable day care and a local first-tier provider (the YMCA) that did not respond to their needs. Other examples of organizations that have suspended their mission, shifted their organizational direction, or made key ad- justments in resource allocation in order to respond to local exigencies are a church that makes its resources available to its local congregation, a beauty salon that provides short-term emergency loans to local resi- dents because formal lending institutions deem them too risky, and a political advocacy organization that organizes “community cleanup” activities because of poor sanitation services.'”

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The other kind of second-tier organization is a service provider that adjusts to local dynamics. The Little Village Youth Center serves a predominandy Spanish-speaking, mixed-income, though largely poor, Chicago community. Similar to the director of the Hamilton Club, the Little Village Youth Center director learned that residents did not have space and resources to meet and address a set of zoning changes that were being proposed by the City Council. He offered administra- tive support and other organization resources, even though the board of directors prohibited it. Moreover, he assessed the programs in the center that were being underused and redirected staff and other re- sources to assist these residents. He notes that other service providers, many of whom were bigger and had more resources, refused to cooper- ate. Over time, his adaptations were responsible “for our success, be- cause these parents are sending their kids to my place and not the other ones down the road.”

The experiences of both the Little Village Youth Center and the Hamilton Club point to the importance of community dynamics in defining the second tier and distinguishing it from the first tier. With increased size, the ability of a provider to make quick organizational changes is reduced. This is a significant problem for first-tier actors in their attempts to become more in touch with their community. The adaptations made by the club and the youth center would not be easy for those in the first tier, who must weigh the risks of such flexibility with a more conservative posture that they feel ensures continuous and smooth operation.

Social Networks

This level of commitment to readily respond to community dynamics can carry consequences for relations with others in tbe provider com- munity—the social networks dimension. By altering programming, outreach, or interactions with local resident constituencies, an organi- zation may grow apart from other first-tier organizations that are not only unwilling to adopt such strategies but that may frown on those who do. In Chicago’s Uptown-Edgewater community, a large social service agency with established ties to Chicago philanthropies became increasingly involved in direct mediation of local etbnic-based gang conflicts. A senior staff member argued that as their conflict resolution efforts accelerated, their relations with the service provider community concomitantly worsened: “Once we changed our approach and tried to conduct direct intervention into basic problems of gangs, crime, drugs—that sort of thing—we were seen in a different light. We felt as though we were shaking the boat by trying new things. I’m not saying [that] our friends were hostile to us, but they did take our new direction with some skepticism, and the distance between us has

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grown.” A similar transformation has taken place in the Greater Grand Boulevard community where second-tier organizations have had a difficult time working with first-tier agencies. Their outreach to mar- ginal social groups and “less stable” recipients, to borrow the words of the Hamilton Club director, caused rifts and created antagonisms. For example, when I spoke with many first-tier providers in the area, nearly all of them expressed the opinion that the Hamilton Club’s novel programming and outreach strategies were mistakes in the long term.’^

The experiences of agencies in Uptown-Edgewater and Greater Grand Boulevard point to a central problem for organizations that inhabit the second tier, namely, demonstrating a responsive approach to the needs of their constituents while maintaining an effective rela- tionship with first-tier providers who may have great influence over resources provided to the community. On the one hand, making ad- justments in order to reach marginalized individuals and groups and providing those programs for which residents express great demand can increase the effectiveness of any community-based service pro- vider. On the other hand, any organization’s stature will be partly a function of its relationships with other community institutions. An organization’s practices can be beneficial for the constituency being served while engendering unforeseen consequences for relationships with other organizations in the social service field.


The final dimension that defines the second tier is formality. Unlike the first tier, there is a greater use of and reliance on personal relation- ships that do not completely conform to the impersonal provider- client or helper-helpee roles. One sees both impersonal and personal means of relating to clients as well as to other providers, for example, collaboration is achieved by a phone call and promise to share re- sources and never reaches a contractual agreement or appears in fiscal records. Generally, the delivery of services occurs within a formal structure (because the second tier is composed of organized and char- tered entities), but the mode of delivery can be spontaneous, rely on personal communication, and may never escalate to a formal program offering. This is most evident in the delivery of services to client groups that either do not have history of formal association with the service provider community or who do not seek to initiate or sustain formal relations with institutions. In such situations, making the delivery of services formal is almost impossible. A social service agency in the Washington Park community wanted to find various health and social services for the unemployed, middle-aged men who spent their time on street corners and in nearby parking lots. The director argued

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tbat successful programming with this targeted population necessitates “incredible flexibility. We just set aside a fixed amount of money and staff. And day-to-day, we have to see what these men need, what they’ll get involved in. We treat them individually, which is harder, but it’s the best way because many of them are here today and gone tomorrow. It’s really hard to tell you today what we’re going to do tomorrow for these guys. Come back tomorrow!”

Even witb less marginal social groups, second-tier organizations evi- dence a blend of personal and impersonal relations. This is so because this tier is at a structural disadvantage in comparison with first-tier agencies, which may be able to provide more attractive and efficient services. Second-tier organizations will depend on the friendships and trust that they have developed with their clients, if they elevate these arrangements to a purely formal status, they alter the founda- tion of their relationships and risk a decrease in attendance and participation.

