An examination of Stanislaus County's poverty reduction strategies: non-profit's theories of change

This study explores and describes the actions taken by Stanislaus County’s social service sector nonprofit agencies and the theories of change that guide their actions in attempting to meet the needs of the consumers served. This research was completed by using the Four Pillars of Social Justice Infrastructure as an evaluation framework to categorize the actions taken to reduce poverty and identify agencies’ theory of change by pulling themes from beliefs and values. This study examined 145 nonprofits using online databases for this mix-method case study. The findings indicated that the narrow goals and unblended strategies of nonprofits inhibit transformative change. The theory of change which drives practice is a “Band-Aid” approach that does not address structural issues that underpin the causes of poverty. As a result, the provision of services in this manner has consequences, including leaving user as blameworthy, maintaining the status quo, and furthering oppressive practices by operating on theories that are false. This specific research draws attention to Social Workers who have been historically “guards of the system” to approach actions from an alternative paradigm.