In order to combat problems such as poverty, drug use, or educational inqualities, organizations tend to come up with programs directly addressing these issues. They may offer orientation regarding illegal substances or teach parents how to provide nutritious meals on a budget. However, experienced social workers and volunteers understand that implementing the same programs used in other locations is not enough. What strategies can we use to provide truly effective services to our communities?
Using Reliable Data
Before implementing innovative ideas for how to help the community, it’s important to analyze the data on which we are basing our future decisions. Misunderstanding what a community really needs and their attitudes toward this form of assistance could greatly damage a seemingly well-planned program. Reliable sources are available.
For example, the Tennessee Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System regularly collects data regarding behaviors that can lead to the development of chronic (and sometimes deadly) diseases. Among the Big Four, we find obesity, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and substance abuse, which can severely reduce people’s chances to live healthy lives and find jobs.
Focusing on the Most Vulnerable
A recent article in The Tennessean reported that 22.3% of Tennessee children were experiencing poverty in 2019. The problem is more pervasive in rural areas, and African American and Hispanic children are twice as likely to be poor, regardless of whether or not they live in the city.
By focusing on younger populations, nonprofits can prevent health problems that are related to educational and socioemotional issues, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. After a couple of generations, Tennessee teenagers and adults will have a higher chance to succeed and provide for their families.
Opening Remote Services
Factors such as personal health issues and a lack of adequate transportation have historically prevented many people from accessing community services. However, recent improvements in the processing power of smartphones, combined with wider access to reliable internet connections, have increased the possibilities for helping clients who are disadvantaged.
This is good news, since Tennessee was experiencing a shortage of mental health therapists even before the pandemic started. With remote social workers in Tennessee now available to anyone with a smartphone and a connection to the internet, more people can access therapists from the comfort of their homes.
Thinking Outside the Box
Making a small change to the environment where services are provided can make a difference. Offering music to people trying to study could have a counterproductive effect, but playing exciting music to people working out can increase the length of their sessions, according to a study published by the International Journal of Physiology, Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology.
Offering people different forms of play can have important benefits, too. Studies have found that playing board games can help children develop new cognitive abilities, social skills, as well as stronger bonds with other members of the community.
Solving the structural problems preventing people from overcoming issues such as poverty, health problems, and drug abuse requires more than just sending a letter to your representative. It demands taking action and approaching a problem with an open mind. By following these strategies, we are sure nonprofit organizations can help more people. And if you want to join our efforts, you are more than welcome to learn more about RiseUP Cooperative at our website.
Isabelle Howard is a part-time teacher and social worker based in Massachusetts. She recently started work on her MBA with hopes of one day developing an educational nonprofit.