Grassroots Helpers Individuals, social groups, and organizations compose the third tier of service providers, often thought of as organizations and individuals operating at the “grassroots.” The presence of individuals and social groups—as opposed to organizations alone—that deliver a particular service or fulfill a community need is itself a defining attribute of the third tier. In the second tier, an individual may dedicate the resources of his or her organization to respond to a local demand; in the third tier, individuals will act by themselves or with several other persons without the support of an official organization.’^ One caveat is that grassroots organizations can have a variety of guises, but I restrict my focus to those that are involved in social service provision; for example, a community development corporation that promotes housing con- struction is not included despite its belief that it is grassroots because it acts on behalf of the most impoverished residents.

Size and Capacity

The size and capacity of third-tier constituents is the dimension that distinguishes them from their first- and second-tier counterparts. In ghetto communities, grassroots providers typically work from one- room offices, rent small commercial or residential spaces, or continu- ally move about, using free space in apartments, churches, and even restaurants. They possess modest resources, such as limited office sup- plies and sparse recreational equipment, and function more as club- houses for individuals and families to congregate rather than as provid- ers of diverse programming. They survive through affiliations with

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local churches, occasional foundation support, minimal municipal sup- port (e.g., mobile health clinic. Parks Department programming), do- nations from community-based businesses and organizations, and the generosity of individual donors. Illegitimate social groups such as street gangs may occasionally be quite large (e.g., in Chicago, neigh- borhood gangs can contain several hundred members), with member- ship continually shifting with individual interest, law enforcement ac- tivities, and the social and geographic mobility of the members themselves. Their presence within urban, poor neighborhoods is com- plex. In the last 2 decades, they have assumed a powerful influence on marginalized youth who are losing meaningful contact with educa- tional institutions or who are unable to find local employment opportu- nities. Many youth gangs act as employment agents, offering attractive opportunities for illicit income. At times, they may provide direct services, as discussed above.

A similar, though slightly less organized, version of grassroots orga- nizations composes the final type in the third tier. These are social groups that come together to complete a particular task and remain in existence only until the task is completed. They also will likely have no office space nor possess the necessary resources to act in the capacity of a service provider or community organizer. However, they will provide services on an ongoing, or at least a somewhat systematic, basis as long as funding, interest, and manpower exist (Ms. Madden’s 22d Street Neighborhood Block Club is an example). In many impov- erished Chicago communities, such informal groups provide security- related services. For example, members note the presence of unfamil- iar parked cars, report to the police “crack houses” or abandoned buildings that may act as havens for drug selling or prostitution, moni- tor the movements of others’ children, and so on.

Community Relations

Community relations is an important distinguishing characteristic of the third tier. Grassroots organizations serve disproportionately the most socially isolated sectors ofthe community, those with the weakest attachments to mainstream institutions. Indeed, many members ofthe groups that provide services are themselves community residents who have weak ties to the mainstream. Recipients of third-tier services have poor relations with first- and second-tier actors for several reasons: they may lack knowledge of the services available in their areas; they may not like large organizations and their formal, bureaucratic means of interaction and communication (preferring instead the informality of the smaller providers); or they may have developed antagonistic relations with local institutions because of differences in opinion re- garding service delivery or programming design. Thus, those in the

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third tier cater to multiple segments of the community, who are either shunned by or in self-exile from the elite and midsized providers.

Social Networks

The tendency to serve a highly marginalized clientele reinforces the localized social networks of the third tier. Third-tier providers will often operate within a highly bounded geographic setting. In this sense, not just street gangs but grassroots organizations as well gener- ally are “territorial.” (Do not conflate confinement to a small geo- graphic area because of limited resources with the “turf” motivations of larger providers who seek to hold onto their geographic-based client pool.) Their restrictive quality limits the type and range of communica- tion and interaction that is possible. For example, streets and little used parking lots and parks are good spaces for dialogue, information exchange, needs assessment, outreach, and advertisement for third- tier providers. In the case of block clubs, the range of communication and interaction is further restricted; the front porch or lawn serves as the ostensible public space for social intercourse. Occasionally, third- tier providers may be asked to collaborate with a larger service provider and may receive support from municipal agencies, such as those con- cerned with public health or parks and recreation. But these opportu- nities are infrequent. In general, opportunities to expand communica- tion networks and partnership bases are rare.

Consider the Woodlawn African Association, which provides week- end Afrocentric education and offers general, secondary school tu- toring. One day each week, volunteers seek out teenage drug dealers, truants, and others who spend afternoons in parks and in front of corner stores. They spread the word of their weekend educational services, which are held in the basement of a building that they rent for $50 per month. The organizers informed me that they never walk out of their immediate area (because they see themselves “as, of, and for” the Woodlawn community) and that their only collaborations have occurred with several nearby businesses that have donated school supplies or food. They have never applied formally for external sup- port; they have turned down several offers to respond to a request for proposal because, in the words of their director, “we don’t know how to act with these rich folk. Hell! We don’t even have letterhead, so how you figure we’re going to have a chance to get the money.” Instead, he prefers to rely on the few connections that he already possesses, rotating his “begging from place to place so that nobody feels like they have to give me something all the time.”

