Community Action might have turned 50 last year, but it remains spry and nimble as ever—thanks to its creators’ original design that instilled the program with the flexibility to grow and adapt over time and in changing circumstances.
On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson announced to the people of America that he was, on that day, declaring a “War on Poverty.”
The opening salvo of this campaign—just one of many such ambitious undertakings envisioned by the President as building blocks for his proposed “Great Society”—would be the Economic Opportunity Act of that same year. From that act would be born the Community Action Program, and from that program, the Community Action Agencies that would eventually number over 1,000 across the country.
At the heart of Community Action was the idea that there is no one equipped to diagnose a community’s needs and required remedies better than the members of the community itself. The essence of the movement would always be a “bottom-up” approach that encouraged local solutions to local problems and fostered an openness to change.
As the years progressed and more and more Community Action Agencies came into being across Arkansas—there are currently 16 in operation across the state—the need for a centralized association grew. A decade after the national birth of Community Action came its state-level little sibling, the organization that began in 1974 and eventually grew to become the Arkansas Community Action Agencies Association that we know today.