History of ACOSA: Chronology of Evolving Structure and Key Events From the 1960s to 2010
Prepared by Maria Roberts-DeGennaro, August 31, 2002
Additions by Tracy Soska, October, 2011
Historical Background: 1960s to 1980
In the late 1960s -- coincident with the growth of community organization courses and concentrations in schools of social work -- many plenary sessions and panel presentations at the Council on Social Work Education's (CSWE) Annual Program Meetings were related to community organization. CSWE played a critical role in promoting education for community practice. From 1965 through 1970, a national Community Organization Curriculum Development Project, sponsored by CSWE, was funded by the Federal Office of Juvenile Delinquency and located in the Heller School at Brandeis University. Project findings and recommendations were widely reported at Annual Program Meetings and in CSWE publications. When the Project ended in 1971/1972, the CSWE published several books based on this Project that had considerable impact on school curricula, classroom teaching, and field-based internships.
However, someone attending CSWE meetings or reading its publications only a few years later would probably not have been aware of the earlier efforts to promote education for community practice. Between the mid- to late-1970s, faculty teaching the practice of community organization and others interested in community development or social policy reported that their abstract submissions were routinely being rejected by CSWE for the Annual Program Meetings. The primary reason cited for rejecting these abstracts was the lack of relevance of the issues or methods for social work education.
A significant event occurred in 1976 in macro practice with the inaugural publication of the journal, Administration in Social Work. The co-editors of this journal were Simon Slavin and Rino Patti.
At the 1980 Annual Program Meeting in Los Angeles, Armand Lauffer and Harry Specht organized and co-chaired a "rump" session in an unused part of the conference hotel. They invited faculty who were teaching the practice of community organization. Over 30 people participated in this session. There was a lot of heated discussion, but a great deal of light also emerged. Some angry organizers participated along with some pretty savvy strategists. The outcome from this session was consensus that a CO Symposium should be held at the 1981 Annual Program Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.
Armand Lauffer, who as a doctoral student had worked on the Community Organization Curriculum Development Project and co-authored two of its books, was asked to chair the 1981 CO Symposium Planning Committee. Among those who volunteered to be on this Planning Committee were: David Austin, Edward Dutton, Douglas Glaslow, Charles Grosser, Maggie Huegentoble, Edward Newman, Stephen Rose, and Harry Specht. When it became clear that the CSWE procedures for the Annual Program Meeting (at that time) precluded setting up a special interest symposium, the Planning Committee decided to work outside the framework of the Annual Program Meeting.
The 1st Community Organization Faculty Symposium, "Community Organization for the 1980s", was scheduled the day before the 1981 Annual Program Meeting of CSWE, but in the same city (Louisville, Kentucky). Roger Lind, who was then Dean of the University of Louisville, School of Social Work, made the arrangements for holding the Symposium at the University of Louisville, and for transporting participants from the APM hotels. Arnold Gurin, who was then Dean of the Heller School and who had directed the Community rganization Curriculum Development Project, gave an opening address placing the group's malaise in the current context. By the end of the Symposium, a sense of disenfranchisement had turned into a kind of collective perception of "emboldment." Other issues, such as creating a separate symposium that focused on social administration content and adding women to the membership of the planning committee, were also addressed during this Symposium.
About 160 participants attended the Symposium at which 60 papers were presented. Several of those who presented papers at the Symposium were: Paul Abels, Jacques Boulet, Ruth Brandwein, Steve Burghardt, Hubert Campfens, Aileen Hart, Armand Lauffer, Michael Reisch, Maria Roberts-DeGennaro, and Stanley Wenocur. Twenty-two papers as well as abstracts of papers that were presented at the Symposium were published in a special issue of Social Development Issues, Vol. 5, Nos. 2-3, Summer & Fall 1981.
The 2nd Annual Community Organization and Planning Symposium was held the day before the Annual Program Meeting of CSWE, but at the Hunter College School of Social Work in New York City. Steve Burghardt was the chair of this latter Symposium. At the same time, the 1st Annual Administration Symposium was held at Fordham University School of Social Service in New York City. Murray Gruber was the chair of this latter Symposium. At the Symposia, forums were held to discuss concerns regarding the lack of community organization and social administration content in the paper presentations at the Annual Program Meetings of CSWE, and in the social work curriculum. An ad hoc planning group convened to plan and organize the 1983 Administration and Community Organization and Planning Symposia. After the 1982 Annual Program Meeting, CSWE initiated a set of guidelines for pre-conference symposia that were based on decisions made by the APM Planning Committee and on CSWE Administrative Policy. These guidelines primarily focused on allocating room allotments/assignments for the symposia, scheduling of time-frames for the symposia, arranging for publicity to announce the symposia, and charging pre-conference registration fees. In addition, CSWE initiated a process in which a formal agreement was signed by the chair of each symposia group in advance of planning a symposium in conjunction with the APM.