Tbe restrictive social networks of the third tier combined witb a minimal resource base also lead to primarily informal service delivery methods (irrespective of whether there is a formal organizational

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structure—e.g., the street gang or the grassroots organization). Lack- ing continuous funding and resources that would make service provi- sion continuous, grassroots organizations deliver different services at different times, and services may have little advance notice, which is feasible because of their geographically restricted service area. Loosely organized social groups coalesce generally to fulfill a particular need and do not generate large expectations in their surrounding commu- nity. Thus, there is little pressure or need to formalize their service delivery. For youth gangs, though some offer recreational and social programs for their members and communities, this is often done spon- taneously because they need to locate a facility for their basketball tournament, softball league, or dance, and they need to engage in diplomacy with local residents, police, and other organizations to spon- sor such activities. They are largely unable to advertise or make prom- ises about future services given these constraints; thus, their service delivery is also informal. With respect to each of these actors, more so than the second tier, highly personalized relations characterize their exchange of services. Both provider and recipient will have intimate knowledge of one another and share numerous affective ties—neigh- bor, friend, gang member, peer, kin. In those rare cases in which the social roles are impersonal and bureaucratized, over time, as the parties become acquainted, more personal forms of communication and inter- action develop. As an indication of growing intimacy between the third tier and urban, poor communities in general, increasingly it is grassroots providers who are at the forefront of small-scale social movements in the South Side and West Side ghettos of Chicago.̂ ”

In general, to increase capacity and expand social networks, third- tier actors typically need another person, group, or organization out- side of their tier who can act as an intermediary and put them in contact with other tier representatives. I address this dynamic in the concluding section on social policy. For now, it is enough to point out that because of the historic Ijoundaries that separate these tiers, this is a difficult task. The bridge is not simply one of introduction; two different means of communication and perception must often be linked together so that productive relationships can emerge.

The Three-Tier Model and Social Policy In outlining social interaction in the different tiers, I have suggested that despite severe economic dislocations, urban, poor communities continue to have strong social networks as well as numerous individuals committed to local improvement. By “strong,” I am not implying that the institutional foundations of contemporary inner cities are com- pletely intact. Neither am I suggesting that individuals, households, groups, and organizations in the inner city are working harmoniously

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with one another and simply need to be placed in better touch with the surrounding “mainstream.” As I point out later, mainstreaming is not always the best solution to enhance the capacities of distressed communities or to put them in contact with social institutions in the larger society. Instead, I am suggesting that there are identifiable social relations in urban poor neighborhoods and that this existing social organization can itself serve as a foundation for efforts to increase the effectiveness of community functioning. ‘̂ Summarily stated, commu- nity capacities can be reinforced and strengthened in a manner that is both top-down and bottom-up. To do so requires a twofold, dynamic posture. On the one hand, resources (and ideas) will need to come from outside the community. On the other hand, how these policies become instantiated (i.e., both designed and implemented) will be mediated by the knowledge and patterns of social intercourse in the community itself. To date, it is precisely the recognition and use of existing community social organization when allocating resources to urban, poor spaces that is missing in our publicly and privately funded policies and initiatives.

Marginal or Neglected Groups

The first step to more responsive and effective community engagement is to gain an understanding of how the targered community and client pool is socially organized. Patterns of communication and interaction determine the ways residents gain and disseminate information about organizations that exist in tbeir community and about the availability of services. There are tier-specific ways of communicating and inter- acting whereby each tier can generate different expectations, roles, and obligations for both provider and client and employ specific meth- ods for outreach, advertisement, and membership and client recruit- ment. Although informal communication is by no means the property of the actors as the grassroots level, their level of advanced communica- tions technology, relation with a highly localized client pool, and mea- ger resources force them to rely heavily on knowledge of local social networks and informal conversation to maintain an effective commu- nity presence.

Knowledge of and respect for the specific forms of communication and interaction in each tier will enable funders and policy planners to gain greater access to the range of organizations and client pools that inhabit the community. Consider the example of two individuals, each of whom is a recipient of a similar service. The first uses the services of an agency yet is unfamiliar with other clients, has not met the supervisor, and knows few of the staff members in other than a formal capacity. The second recipient knows the majority of agency patrons (many of whom live close by), routinely sees the supervisor out of tbe

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office talking with residents, and, on occasion, has borrowed money from staff members. Neither relationship is inherently superior, yet the two persons will have different expectations of their agencies. Each will feel a different level of identification, attachment, and investment, and each will make different types of sacrifices, if needed, for the benefit of the organization. Our attempts to strengthen institutions must recognize such highly differentiated relations and patterns of interaction so we do not force either agency (and their recipients) to act in a capacity that departs dramatically from its existing mode of interaction. Where efforts require engagement with organizations of different tiers, there must be present a willingness to speak the lan- guage of each tier or to allow for different forms of communication and interaction (none of which necessarily entails sacrificing demands of responsibility and accountability).

