Lawlor William (Bill) Lee
Community organizing has been a part of Bill’s life for over thirty-five years. He began, like a lot of social workers, in child welfare. He wanted to “help” the less fortunate. After a while experience, particular in doing street work with youth and being part of organizing a union local, taught him that the problems that the people with whom he was dealing were rooted, not necessarily in their own personalities or particular upbringing but in unequal power differentials, poverty, racism, sexism and other structural issues. Working with groups engaged in changing the world became a lot more important to him than attempting to help people adjust to unjust/inhumane situations and policies. Community practice became his life’s work, life’s journey. While he often opines to his students that community practice by itself can’t be expected to cure these issues, community is an absolutely crucial site for beginning and sustaining action for positive social change. It’s where our private and public lives merge; it is the place where we can come together to talk, to argue, identify problems and solutions and begin to take action.
Along with his experiences and thinking he’s managed to read a good deal and to obtain a variety of academic bells and whistles and the opportunity to teach. More importantly, he has met great numbers of great people in many parts of the world, particularly First People, who have shared their passion for social justice and have provided him with their wisdom and stories of their experiences as they have struggled toward social justice. This in turn has impelled him to write of those struggles and journeys. His writing is an attempt to put in some sort of framework that will make it accessible and exciting to others. He has some favourite quotes he uses to think about and motivate his work. One is, “The exercise of power is never neutral” from the social/economic theorist Jeremy Rifikin and suggests the importance of acting with thought and purpose. One from the Marxist psychoanalyst Eric Fromm, “Freedom ‘from’ is one thing but freedom ‘to’ is quite another.”, reminds us that it is not sufficient to battle the negative forces; we have to figure out where we need to go. The Great African American leader Malcolm X reminded us of the importance and legitimacy of anger in the work of social change. He said: “Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.”. Mother Jones, the wonderful labour organizer of the late 1800’s also believed in the utility of anger and that we need to do something with it, not leave it to the formal political process. She admonished folks: “You don’t need to vote to raise hell.”. But social justice work is full of complexities and an ancient philosopher Philo of Alexandra reminds us that we need to: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”. If we are going to engage folks we have a grave responsibility to recognize our common humanity. As the poet John Donne wrote, “… therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”. So we need anger and a sense of our common humanity. And one more thing, Paulo Freire tells us that, “The hope of remaking the world is indispensable in the struggle of oppressed men and women.”. This kind of connects to Fromm’s point about the importance of “freedom to”. It is not enough to flee or heal from a terrible past we need to have hope in a positive future. This is what ultimately keeps us going. If we look at all the great organizers and leaders like Saul Alinsky, Sylvia Pankhurst, Cesar Chavez and Mohandas Gandhi we see anger at injustice, solidarity with the people and hope in working for a better future. Finally, Bill has a strong belief that while the road may be long and the work very hard it is important to keep in mind what his friend the Toronto organizer Jim Ward reminds us: “Remember to laugh.”.
For those who are interested, you can find some samples of the work he has done and the causes he has learned from below.
PARTIAL WORK HISTORY
- (1975-1977) Community Development Coordinator and Social Work Supervisor, North Branch, Children’s Aid Society oF Metropolitan Toronto.
- (1978- 2009) Associate Professor (Retired), School of Social Work, McMaster University. Social Work Practice, Social Policy, Social Justice Community Organization.
- (2009-2016) Sessional instructor, School of Social Work, McMaster University, Social Justice.
- (2011 / 2012, 2014) Sessional Instructor Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University. Community Development.
- (1992-present) Instructor, Anishnawbe Health Community Health Worker Training Project. Community Organization.
- (1984-88) Ed.D., O.I.S.E./University of Toronto Community Development /Adult Education
- (1972-73) Diploma in Advanced Social Work, University of Toronto
- (1967-69) M.S.W. – University of Toronto
- (1961-64) B.A. – University of St. Thomas (Houston, Texas), Sociology
PARTIAL PUBLICATION HISTORY
- (2016) edited with Sarah Todd A casebook of Community Practice: Problems and Strategies, 2nd Edition. Toronto: CommonAct Press.
- (2011) Pragmatics of Community Organization, 4th. Edition. Toronto: CommonAct Press.