The two previous 1982 Symposia were combined into one symposium, the Symposium on Community Organization and Administration, which was held in conjunction with the Annual Program Meeting of CSWE in Fort Worth, Texas, but organized according to the CSWE pre-conference symposia guidelines. After the 1983 Symposium, David Austin, chair of the 1983 Symposium, submitted a letter to CSWE expressing concern regarding the lack of macro practice content in the paper presentations at the general sessions of the APMs, particularly around teaching methods and curriculum issues in macro practice.
The Symposium on Community Organization and Administration was held the day before the Annual Program Meeting of CSWE at Wayne Sate University i n Detroit, Michigan. A decision was made about a month before the Symposium to convene the Symposium at a different location than the site for the APM, because CSWE assigned less hotel space and fewer rooms for the Symposium. Barry Checkoway and Yeheskel Hasenfeld, co-chairs of the 1984 Symposium, submitted a letter to CSWE expressing concerns related to the lack of space for convening the 1984 Symposium at the APM, and the difficulties in re-organizing the Symposium at a different site. CSWE responded with an apology for the "discomfort and confusion" that resulted from re-locating the Symposium, and expressed interest in negotiating future Symposia in conjunction with the APM.
The Symposium on Community Organization and Social Administration (COSA) was held during the Annual Program Meeting of CSWE in Washington DC. Michael Reisch and Stanley Wenocur co-chaired the 1985 Symposium. At a forum coordinated by an ad hoc planning group during the Symposium, it was suggested that a survey should be conducted to assess the needs and interests of the participants who were attending the COSA Symposia. Maria Roberts-DeGennaro, who was a member of this ad hoc planning group, volunteered to conduct the survey. The purpose of the survey was to explore:
- the issues around the organization and content of the symposia;
- the need for a national association of community organization and social administration;
- the need for a comprehensive macro-practice journal.
In Summer 1985, Maria Roberts-DeGennaro constructed a survey that was mailed in September 1985 to 200 practitioners and educators who represented over 100 Schools of Social Work. The mailing list was compiled from lists of participants who attended previous COSA Symposia. By November 1985, 102 surveys had been completed and returned, representing a 51% response rate.
The COSA Symposium was held during the Annual Program Meeting of CSWE in Miami, Florida. The 1986 Symposium was coordinated by a planning committee consisting of: Camille Claymon, Paul Keys, Terry Mizrahi, Bernard Neugeboren, Andrea Savage, and Rose Starr. At a forum coordinated by an ad hoc planning group during the Symposium, Maria Roberts-DeGennaro presented the findings from the national survey. The findings suggested:
- Continue COSA Symposia with more of an emphasis on community organization practice, as well as social policy analysis, macro practice research, planning, and administrative practice;
- Develop a national Association on Community Organization and Social Administration that aims to promote the exchange of information, networking, and scholarship activities among the members;
- Create a process for electing leaders for planning and organizing the Symposia;
- Explore the development of a journal related to macro practice with an emphasis on community organization.
Based on the findings from this survey, the following persons volunteered to serve on Work Groups to pursue the development of a national Association on Community Organization and Social Administration:
- COSA Symposia Work Group coordinated by Joan Hashimi with member support from Pritam S. Bhatia, Orand Carroll, Bruce Hall, Paul Keys, Herb Kutchins, and Leonard Marcus;
- Newsletter Work Group coordinated by Bruce Hall;
- Journal Work Group coordinated by Armand Lauffer with member support from David Austin, Steve Burghardt, Camille Claymon, Mike Fabricant, Bruce Jansson, Terry Mizrahi, Maria Roberts-DeGennaro, and Marie Weil;
- Organization Work Group co-coordinated by Steve Burghardt, Maria Roberts-DeGennaro, and Andrea Savage with member support from, Camille Claymon, Mike Fabricant, Bruce Jansson, Leonard Marcus, Jesse McClure, Terry Mizrahi, and Marie Weil.
In addition, Maria Roberts-DeGennaro volunteered to construct a set of by-laws for the proposed national Association on Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA) through consultation with other member-based organizations.