Another means of engaging marginal or neglected groups is to use individuals in the third tier who have status in community networks. A tenant rights activist, a storefront church pastor, a grocery store manager active in local charitable activities, a founder of a block club or community watch program, and a street gang leader afford external agencies access to numerous, often marginalized, social groupings. In the past, these persons have served as frontline contacts for law enforcement agencies. Similarly, persons occupying these third-tier roles can facilitate outreach for community-building efforts. Where it is appropriate, community-based initiatives may bring aboard such a person in a governance or advisory capacity, or a community-building initiative can employ these individuals as intermediaries. In many cases, explicit aknowledgment of their importance for strengthening the social fabric will be enough motivation for local stakeholders to participate.

The above practices not only enable funds to be allocated more efficiently and marginalized groups to be incorporated, but they estab- lish important links between urban poor communities and the main- stream. Both for government agencies and philanthropic organiza- tions interested in developing long-term relationships with a community, individuals at the grassroots level can provide important future community liaisons. They provide a barometer to assess tbe effects of community building or service reform strategies and to check the results of more formal evaluations. They can also assist both a broader and a deeper distribution of funding by providing information about community needs that formal needs assessments (which can be time and cost prohibitive) may not permit.

The evaluation of an initiative can similarly assess the extent to which third-tier stakeholders were used in the early conception, design, and implementation phases. For a government agency that is involved in numerous sites and in different cities, such assessment can afford

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an immediate, fairly reliable indicator of the type of effect a program has had in the overall community. At the very least, gaining this infor- mation early on will enable the agency to pursue subsequent evalua- tion on a more informed basis.

How does one gain an understanding ofthe myriad forms of interac- tion? Adopting a long-term perspective and understanding that knowl- edge building is an iterative process is a first step. When in the commu- nity, asking different organizations how they make their services known to their population will yield many different answers, which can be classified and gradually differentiated according to the tier criteria outlined above. Similarly, informal conversations with key spokespersons and stakeholders regarding how helping occurs will yield valuable anecdotes, from which information can be gleaned and community contacts made. Over time, patterns will become apparent. Knowledge will be gained that can be applied to the design or evalua- tion of an initiative. More informed questions can further be posed. Similarly, in the longer term, areas of strength and deficiency in com- munity capacities can be better identified and the relevant individual, group, or organization can be brought into the mix. This accretion of knowledge about community-level dynamics, structured in this sys- tematic manner by tier, will enable individuals who work outside of the community to gain a more informed basis from which to make decisions. In other words, their information will no longer be mediated by their reliance on first-tier institutions that are currently the primary spokespersons for urban, poor communities.

Using the First Tier Effectively

The first tier is not well connected to many resident constituencies, yet elite organizations currently command or influence the bulk of the public and private dollars that are being invested to strengthen the institutional sector. The challenge is to find ways to ensure the success of first-tier organizations while making them more responsive to a range of community concerns and demands, not just to the select few who are their patrons. To do so, and thus to tap into the potential of their second- and third-tier counterparts, the current influence of the first tier must be altered or, at the very least, kept in check. External agencies, such as charitable foundations, philanthropies, and govern- ment agencies, can employ several strategies to help achieve this transformation.

One strategy is to be more vigilant in monitoring the activities of first- tier organizations. If they claim to represent the “community” as such, they should be asked to do more than sustain their extant levels of programming, especially if there is information that suggests that they are reaching only a small proportion of residents. Currently, Comprehensive

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Community Initiatives have asked governance entities to ii dent participation,” and the response generally has been to include a few residents or less well-established service providers or to use “focus groups” to uncover community needs. Although necessary, such efforts are insufficient. Thus, more than pressure to include resident participa- tion is needed. Pressure must be specifically directed to structural issues. Non-first-tier client groups must not only be represented but placed in positions of leadership, counsel, and decision making.

First-tier organizations should be asked to demonstrate an under- standing of the population that they serve and explain their posture in relation to other tiers (residents and organizations). This level of accountability also places responsibility on funding agents to be more active in their evaluation, technical assistance, and review process. The recipient organization should describe the demographics and general community status of participants—are they members of street gangs? are unemployed families as well as those out of the labor force repre- sented? are there any high school dropouts?—and should have some idea of community sectors that are not participating in the program (and why). If the contours of the organization’s programming do not enable broader outreach into the community, the grantee should not only explain why but should provide a concrete longer-term plan that will redress this restrictive community posture.

If the funded initiative includes multiple actors and seeks to promote collaboration among those involved, first-tier organizations—most probably those in the leadership positions—should make clear the types of roles that less well established organizations possess, how decision making is delineated in the initiative, and whether funding is distributed equitably to all participants. Wherever possible, education and training should be present for second- and third-tier actors, in- cluding proposal and grant development, funding opportunities, budgetary management, staff development, and so on. Such initiatives should be conceived as community-building efforts and not only as

Finally, though not requisite, external agencies that enter poor com- munities in order to design, fund, evaluate, or advise on social policies will benefit by taking greater responsibility to learn about the tier differentiation of the community. This can greatly reduce dependence on the limited knowledge and experience of first-tier institutions. Ideally, this will occur over time, based on continuous, cumulatively gathered knowledge that can be brought to bear on interactions with elite tier and other agencies. This is obviously possible in only a few situations, such as when a government agency or foundation makes a commitment to a limited number of communities or when a municipal agency can draw on its deep knowledge and experience in local mat- ters. However, where the city or territory is less familiar, at the least.