- (2006) edited with Sarah Todd A casebook of Community Practice: Problems and Strategies. Toronto: CommonAct Press.
- (1999) Pragmatics of Community Organization, 3rd. Edition. CommonAct Press. Toronto. (2005) Translated with a new Forward by Nobuko Takeda. GAKUBUNSHA, Tokyo, Japan.
- (1996) with Mike Balkwill Participatory Planning For Action. CommonAct Press: Toronto. (2005) Translated with a new Forward by Nobuko Takeda GAKUBUNSHA, Tokyo, Japan.
- (2001) Case Advocacy: A practice and principles guide for social workers and other community activists. Nu-Spin Publications. Scarborough.
- (2007) with Susan McGrath, Usha George, Ken Moffatt, Seeking social justice: community practice in diverse communities. Social Development Issues. 29(2), Summer. pp. 77-91.
- (2007) with Bonnie Freeman. Towards An Aboriginal Model of Community Healing Aboriginal Social Work. Volume 6, March. pp. 97-120.
- (2005) with Charles Fiki. Conflict management, local capacity governance, and inclusive human security in northeastern Nigeria: a case study. Regional Development Dialogue (United Nations Centre for Regional Development, Japan). Vol. 26, No. 1 Spring. 77-88.
- (2001) “Some Principles for Social Work Advocacy.” Ontario Association of Professional Social workers Newsletter (Summer).
- (1996) Community Development Among AIDS Survivors in Uganda. Social Development Issues. 20(1). pp. 91-101.
- (1992) Colonization and Community: Implications for First Nations Development. Community Development Journal Vol. 27, No. 3 July. pp. 211-219.
- (2005) Canadian Community Development in Canada. Encyclopaedia of the history of North American social work. New York: Sage.
- (2005) Children’s Aid Society of Toronto. Canadian Encyclopaedia of Social Work. Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press.
- (2005) Progressive social work. Canadian Encyclopaedia of Social Work. Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press.
- (2015) with Barb Nahwagahbow. Assessment of Aboriginal Component of Chigamik Community Health Centre.
- (2013) Desk Review of the Humber Polytechnic Bachelor of Community Development Program. Toronto, Ontario.
- (2012) “Challenges and Opportunities for Community Development Work in the Crown Point Hub”. Hamilton Community Foundation.
- (1992-1994) Consultant to Elsipogtog (Big Cove) First Nation Community Development Project.
- (1996-2000) Consultant and Evaluator, Seven Directions University Certificate Program Diploma in Addiction Studies and Addiction Case Worker Diploma, Elsipogtog (Big Cove) First Nation.
- (2010-2012) Consultant to Community Development Institute Hamilton Community Foundation.
- (2011-2017) Fund Raising and Support for the Centro De Investigation Sobre Inverson Y Comersio (Centre of Investigations in Environment and Commerce) El Salvador.
- (2015) Organizer/Leader of Delegation to El Salvador: Witness grass roots Anti Mining Activities in El Salvador.
- (2012-14) Team Member, Children and Youth Human Rights Empowerment Project. Dominican Republic. (CIDA)
- (1995-96) Community Organization Consultant Jos McMaster Drought Research Project, Nigeria. (CIDA), Partners for Development Grant.
- (1992-96) Community Organization Consultant and Team Member, McMaster Macquarie University Project, Uganda. (CIDA), Partners for Development Grant.
- (1979-1983) Community Development Consultant, Vermilion Bay Area Ontario Social Planning Council.
SELECTED VOLUNTEER ACTIVITY
- (2009-present) Reviewer for Critical Social journal.
- (2006-2015) Strategy Advisor for Balkwill and Associates on various community organization, social movement and social development projects.
- (2005-present) Reviewer for Canadian Review of Social Work journal.
- (2001-2003) Somali Youth Advisory Committee Member.
- (1989 -1991) Planning and Government Relations Committee, United Way of Greater Toronto.
- (1987-1991) Founding Board member, Hamilton Aboriginal Education Council.
- (1986-1988) Community Planning Committee for “Native People: Social & Community Development” programme, McMaster University Continuing Education.
- (1985-1987) Founding Board Member City of York Community & Agency Social Planning Council.
- (1978-1983) Board Member Native Women’s Centre of Hamilton-Wentworth.