What is Community Action?
Community Action Agencies (CAA) are private nonprofit or public organizations that were created by the federal government in 1964 to combat poverty in geographically designated areas. The CAA network was established under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which was signed by President Lyndon Johnson and declared an “unconditional War on Poverty.” Status as a Community Action Agency is the result of an explicit designation by local or state government. A Community Action Agency has a tripartite board structure that is designated to promote the participation of the entire community in the reduction or elimination of poverty. Community Action Agencies seek to involve the community, including elected public officials, private sector representatives, and especially low-income residents in assessing local needs and attacking the causes and conditions of poverty.
Principles of Community Action
- Opens doors and leads the way - We provide access to the opportunities people need to improve their lives; to help themselves and each other.
- Turns hope into reality - We identify the needs of the entire community, collaborate with others in the community, and take action to improve life for everyone in the community.
- Empathizes - Our staff and volunteers are from the community they serve.
- Treats people with respect - We treat people the way they want to be treated.
- Says "yes" - If we do not provide the needed service, we link you to those who do.
- Gives a voice to the poor - Through our advocacy, we seek to make society more flexible and responsive to the needs of the poor.
- Mirrors the diversity of our communities - Our local boards include low-income people, local public officials, and business and community groups.
A Community Action Agency
- has received designation as a Community Action Agency either from the local government under the provisions of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, or from the state under the Community Services Block Grant Act of 1981, as amended;
- is recognized as an eligible entity as defined in the CSBG Act and can receive funding from the state under the Community Services Block Grant;
- has a governing board consisting of at least one-third democratically selected representatives of low-income people, one-third local public officials or their designees, and the remainder representatives of business, industry, labor,religious,social welfare, and other private groups in the community; and
- belongs to a national network of similar agencies, the majority of which received their initial designation, federal recognition and funding under the amended Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.
Why are we Unique?
Most poverty-related organizations focus on a specific area of need, such as job training, health care, housing, or economic development. Community Action Agencies reach out to low-income people in their communities, address their multiple needs through a comprehensive range of coordinated programs designed to have a measurable impact on poverty.
The Community Action Network
Today, Community Action Agencies can be found in 96 percent of the cities and counties in the United States, including the Trust Territories. There are nearly 1,000 local CAAs, connected by a national network that includes a national association, regional and state CAA associations, a national lobbying organization, and a national association of Community Service Block Grant administrators.
Community Action professionals have over 50 years of experience in mobilizing and targeting scarce resources to best meet the needs of the low-income community.
CAA staff work closely and with great success in both the public and private domain, leveraging support from diverse sectors of the community.