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the external agency can pose general questions to the local contact regarding tier presence, neglected constituents, and so forth.

Making Use of the Second and Third Tier

Working with second- and third-tier providers (and reaching their constituencies) is not an easy task. I have already suggested one con- crete step that can be taken: external entities can use local channels of communication and stakeholders in order to reach a broader client pool. (Moreover, if actors engaged in social policy adopted this strat- egy, their own social networks would be enhanced.) Below, I outline additional tactics. Although much of the discussion is pertinent for both tiers, when necessary I will specify the particular challenges posed by the midsized and grassroots sectors, respectively. I begin with an example from Chicago’s Woodlawn community.

In Woodlawn, a social service agency in the first tier wanted to sponsor a track meet that brought together adolescents and youth from Woodlawn and surrounding neighborhoods. The agency hoped to use the track meet as a way to promote collaboration among service providers in the area. It obtained the necessary funds, used primarily to purchase equipment and offer part-time employment to older youth as referees and coaches. Its efforts were hampered because none of the children from surrounding neighborhoods would come into the boundaries of Woodlawn. The street gang within Woodlawn is an “enemy” street gang; thus, children were afraid to walk into the com- munity. One option was to employ the street gang leaders in the track meet, using the latter as a bridge to promote friendly interaction among the gangs. This would have created a direct link between first and third tiers, much like the Youth Center in the Crenshaw commu- nity. However, the staff members were reluctant to approach the street gangs, partly because they did not wish to give the gang leaders any indication that they were interested in developing a longer-term rela- tionship but also because they feared the repercussions from other first-tier organizations and their funders if they made such nontradi- tional use of their budget. They sensed that other community institu- tions were not only vehemently against street gang activity but would not look favorably on their attempts to contact and institute a formal relation with street gang leaders.

The Woodlawn social service agency in this example has many op- tions to address the problems of participation for youth outside of the community—of which direct consultation with gang leaders is only one. Its greatest failure was not understanding existing community dynamics. If it had known ofthe potential barriers, it could have taken into account mobility issues for children by moving its track meet to a more suitable venue and renting a van or bus to transport partici-

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pants. Or, this knowledge might have allowed the agency to make a thoughtful and forceful argument for employing street gang leaders, thus addressing the apprehensions of its colleagues in the first tier (as well as its funder). Finally, there may already exist other second- and third-tier organizations (or community leaders) that have close ties to or are already working in a preventive or intervention capacity with the local gangs. These would be important sources of counseling and the first point of contact for confronting current and future problems with local gang activity.

This example raises several general issues concerning the use of second- and third-tier actors. To begin, at what level of involvement can second- and third-tier organizations be useful in community- building processes? I argued above that many such organizations and informal social groups are effective because of their informality and their intimate links with the local community. Incorporation into a reform initiative or social policy can compromise this community rela- tionship. What had been gained in terms of enlisting a non-first-tier agency could potentially be lost if the process of incorporation dramat- ically alters the behavior of the agency.̂ ^

In some cases, it may be sufficient to recognize the presence of existing second- and third-tier actors, develop and sustain good rela- tions with them, and understand that they serve as important channels of communication, information, and service implementation. Where more formal participation is understood to be beneficial for the policy being implemented, a measure of flexibility should be adopted in order to avoid several problems. First, although they may appear tran- sitory or fleeting, the social relations of institutions and clients in the second and third tier are structured in identifiable ways. Incorporating these actors by involving them in community collaboration initiatives, social policies, or philanthropic resource allocation can lead to disrup- tions in these arrangements. For example, their inclusion in a promi- nent foundation-sponsored initiative may subordinate them and un- dermine their existing leadership roles. If their constituency learns of their newfound connections or community role, demands on them may increase. If the demands are not met, they may be responsible for unfulfilled expectations, thus worsening their relations with their constituents. In the case of second-tier actors who are ostensibly not service providers and who are only fulfilling a temporary community need, mcorporation into a formal human service initiative may not be appropriate.

The grassroots sector presents its own set of difficulties because many of its constituents are saddled with tremendous fiscal constraints and routinely disband and reform as their resources ebb and flow. Similarly, although for different reasons, a block dub or community stakeholder may have a tenuous existence laying dormant (thus, not

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easily located) until a community exigency brings them into the public eye. Use of the third tier must acknowledge such impermanence.

Avoiding such pitfalls when working with either second- or third-tier providers requires an honest appraisal by all parties of their respective capacities and limitations. It also entails a certain commitment by the sponsors to what may be unique second- and third-tier needs or de- mands, for example, promise of resources up front, acknowledgment that the nature of expenditures in program and outreach efforts may differ in the second and third tier, expanding the measures of program outcomes, and modifying evaluative criteria.

