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David Beckwith papers

Identifier: Ms.2010.010

Scope and Contents

The David Beckwith papers comprise correspondence, training materials, records and publications that cover all aspects of community organizing, including the management and fundraising practices of individual organizations. The bulk of the material dates from 1980 to 1999, when Beckwith worked as a community organizing specialist with the Center for Community Change (CCC), a national non-profit social justice organization committed to the empowerment of low-income people. The content reflects the Center's mission of training local groups and individuals as advocates for a wide variety of fundamental community needs such as equitable housing, job creation and transportation.

The papers are organized into the following five series:

Series 1, David Beckwith personal papers (1976-2010): This series includes personal correspondence, notes, datebooks, and material from the Great Lakes Institute, Beckwith’s consulting business (Box 1, folder 7).

Series 2, Center for Community Change records (1977-2002): This series has seven subseries: Annual reports; Policy, promotional, and financial documents; Publications; Staff; Projects and initiatives; Workshops and training; and CCC papers on organizing. In addition to several newsletters, CCC has published numerous monographs on economic development, jobs, housing, and community organizing. They have also participated in special projects such as the Housing Trust Fund Project (Box 3, folders 5-17) and the Jobs and Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) (Box 3, folders 20-21), which are represented in this series. Among the many training programs offered by CCC are the Transforming Lives and Neighborhoods Workshop, and the training subseries contains materials from several national sessions (Box 4, folders 14-22; Box 26X, folder 4).

Series 3, Community organizing (1971-2011): This series contains material dealing with the methodology of community organization, including the management and fundraising practices of non-profit organizations. Also included are materials from consortia such as the National Organizers’ Alliance (Box 6, folders 11-20; Box 27, folder 15) and Organize! Ohio (Box 6, folders 21-24). The training subseries contains course catalogs, syllabi, and class material from the Concordia University Institute in Management and Community Development (Box 28, folders 9-18) and the Development Training Institute (Box 7, folders 4-22; Box 8, folders 1-3; Box 28, folder 19), among others. Promotional and informational material from numerous private and public foundations and funding organizations can be found in the funding subseries. The last subseries deals with community development and community development corporations on a national and regional level; included are papers from the National Commission on Neighborhoods (Box 31) and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) (Box 10, folders 3-7). This subseries also includes information about the investigation into financial improprieties at ACORN (Association for Community Reforms Now) during the early 2000s (Box 29), during Beckwith’s tenure at the Needmor Fund.

Series 4, Advocacy Organizations by Field (1970-2011): This series contains the records and publications of numerous local community organizations arranged alphabetically within eleven topical subseries, including community development, economic development, housing, environment, and transportation. Nearly all of them consulted with David Beckwith while he worked for the Center for Community Change. Although the majority of organizations in this series represent Ohio interests, there is significant material from others such as HART (Hartford Areas Rally Together) (Box 13, folders 2-13; Box 27, folders 19-20; Box 30, folder 26) and HUD (U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development) (Box 18, folder 3; Box 32, folders 5-10). Also included are records of TEN (Transportation Equity Network) (Box 18, folders 23-31; Box 19, folders 1-3), ACES (Association for Children for Enforcement of Support, inc.) (Box 21, folders 1-8; Box 32, folder 22), and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (formerly Citizens’ Clearinghouse for Hazardous Wastes) (Box 15, folders 20-25; Box 16, folders 1-20; Box 27, folders 25-28).

Series 5, Counter-culture newsletters and monographs (1946-1975): The publications in this series are a sampling from the counterculture movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States. They include anti-capitalist, anti-war, feminist and black power newsletters, and represent such organizations as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Black Panthers. The series also includes several political publications from the Joseph McCarthy era and communist Chinese journal issues.


  • Majority of material found within ( 1980-1999)
  • 1946-2011

Language of Materials

Materials are in English and French.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on access with the exception of 7 folders which provide personal information about people seeking employment and performance evaluations. The collection can only be seen by prior appointment. Some materials may be stored off-site and cannot be produced on the same day on which they are requested.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are advised that express written permission to reproduce, quote, or otherwise publish any portion or extract from this collection must be obtained from the Brown University Library. Although Brown University has physical ownership of the collection and the materials contained therein, it does not claim literary rights. It is up to the researcher to determine the owners of the literary rights and to obtain any necessary permissions from them.

Biographical/Historical note

David Beckwith

David Beckwith is a native of New Hampshire who began his career as a community organizer in 1971 in Providence, Rhode Island. Over the next ten years he worked in numerous capacities such as organizing, fundraising, consulting, recruiting and training, for neighborhood organizations in both Providence and Washington, D.C. From 1981 until 1988 he served as Director of the East Toledo Community Organization (ETCO) in Ohio.

Beckwith worked for the Center for Community Change from 1988 to 2002. In this capacity he acted as consultant and trainer for numerous partner organizations, most but not all in the Toledo area. Some notable Center initiatives are: The Housing Trust Fund Project, the Transportation Equity Network and the Jobs and Economic Development Initiative (JEDI). Beckwith and the Center provided partner organizations with extensive resources and training in community organization, economic development, transportation, jobs and fundraising.