The format for the COSA Symposium was expanded to two days. It was held during the Annual Program Meeting of CSWE in St. Louis, Missouri. The 1987 Symposium was coordinated by a planning committee consisting of: David Gillespie, Joan Hashimi, Mike Howard, Howard Karger, Mike Sherraden, and Cal Streeter. At a forum coordinated by an ad hoc planning group during the Symposium, Maria Roberts-DeGennaro presented a draft of the "By-laws" for the proposed national Association on Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA) to the participants who attended this organizational meeting on March 8, 1987. These ACOSA "By-laws" were reviewed and approved at that meeting. A Steering Committee was then formed to continue the development of a structure and process for creating a national association on community organization and social administration. The following persons volunteered to serve on the ACOSA Steering Committee: Steve Burghardt ( Co-coordinator), Maria Roberts-DeGennaro (Co-coordinator), Andrea Savage ( Membership Secretary/Treasurer), Alfrieda Daly, Audrey Faulkner, Cheryl Hyde, Jean Kruzich, John Morrison, Daniel Steinmetz, and Marie Weil.
The ACOSA Symposium was held during the Annual Program Meeting of CSWE in Atlanta, Georgia. Jean Kruzich and Marie Weil co-chaired the 1988 Symposium. Terry Mizrahi reported on ACOSA's efforts to work with Sage Publications in publishing an ACOSA Annual as a pilot for three years. This pilot would provide information as to whether there was sufficient interest in the form of subscriptions to maintain a regular journal. Audrey Faulkner reported on the electoral process for soliciting nominations and electing persons to serve on the first Board of Directors of the newly formed Association on Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA). An election was held one month after the Symposium through mailed ballots to 143 ACOSA members. The following persons were elected to serve on the first ACOSA Board of Directors: Steve Burghardt, Armand Lauffer, Jacqueline Mondros, Felix Rivera, Maria Roberts-DeGennaro, Jack Rothman, Andrea Savage, Marie Weil, and Stanley Wenocur.
The ACOSA Symposium was held during the Annual Program Meeting of CSWE in Chicago, Illinois. Jean Kruzich and John Morrison co-chaired the 1989 Symposium. Ray MacNair, Terry Mizrahi, and Marie Weil reported on their renewed efforts to seek support from Sage Publications to publish the ACOSA Annual. ACOSA was informed by CSWE that future abstracts for the ACOSA Symposium were to be processed through the regular CSWE "Call for Papers" with a designation for review under the ACOSA Symposium. Audrey Faulkner served as the editor of the ACOSA Newsletter. The first issue of the ACOSA Newsletter was dated February 1989. The election of officers to the ACOSA Board of Directors was held after the 1989 ACOSA Symposium through mailed ballots to ACOSA members. The following persons were elected to serve as the first set of officers on the ACOSA Board of Directors: Maria Roberts-DeGennaro (Chair), Stanley Wenocur (Vice-Chair), Andrea Savage (Membership Secretary), and John Morrison (Treasurer), who was a co-chair of the 1989 ACOSA Symposium and served on the Board under Article IV of the ACOSA "By-Laws".
The ACOSA Symposium was held during the Annual Program Meeting of CSWE in Reno, Nevada. Audrey Faulkner and Maria Roberts-DeGennaro co-chaired the 1990 Symposium. Ray MacNair, Terry Mizrahi, and Marie Weil reported on the lack of support from Sage Publications to publish the ACOSA Annual, but in spite of this failed attempt, they were pursuing the possibility of seeking support from Haworth Press to publish the ACOSA Annual as a supplement to or independent of the journal, Administration in Social Work. At the invitation of the National Association of Social Workers, Terry Mizrahi and Maria Roberts-DeGennaro co-conducted a Master Class, "Community Organization and Advocacy in the 1990s", at the 1990 NASW National Conference in Boston to strengthen the linkage between NASW and ACOSA. Terry Mizrahi and Maria Roberts-DeGennaro also coordinated a joint networking session with the National Network of Social Work Managers at the 1990 NASW National Conference.