Municipal agencies and charitable foundations are uniquely posi- tioned to build community capacities through the use of the second and third tier. Both actors often orient themselves to particular com- munities, directing a large share of resources to a limited number of sites on the assumption that this strategy can have secondary effects on the community level (such reasoning may be absent or understated in the calculus of federal government financing, where patterns of distribution are more susceptible to political and ideological shifts). As such, a foundation or city agency may decide to fund or support a program for reasons that may not be directly related to the program itself but that have indirect importance for the social fabric of the community overall. These include supporting the fiscal needs of a struggling but respected local organization and ensuring the surviv- ability of a service provider in an area void of other agencies. If the goals are modest and if the caveats listed above are observed, an agency or foundation’s wish to become more involved in the community can be fulfilled by calling on the second and third tier.

For any policy actor interested in making inroads into the second and third tier of a particular community, there must be a willingness to remain flexible when employing evaluative criteria and measures of outcomes. A gang intervention program and an initiative to offer health care and education to teenage mothers are two examples of services that are routinely provided by second- and third-tier agencies. The success that is possible in these programs may not be immediately visible. Instead, the real success of such programs may be the develop- ment of regular communication between community organizations and individuals who do not actively participate in the activities of local institutions. In the long run, such contact may motivate these socially isolated individuals to participate in similar ways with other institu- tions, such as schools or employers. By funding such programs while allowing for the indirect benefits and longer-term outcomes that can result, funding agencies can make a unique contribution to the community-building process.

Funding agencies should take advantage of one of the most im- portant dimensions of second- and third-tier actors: their client pools

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are usually geographically restricted and stable both in terms of size and frequency of contact. Such geographic restriction and stability fosters dependence between actors, both psychologically and in terms of their everyday needs. This leads to a relation of mutual benefit whereby both client and provider do not act simply out of their own interest but in a manner that reproduces their relationship. The geo- graphic roots that second- and third-tier agencies stake become an avenue to target localized constituencies that may not be in systematic contact with the first tier.

Finally, the third tier poses a particular challenge because of the street gangs that can act as grassroots providers. It is not always neces- sary to reach out to local street gangs and include them in programs. There are obvious dangers in making associations with street gangs, especially those that might be fostering violent activity or that are actively engaged in illegitimate activities such as drug selling. How- ever, one should understand that gangs serve more than a criminal function in neighborhoods experiencing extreme social and economic deprivation. ‘̂ They bring in resources, they often provide social and recreational services, they provide security and escort services, they may have deep historical roots in the community, and, consequently, they may garner status and respect from significant sectors of the local residential population. Thus, even for residents who are frustrated with the violence and instability that local gangs promote, gangs may be more than an enemy within, on occasion providing a source of identification and social support.

In most communities, there are individuals and organizations that work diligently with local gangs to resolve confiicts, form peace treat- ies, reduce violence, and reintegrate gang members into the main- stream. These actors can provide invaluable assistance when at- tempting to address gang-related obstacles such as the transportation of youth across gang boundaries, the intimidation of clients by street- corner gangs, and the member recruitment and drug distribution in social service centers by entrepreneurial gangs. Using such resources can help overcome the challenge while enabling community actors to address the criticism that they are under the control of street gangs.

The advantages of building on existing community social organiza- tion by reaching out to the second and third tier are numerous. These links can provide necessary checks against the growth of first-tier he- gemony; in effect, the first tier no longer will have a monopoly on brokering community relations witb the “external” world. It can strengthen community institutions by lending a stamp of legitimacy to the second and third tier (which may not currently exist given their lack of inclusion in prominent community initiatives) and by reinforcing existing relations of assistance and service delivery that tie residents to community organizations. For the second and third tier,

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a greater awareness of resources within and outside their communities can result. Second- and third-tier agencies that do not actively seek outside support because of intimidation and unfamiliarity with bureau- cratic cultures will have increased confidence to translate their personal relations into more formal languages and communication styles that can garner additional support.

Conclusion The tier-based model is intended as a means to conceptualize a set of social relations that have developed among service provider institutions and residents ofthe communities they serve. In order that it not be seen as an overly rigid or inflexible representation of these relationships, I offer the following concluding observations. First, the boundaries separating the tiers are not impermeable. That is, organizations may move from one tier to another in accordance with shifts in outreach strategies, populations served, budgetary status, community relations, and so on. As I indicated above, an organization that wishes to reach out to resident constituencies who have specific needs and who thus require modifications in traditional programming and service delivery may experience a change in its relations with other community organi- zations. Its novel outreach efforts may be welcomed and supported. Or, conversely, it may be ostracized in the provider community because it catered to specific resident groups or invaded another service pro- vider’s “turf.” Thus, it may find that its networks have changed, its relations with funders altered, and, consequently, its tier placement reconstituted. Similarly, recipients’ use of elite, midsized, and grass- roots providers may be fluid. At any point in time an individual or household might receive services from all three tiers.