He served as the Executive Director of the Needmor Fund, a family foundation based in Toledo, Ohio that is committed to funding grassroots organizing for social justice, from 2011 until his retirement on January 1, 2013.

Center for Community Change

According to its mission statement the Center for Community Change "strengthens, connects and mobilizes grassroots groups to enhance their leadership, voice and power." Inspired by the work of Bobby Kennedy, the organization was formed in 1968 to assist low-income people and communities.

History of Community Organizing

The material in this collection reflects a philosophy of community organizing that evolved under what John McKnight and John Kretzmann call "a post-Alinsky agenda." In the 1940s organizer Saul Alinsky envisioned an "organization of organizations" model, where local affinities banded together to challenge an "enemy" which was visible, local and capable of correcting the particular problem under consideration. Chicago's Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, founded in part by Alinsky in 1939, marshaled the leadership of the various neighborhood enclaves into an organization that represented their collective interests; as such, the Council successfully secured "WPA dollars for the neighborhood and [created] a school lunch program that became a model for the nation" (BYNC website).

The conservative 1980s saw the relocation of political and economic power away from the local sphere and a corresponding decline in labor union and church membership, both of which had been traditional staging grounds for community dissent. Instead of marshalling existing local affiliations, organizers needed to "stress an organizing process that enhances and builds community rather than assuming it." No longer were neighborhoods viewed solely as consumers; an equal emphasis was placed on their capacities as centers of production.

One result was the growth of the Community Development Corporation, or CDC, which exemplified the "reconceptualization of the neighborhood as a locus for production as well as for consumption" (McKnight and Kretzmann). The disappearance of the local bank meant that the local credit market disappeared, as well, and this development affected housing availability. "Community development corporations are typically neighborhood-based, 501(c)3 non-profit corporations, with a board composed of at least one-third community residents, that promote the improvement of the physical and social infrastructures in neighborhoods with populations significantly below the area median income," according to the University of Maryland's Democracy Collaborative.
  1. Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council website, History page
  2. The Citizen's Handbook, New Ways of Governing
  4. John McKnight and John Kretzmann, "Community organization in the eighties: toward a post-Alinsky agenda." Charles Stewart Mott Foundation Partner (Summer 1986)
  5. Kristin Layng Szakos and Joe Szakos, We Make Change: community organizers talk about what they do--and why (Nashville, Tenn. : Vanderbilt University Press, 2007)


30.0 Linear feet (this is a container summary)


The David Beckwith papers (1946-2011) is a significant collection of organizational records, correspondence, publications, training and funding materials relating to community development and organizing on both the local and national levels. Most of the material dates from 1980 to 1999 and represents the work of a wide range of community organizations, advocacy-based coalitions, governmental agencies and private organizations devoted to fulfilling social needs such as housing, transportation and education. The Papers also include a small but noteworthy collection of counter-culture newspapers from the mid-1960s and early 1970s.


Series 1. David Beckwith personal papers

Series 2. Center for Community Change records
  1. Subseries A. Annual Reports
  2. Subseries B. Policy, promotional and financial documents
  3. Subseries C. Publications
  4. Subseries D. Staff
  5. Subseries E. Projects and initiatives
  6. Subseries F. Workshops and training
  7. Subseries G. Center for Community Change papers on organizing
Series 3. Community Organizing training materials and policy papers
  1. Subseries A. General and historical papers
  2. Subseries B. Nonprofit Organizational Management
  3. Subseries C. Consortia and research institutes
  4. Subseries D. Training Programs
  5. Subseries E. Funding
  6. Subseries F. Community development and community development corporations
Series 4. Advocacy Organizations: Records and publications of various partner community organizations
  1. Subseries A. Community Development Corporations and Organizations
  2. Subseries B. Economic development
  3. Subseries C. Environmental organizations
  4. Subseries D. Housing
  5. Subseries E. Transportation
  6. Subseries F. Labor, jobs, welfare
  7. Subseries G. Race, Ethnic and Gender Issues
  8. Subseries H. Legal, consumer, tax reform, veterans, voters
  9. Subseries I. Children, Youth, Family and Education
  10. Subseries J. Healthcare
  11. Subseries K. Church-based
Series 5. Counter-culture newsletters and monographs from the late 1960s and early 1970s

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by David Beckwith on 10 March 2009. Six additional record center boxes donated to the collection by David Beckwith in 2013.

Related Materials

  1. Needmor Fund Records, Ms. 2007.018, Brown University Library.
  2. James C. Dickson papers, Ms. 2007.021, Brown University Library
  3. Robert F. Cohen, Jr. papers, MS-1U-C8, Brown University Archives
Guide to the David Beckwith papers1946-2011 (bulk 1980-1999)
Finding aid prepared by Deborah Peterson.
2015 May 14
Description rules
Finding Aid Based On Describing Archives: A Content Standard (Dacs)
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the deneme Repository

1438 West Peachtree, NW
Suite 100
Atlanta GA 30309