Community Service Council (CSC) was founded in 1941, as the Council of Social Agencies. Like other planning councils across the country, Tulsa’s Council originally was formed to bring social agencies together to communicate, identify issues of shared concern, and explore ways to work cooperatively to better serve people in need. This role as a knowledgeable and trusted convener remains a key strength today.
CSC’s longstanding roles are those of convener, researcher, forecaster, planner, partner, advisor, and catalyst for change. Sometimes we incubate a new effort and help it become either a freestanding organization or part of another organization. Other times, we manage it as a partnership initiative on an ongoing basis. Often this work is behind the scenes, unnoticed by all except those directly involved.
Over the years, some of the issues CSC has worked on have come and gone; others have come, gone, or returned with greater importance and impact. Many new issues also have appeared, emerging from the dramatically changing conditions and needs in Oklahoma and the nation. Regardless of the timing, we have always been there to respond with a focus on serving the community and helping it anticipate and address critical, sometimes controversial, concerns.
CSC is well known for its leadership in tackling difficult, important issues, acting to promote success early and prevent as much negative influence as possible. Child care, homelessness, mental health, substance abuse, child abuse, HIV/AIDS, early childhood development, prenatal care, community integration for persons with disabilities, long term care, and emergency shelter and financial aid are examples of the varied, important concerns we have addressed.
Many times CSC studies and recommendations have led to the creation of new initiatives and entities to address a critical emerging need long term, often supported by the United Way and/or other funders, both public and private.
CSC increasingly during the past several years has functioned as a think tank for preemptive impact in Oklahoma, providing leadership for preemptive thinking and action. This includes confronting rapidly emerging trends and needs, examining and explaining them to clarify new directions and engaging community attention, and developing innovative solutions.
Since the start, CSC has weaved together a strong community culture of working together. Issues are addressed through an array of efforts including task forces, coalitions, research studies, reports, pilot projects, resource publications, awareness campaigns, training events, resource development, information dissemination, building community partnerships, public policy advocacy, technical assistance, mobilizing community and volunteer support, and other activities. All involve diverse groups and interests, professional and volunteer, to promote both community ownership and sustainability.
This culture nurtures and supports leadership and engagement of effort necessary to address complex challenges over a long time period, a key traditional strength of planning councils and something for which CSC is widely respected.
Over the years CSC has recognized that to make a stronger impact on more complex challenges and affect many more lives, it must use a much broader array of approaches, and engage additional partners to adjust their roles and commitments. Having begun as a trade association of social agencies, CSC now works not just with service-provider agencies but also with departments of government, legislators, foundations, corporations, for-profit service providers, consumers, civic and community groups, the media, and leaders from other sectors. This engagement exists at all levels – local, state and national.
As a result of this growing impact, in 2009, “of Greater Tulsa” was dropped from the Council’s name because of CSC’s expanded geographic focus, encompassing its larger service area as well as its growing state and national influence.
The Council’s growing understanding of the nature and scope of human service needs since the mid-1970’s led to a board-approved new strategy in the early 1990’s that continues today – an overall emphasis integrated throughout its work is on prevention. It was concluded, “there will never be enough services to meet the current, much less projected growth of needs. The Council was to focus its functions incrementally in the coming years on enhancing steps to reduce and prevent this growth.”
During the past twenty years, CSC has applied a lifespan perspective—a way of thinking and acting that seeks to build and enhance opportunities that increase the potential for people to take better care of themselves, their families and children, and our community. Its core investment areas of work, supported by its five fey functions reflect this commitment, and it continually carries this message to its many partners and the broader community. Achieving critical health, education, employment, financial and other outcomes essential to success and quality of life along the lifespan is CSC’s overall strategy.
This investment in people approach is deemed more essential than ever. In 2017, we completed a reorganization that defined six new divisions, or core investment areas, to guide and shape our work helping people now and into the future. All programs and initiatives were systematically organized by these divisions, with new Division Directors at the helm of each, which include Data & Information, Education, Health & Mental Health, Housing & Homelessness, Incarceration Reduction and Veterans. Furthermore, in 2017, we welcomed a new executive team including Chief Executive Officer Kevin Burr, Chief Program Officer Vanessa Finley, Chief Financial Officer John Gonsalves, and Chief of External Affairs Heather Hope-Hernandez, who led the way for our successful reorganization, and the advancement of our new long-range strategic plan, Imagine 2040.