Notwithstanding the significant differences among the tiers and the lack of existing cross-tier collaboration, there are no fixed, intractable constraints that preclude association among organizations in different tiers. The tiers are better understood as spheres of contact, association, and familiarity whose borders are socially determined (as opposed to preordained) through mutual exchange and interaction over time. In my research, I have witnessed incidents of collaboration between providers that are radically different from one another in orientation, size, and capacity for service delivery. However, these are the exception rather than the rule. In general, networks of contact and cooperation fall within a tier. Perhaps the most systematic factor that precludes cross-tier participation (especially the inclusion of the third tier) is differing channels of communication and information retrieval. First- tier service providers (and some in the second tier), many of which have been able to weather the 30-year storm of declining federal and philanthropic support for social services, continue to use formal insti-

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tutional channels in designing and implementing their programs and services. Their representatives serve on communitywide initiatives, are active in the formal political and economic development of their neighborhoods, and “broker” the relationships to external institutions such as wealthy philanthropic organizations and municipal agencies. Thus, formal institutional channels continue to serve as important avenues to garner resources and communicate the availability of their services to other organizations and residents.

However, following Wilson’s argument that the urban poor have grown socially isolated from mainstream institutions, bureaucratic and formal channels of communication and service delivery may have lim- ited effect on significant sectors of the urban poor. These sectors can include organizations that are also not well versed in state-of-the-art technology, that have not developed stable and effective contacts with funding agents, and, in some cases, whose budgets may not provide for communication technologies we deem common. An implication of this social isolation is that the exposure of this sector of the service provider population to other provider networks is effectively limited, thus reinforcing the insularity and semipermeability of the tiers. I have sought to both describe this tier differentiation and to suggest some steps that government agencies, charitable organizations, evalua- tors, and others in the public policy arena need to take to redress this relative isolation of a significant sector of the poor and needy.

Notes I would like to thank the Chapin Hall Center for Children for research support and

Harold Richman for his useful comments and criticisms. 1. For a representative collection of essays that addresses the condition of American

inner cities, see Christopher Jencks and Paul E. Peterson, eds., The Urban Underclass (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1991). See also Elijah Anderson, Streetwise: Race, Class, and Change in an Urban Community (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990); and Philippe Bourgois, “In Search of Horatio Alger: Culture and Ideology in the Crack Economy,” Contemporary Drug Problems 16, no. 4 (1989): 619-50.

2. Carol Stack, All Our Kin: Strategies for Survival in a Black Community (New York: Harper & Row, 1974).

3. Kathryn Edin, “Surviving the Welfare System: How AFDC Recipients Make Ends Meet in Chicago,” Social Problems 38, no. 4 (1991): 462-74.

4. Robert Halpern, Rebuilding the Inner City: A History of Neighborhood Initiatives to Address Poverty in the United States (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995).

5. I am using the term “providers” as a generic category that can include any of the types of groups and organizations that provide a service or social support—regardless of whether they may have another name, e.g., informal groups, large social service agencies, block clubs, street gangs, etc. These actors can be differentiated as follows: (1) organizations that are large in terms of size, resources, and budgets, that are able to access and acquire continuous operating and program support, that tend to be public spokespersons for the communities they serve, and that are the first fKiint of contact for funding streams entering their communities; (2) small- and medium-sized organiza- tions that have modest staff, few connections to major funding sources, relative inexperi- ence in developing proposals, and may have only recently entered a community and are not well-connected to residents; (3) organizations that have developed and implemented

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social service prograniniing that falls outside their formal role; (4) grassroots organiza- tions and social groups with minimal formal structure; and (5) illegitimate social groups that provide social services (e.g., youth gangs).

6. Martin Sanchez Jankowski, Islands in the Street: Gangs and American Urban Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991); Mercer Sullivan, Getting Paid: Youth and Employment in the Inner-City (New York: Cornell University Press, 1989).

7. William Julius Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner-City, the Underclass, and Public Policy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).

8. Mike Davis, City of Quarts: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (London: Verso, 1990).

9. To protect the confidentiality of my informants, I have altered the names of persons and locations. In this case, I omitted the name of the national organization to which the Hamilton Club belongs.

10. Yusuf Jah and Sister Shan’Keyah, Uprising: Crips and Bloods Tell the Story of Amer- ica’s Youth in tiie Crossfire (New York: Scribner, 1995).

11. Stack (n. 2 above). 12. Obviously, this picture of the first tier is rosy. It does not give adequate

acknowledgment to the difficulties experienced by all organizations that operate in contexts of limited resources and diminished support for social services. First-tier place- ment does not erase difficulties of resource management, work overloads, and so on.

13. Wilson (n. 7 above). 14. Ibid. See also Roberto M. Fernandez and David Harris, “Social Isolation and the

Underclass,” in Drugs, Crime and Social Isolation, ed. Adele Harrell and George Peterson (Washington, D.C: Urban Institute Press, 1992).

15. This does not necessarily mean that their membership rates have declined or that they are operating at less-than-fuU capacity (see, e.g., George Hemmens. Charles Hoch, Donna Hardina, Rojean Madsen, and Wim Wiewel, Changing Needs and Social Services in Three Chicago Communities [Chicago: University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Urban Planning and Policy, 1986]). Rather, their engagement with the community population has markedly decreased as individuals turn to nonmainstream and non-first- tier sources of support (see Edin [n. 3 above]). Stagner and Richman’s study reveals some stark findings concerning the sporadic, and often nonexistent, use of formal public and private social service providers by heads of households who receive welfare assistance (Matthew W. Stagner and Harold A. Richman, General Assistance Profiles: Findings from a Longitudinal Study of Newly Approved Recipients [Chicago: Illinois Depart- ment of Public Aid, 1985]).

