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Alternative Agencies and Feminist Organizations: Building on the Legacy of Felice DavidsonPerlmutter

JHHSA, Vol. 43 No. 3, 239-267 (2020)

Over 30 years since Alternative Social Agencies (Perlmutter, 1988) was published, scholars from a range of disciplines have studied alternative approaches to human service administration, management, and leadership. In this paper, we pull the historical threads of alternative voices into the web of contemporary practice and memorialize Perlmutter’s legacy to social work education and practice. We begin with an historical perspective, framing the concept of an alternative agency and establishing the narrative in which Perlmutter’s book was incubated. We then review the literature that has emerged on alternative agencies and build on her quest to conceptualize what it means to be an “alternative agency,” using the subtype of feminist organizations as an exemplar. Finally, based on a review of this diverse literature, and grounded in the factors for success originally identified by Perlmutter, we identify lessons learned about strategies used in contemporary alternative agencies and their implications for human service leadership.

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