The ACOSA Symposium was held during the Annual Program Meeting of CSWE in New Orleans. William Buffum and Ray MacNair co-chaired the 1991 Symposium. The ACOSA Board of Directors approved the creation of an institutional membership fee category. Ray MacNair proposed a set of criteria and a nomination process for selecting persons to receive the ACOSA Awards for Outstanding Leadership in Macro Practice. Terry Mizrahi and John Morrison reported that the first ACOSA Annual was to be published as a supplement to the journal, Administration in Social Work, by Haworth Press with an anticipated publication date of 1991/1992. Terry Mizrahi became the Membership Secretary for ACOSA. The first formal Membership Directory was constructed for distribution to the ACOSA members. At the end of the 1991 APM of CSWE, Maria Roberts-DeGennaro attended a CSWE-sponsored forum on the CSWE Curriculum Policy Statement around "core" and "advanced" content in the MSW degree programs in order to express ACOSA's position that macro practice content should be emphasized throughout the curriculum. Terry Mizrahi and Scott Wilson conducted a survey of macro practice teaching issues and actions that was administered to ACOSA members in 87 social work programs in 1991. The purpose of the survey was to gather information on the structure and content of the macro practice curriculum, as well as the strengths and obstacles related to maintaining this curriculum, in their social work programs. Thirty persons responded to the survey. The findings suggested that there was diversity in the curriculum content and structure of macro practice specializations/concentrations in these 30 social work programs. The findings supported the need to:
- promote the visibility and the viability of community organization in social work programs;
- recruit, retain, and support students who are interested in macro practice;
- integrate macro practice content into the field and classroom curriculum;
- advocate for administrative support to strengthen the macro practice content in the curriculum.
The ACOSA Symposium was held during the Annual Program Meeting of CSWE in Kansas City. Dwight Rieman and Steve Wernet co-chaired the 1992 Symposium. David Austin received the first award as Outstanding Leader in Social Administration. Jack Rothman received the first award as Outstanding Leader in Community Organization. The title of the ACOSA "By-laws" was changed to "Articles of Association". The first ACOSA Annual, Community Organization and Social Administration: Advances, Trends, and Emerging Principles, was co-edited by Terry Mizrahi and John Morrison and published as a book by Haworth Press. Published proceedings from previous ACOSA Symposia were identified in the "Introduction" to this Annual. Terry Mizrahi reported on the offer by Haworth Press to institute an ACOSA-sponsored journal, Journal of Community Practice: Organizing, Planning, Development, and Change. The inaugural issue of the journal was to consist of articles from the second ACOSA Annual, Diversity and Development in Community Practice, which was co-edited by Audrey Faulkner, Maria Roberts-DeGennaro, and Marie Weil with an anticipated publication date of 1993/1994. Marie Weil was selected by the ACOSA Board of Directors to be the Executive Editor of the Journal of Community Practice. Membership in ACOSA almost doubled in 1992 to a record number of 320 members, including 20 institutional memberships. Maria Roberts-DeGennaro's term as the first elected Chair of ACOSA expired in 1992. Ray MacNair was elected as the new Chair of ACOSA.
ACOSA Chair – Tracy Soska – 2008 to 2010
In taking over the ACOSA Chair early due to then Chair Mary Rogge’s illness, my first challenge was just stabilizing the organization. We established an ACOSA coordinator position with Alice Johnson and Bill Butterfield providing core office support for ACOSA administration. These duties had been passed from chair-to-chair with varying degrees of success, and ACOSA had grown enough to support a modest coordination support for day-to-day administrative duties and maintenance of records, membership communications and basic website upkeep. Another goal for this administration was to maintain a health organization fund balance, which has been the case; however, membership remains a critical long-term issue for ACOSA viability, despite our significant fund balance.
Initial efforts to stabilize and grow membership were strong through 2009, but membership began to wane by 2010. While faculty at graduate macro programs seemed to be retiring and shrinking, we focused efforts in outreach to undergraduate programs and connecting to limited macro faculty in these programs with limited success. (This is an area worth developing). Outreach to the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) particularly from the Journal of Community Practice was another strategy undertaken in 2010.
One major area of membership and organizational development during my tenure was an effort to establish an International Committee that might also help to bolster membership internationally. Many ACOSA senior leaders had developed international initiatives and lent support to this effort. Lee Staples (Europe), Terry Mizrahi (Japan and Israel), Yossi Korazim (Israel), and Alice Johnson (Ethiopia and Africa) were important leaders in this effort.
I also oversaw the major shift in the publisher of the ACOSA-sponsored Journal of Community Practice from Haworth Press to Routledge Press’ Taylor & Francis Group. This was a challenging transition given Haworth’s close almost family-like ties to its journals; however, our relationship with Taylor & Francis is one that has stabilized and grown very supportive.
One major focus was to ensure that at least annual ACOSA would have a strong presence at CSWE-APM for its board and membership, and that we would continue our exhibit and strong symposia presence – despite changing in the CSWE-APM track structure.
We also made efforts to establish a Communications committee with plans to move away from a newsletter communications format to a web-based e-news focus, but the effort to bring in content from the regions was not successful, and this goal was left strategically to the new ACOSA leadership. Recruiting a new, younger leadership team for ACOSA was a final goal, and I like to think we have such a team in place.
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