Abstract: Comparing Strategies Against Neoliberalism in Rural and Urban Areas: Resilience of Community-Based Organizations Providing after-School Programs (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Comparing Strategies Against Neoliberalism in Rural and Urban Areas: Resilience of Community-Based Organizations Providing after-School Programs

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Valley of the Sun B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Yi-Yi Chen, PhD, Associate Professor, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
Chao-Kai Huang, MSW, Doctoral Student, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Yi-Shing Li, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Social Work, Hualien County, Taiwan
Background and Purpose: Government funding in Taiwan increasingly demands considerable paperwork and quantitative performance evaluation. It is consuming for community-based organizations (CBOs) which rely on a voluntary workforce and local networking. Therefore, some CBOs have developed strategies to sustain their own services and autonomy. This study examines how CBOs respond to neoliberalism with a resilience perspective. The internal and external resources are examined correspondingly. Comparison between rural and urban areas is also focused.

Methods: This study used purposeful sampling to recruit CBOs providing after-school programs for children in two urban and two rural regions. A list of CBOs was pooled from government-recommended CBOs plus snow-sampling from research participants. The data collection was conducted from 2019 to 2021 using face-to-face semi-structured interview. A total of 43 CBOs participated, 30 in urban and 13 in rural regions. Among them, 23 focused on children services only and 20 provided comprehensive social services. Qualitative data was recorded digitally with an informed consent procedure and analyzed with a thematic analysis approach. Four resilient strategies were identified. Resources inside a CBO were categorized into independent funding and professional workforce; resources outside a CBO were at or beyond the community level. Plots were made to visualize resources variety for comparing CBOs in rural and urban regions.

Findings: Interviews revealed ways for a CBO to resist toxic government funding. First, CBOs prioritize services that match the organization’s mission. The variation of budget amount, continuation, and accountability requirements can disturb services provision. Thus, it is rational to turn down invitations of new policies and unfit grants. Second, grassroots workers prefer developing long-term relationships with children with loose eligibility and various services to mend the gaps among population-specific policies. Third, financial independence is key to sustainability. Alternative to government funding, CBOs wildly adopted crowd fundraising, corporate social responsibility, local sponsor, and social enterprise. Forth, organizational networking enhances the capacity to meet diverse needs. Collaboration in case referral, work division, sharing of space and training resources, and advocacy alliance is common to decrease reliance on the government.

The above strategies vary due to resource imbalance between urban and rural areas. The data show that urban CBOs benefit from rich external assets, e.g., government funding and neighborhood support, and internal ones, e.g., independent funding and sufficient professionals. Due to the intensive allocation of CBOs and convenient transportation, urban CBOs have opportunities for collective actions. Contrarily, rural CBOs can be relatively constrained because of fewer potential partner organizations and scant qualified workers. They strive to utilize community assets, obtain financial support from headquarters if any, or reach out to potential donations instead.

Conclusions and Implications: This study explicates how CBOs maintain sustainability in Taiwan. The strategies serve as references for CBOs and grassroots workers in societies where neoliberalism strikes social services and community practice. The difference between CBOs in urban and rural regions suggests that resilience respectively lies in networking with other organizations and mobilizing local assets. As the autonomy of CBOs awakens, government funding should respect so that meet people’s needs.