Integrating Social Services and Social Change: Lessons From an Immigrant Worker Center

Alice B. Gates, University of Portland

Journal of Community Practice, 2014, Volume 22, Issue 1-2, 102-129.

© 2014 Taylor & Francis

Linked version is the final published version.


Social workers have long grappled with the tension between social services and social action. Drawing on a qualitative case study, this article examines how a new type of community organization (immigrant worker centers) is navigating this tension. While attempting to maintain an organizing focus, the Great Lakes Worker Center also provided direct services to its members, undocumented immigrants and their families. Analysis suggests that like settlement houses, today’s worker centers demonstrate the synergy between services and action. Current conditions, particularly for vulnerable populations, favor this hybrid approach to community practice that acknowledges individual needs while also pressing for social change.