16. Another source of contention occurs in the indirect effects that an entrenched first-tier provider sector can have for second- and third-tier organizations and groups that wish to access available funds. For example, since the 1970s, an increasing propor- tion of resources for social services has been distributed through purchase-of-service contracting. This presents two sets of problems. First, even within the first-tier sector, it is not without difficulty that new organizations enter into the bidding process for funds: “The practice least favorable to open and fair competition would be renewing or extending contracts with existing providers. Surprisingly, however, 38.4% of respon- dents indicated that they simply renew contracts or negotiate with existing or new providers. This raises questions about the openness of the system to potential contractors” (Peter M. Kettner and Lawrence L. Martin, “Purchase of Services at 20: Are We Using It Well?” Public Welfare [Summer 1994]: 14-20; emphasis added). Second, given the inability of many first-tier organizations to access such resources, one can imagine the heightened difficulties that second- and third-tier providers may have. They may not be informed of requests for proposals, they might not know where and how to find requests for proposals, or they simply may be unaware that such resources are even available.

17. In fact, the neighborhood church is the best generic example of a second-tier organization that makes radical internal adjustments to fill a local void. Larger, inner- city churches have congregations that typically drive long distances to attend weekly services. At times they will be responsive to local needs through structured volunteerism. However, their size, public stature, and participation in broad networks of infiuence enable them to access resources, intervene in public and private initiatives that affect their communities, and generally act in a manner that qualifies them for first-tier placement. Thus, more so than the first-tier church, it is the smaller church (as well as

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the storefront church) that has intimate knowledge of its local community and that has developed trust with local residents. It is often the neighborhood institution called on to address a concern or need. Its role as a provider of religious services—as opposed to a bureaucratic social service agency—affords the flexibility (like the vocational school in some respects) to hear the residents’ concerns, find the appropriate resources, address the demand quickly, and move on to other issues. In Chicago’s Stateway Gardens public housing development, a small neighborhood church hired a van and transported resi- dents out of the neighborhood in order to purchase groceries, clothing, and laundry services at inexpensive prices. It did so in response to the wishes of the congregation, many of whom were boycotting a local grocer because of poor food quality and high prices. In other neighborhoods, the church acts as a liaison between individuals and employers, seeking out employment opportunities and finding prospective applicants. In still other situations, the church can provide temporary shelter, meeting space, as well as public legitimacy for a community-initiated action such as a protest or demonstration.

18. A group of second- and third-tier organizations in the Crenshaw housing develop- ment— the Crenshaw Social Service Coalition—has attempted to make formal connec- tions with first-tier providers in the area that are influential in garnering government and philanthropic resources. Despite the coalition’s approaches, it has been effectively marginalized from larger, citywide service reform efforts, community-based compre- hensive reform initiatives, and federal funding opportunities. For example. Housing and Urban Development anticrime funding and Empowerment Zone funding are di- rected (and dominated) by first.-tier providers.

19. I will not pay great attention to the role of the individual third-tier actor because it is often highly circumstantial, though the service provided can be important. The best example is a store owner whose relations with the community and willingness to move beyond his or her formal role as commercial vendor can lead to such services as no-interest loans, credit, use of store space, sponsorship of a recreation program, or to direct involvement in matters affecting his or her clients. For example, speaking at community meetings or involvement in focus groups or community-building initiatives require commercial sector representation. Another example, occurring less often, is a homeowner or landlord whose material interests in the welfare of the community pro- voke similar actions.

20. For example, in the extremely poor Chicago community of Englewood, several neighborhood clubs, whose interactions had generally been confined to bake sales and Softball tournaments, coalesced in 1992 to sponsor a series of political demonstrations. They marched at City Hall, they organized community meetings with local commercial establishments in order to address unfair pricing issues, and they initiated “take back the night” marches in front of crack houses in their community. These activities were the result of a heightened self-awareness on the part of third-tier organizations concern- ing their potential for mobilizing their respective communities as well as the assistance given by several second-tier organizations that had developed working relationships with the third tier. A political advocacy group, which was successful both in grassroots and large-scale voter registration, introduced the group of third-tier actors to a small consortium of community advocates that included high school principals, local real estate developers, community development corporations, and church leaders. Many of the smaller, third-tier actors who eventually joined this consortium gained invaluable information regarding grants, requests for proposals, and other available resources. Their social networks expanded but, so far, none has experienced benefits that would warrant their shift to the second tier. On the individual level, however, several third- tier representatives were able to increase their personal contacts and locate full-time employment as a result.

21. Jankowski (n. 6 above); Loic J. D. Wacquant, “Redrawing the Urban Color Line: The State of the Ghetto in the 1980s,” in Social Problems, ed. Craig Calhoun and George Ritzer (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1992).

22. Stagner and Richman (n. 15 above), pp. 53-54. 23. Jankowski (n. 6 above); Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh, “The Social Organization of

Gang Activity in an Urban Ghetto,” American Journal of Sociolom 103, no. 1 ([uly 1997): 82-111.

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