In the United States and its territories, Community Action Agencies (CAA) are local private and public non-profit organizations that carry out the Community Action Program (CAP), which was founded by the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act to fight poverty by empowering the poor as part of the War on Poverty.
CAAs are intended to promote self-sufficiency, and they depend heavily on volunteer work, especially from the low-income community. The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) is the agencies’ core federal funding. Agencies also operate a variety of grants that come from federal, state and local sources. These grants vary widely among agencies, although most CAAs operate Head Start programs, which focus on early child development. Other programs frequently administered by Community Action Agencies include Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) utility grants and Weatherization Assistance Program(WAP) funded through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Each CAA is governed by a board of directors consisting of at least one-third low-income community members, one-third public officials, and up to one-third private sector leaders. This board structure is defined by federal statute and is known as a tripartite board.
There are currently over 1,000 CAAs, engaged in a broad range of activities. Click here to find a CAA near you.
History of Community Action
What is Community Action?
In 1964, The Great Society, as envisioned by President Lyndon Johnson, was a sweeping plan to improve the lives of all Americans, regardless of their circumstances. Inspired by President Kennedy and his New Frontier, Johnson pledged to fulfill his promise of equal opportunity for all by enacting several comprehensive changes within the federal government. In August of that same year, the Economic Opportunity Act was signed into law by President Johnson creating the nationwide Community Action Network.
The War on Poverty
In 1963, shortly before he was assassinated, President Kennedy had asked his economic advisors to draw up some proposals to address the problem of American poverty. Johnson took up this charge after he succeeded Kennedy as President. In Johnson’s first State of the Union address on June 8, 1964, he called for an unconditional war to defeat poverty. He expanded and revised the proposals given to Kennedy and developed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. The act included a variety of initiatives:
- Head Start
- Job Corps
- Work-Study program for university students
- VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) – a domestic version of the Peace Corps
- Neighborhood Youth Corps
- Basic education and adult job training
- CAPS (Community Action Programs) – CAPS turned out to be the most controversial part of the package, as it proposed the “maximum feasible participation” by poor people themselves to determine what would help them the most. CAPS were a radical departure from how government had run most social reform programs in the past.
Mission and Vision
Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County addresses the causes of poverty, empowering low-income people to achieve self-sufficiency through community-based collaborations and programs.
Creating communities where all people have equal opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency.
The Promise of Community Action
Community Action changes people’s lives, embodies the spirit of hope, improves communities, and makes America a better place to live. We care about the entire community, and we are dedicated to helping people help themselves and each other.
These values guide our decisions and behaviors, and more clearly define how we interact with one another, our partners, and those we serve. The process of choosing these core values was employee-driven and input came from multiple sessions where employees engaged in lengthy discussions and exercises to suggest what should be the core values for CAPSLO. The outcome of this effort was suggestions and ideas from 850 employees!
- Communicate clearly in ways that are understood by those you are speaking with.
- Listen, acknowledge, and respect each other’s words, time and work.
- Strive to be open and honest in all forms of communication.
Honesty and Integrity
- Be open and honest in what you say and do.
- Be responsible for your own actions and professionally accountable to each other to do the right thing in line with our core values.
- Make decisions fairly without favoritism or prejudice.
Respect and Fairness
- Create an environment that promotes respect and fairness for all people (those we serve and those we work with).
- Value each other’s diversity and treat all people with the utmost dignity and respect.
- Have respect for our equipment, materials and financial investments.
- Allow people to learn from mistakes and continually strive to build strong relationships.
Teamwork and Collaboration
- Support and trust one another to build strong relationships and team spirit.
- Be inclusive by involving others across functions, seeking ideas and sharing solutions.
- Continually find ways to make the agency stronger through ongoing collaboration and teamwork, both, internally and in the community.
Positive Attitude and Energy
- Strive to inspire others to display a positive attitude and be the positive energy that finds the best in all situations.
- Find opportunities to laugh and have fun.
- Enjoy what you do and celebrate each other’s success.
- Provide quality service to the best of your ability and maintain professionalism in all your interactions.
- Strive for excellence in all aspects of conduct and performance.
- Continuously promote the mission of Community Action Partnership by being accountable to the community we serve, the Agency we work for and to the people we work with.