In the 1960s, the War on Poverty dramatized the plight of "the other America." Simultaneously helping professions in general and clinical psychology in particular grappled with redefined responsibilities to society's disenfranchised citizenry.
Goldenberg advocates an alliance between social activist and clinician in the arena of community action. In this seminal case study of New Haven's Residential Youth Center (RYC), he examines the evolution of a new setting for human renewal and draws inferences for the creation of other non-self-defeating programs. The success of the RYC's innovations challenges and indicts orthodox clinical practices, training programs, and social research techniques.
It would be sad, however, if this book were viewed within the narrow confines of the so-called War on Poverty. It is true that it deals with disadvantaged youth, the helping role of nonprofessional people, the orientation of the mental health professions, and the other matters of governmental and community policy. It is also true, that this book contains data supporting the conclusion that hard-core, inner city youth who were fortunate to live for varying periods of time at the Residential Youth Center—which was conceived and directed primarily by Goldenberg—became significantly less "hard core" than a control group that did not live there.
Although all this and more are contained in this book, its significance lies elsewhere, and that elsewhere is an arena of thought that is fascinating as it is thorny and hardly recognized. In this arena of thought the central problem or question has two aspects: How do people go about creating setting, or organizations, or programs? How might people go about the creation of settings so that goals are not subverted by processes of growth that usually produce "organizational craziness," i.e., administrative structures, social atmospheres, and intra- and intergroup dynamics that cause individuals to suffer and organizations to become obsolete, or die.