The Close to Home Story

How It Began

It all started in 2000, in Dorchester, Massachusetts. We were a small group of locals—residents, advocates, and police officers—coming from different experiences yet rallied around a shared vision: to confront the complex issue of domestic and sexual violence where it happens, in our neighborhoods. We started knocking on doors and speaking at meetings across Dorchester, walking over and through invisible barriers within our community, breaking long-held silences about the violence that existed. Our message was simple, but our request was challenging: work with us to change the social norms in our community that allow domestic and sexual violence to continue. 

The community response was overwhelming—with more and more residents offering to volunteer and support the effort. In time, the response needed a home, a place to land, a dedicated effort to nurture its growth. Inspired by community voices, we decided to create Close to Home, incorporating it as a nonprofit in February 2002.

Communities Come to Life

Within four years, Close to Home was engaging youth, adult community residents, merchants, and civic and organizational life in the neighborhood, touching the lives of 14,000 community members annually. We were recognized as a leader in innovation by local and international social entrepreneurship competitions. We were invited to sit on the state-level policy advisory boards and to help integrate community organizing strategies into long-term, state-wide prevention plans. We were also invited to speak throughout the US and abroad about our approach, as interest in community-led change processes started to grow.

By 2008, we sought and received substantial public and private funding to develop a proactive five-year growth plan, which included implementing our full community organizing approach in three Massachusetts communities in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Shortly after, we were chosen by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to be one of three promising practices tested in two communities each. Based on assessments of our work over four years, the CDPH chose Close to Home’s approach of the three for broader implementation. We felt truly energized by the momentum and traction our work was gaining locally and in the broader field. 

Giving Everything to a Vision

However, our story did not evolve as we expected, or planned. As hoped, interest in Massachusetts and California continued to grow, and there was increasing appetite in the US and beyond for learning and training in community organizing. However, at the same time, we began to question whether the organizational vehicle called Close to Home remained the most effective approach for our social change strategies, including supporting local efforts, training other communities, and playing a thought-leadership role. The existing infrastructure at Close to Home was simply not enough to meet the need and interest. And so, we faced difficult choices and heartbreaking struggles as we decided how to truly honor our mission and vision of engaging whole communities in ending domestic and sexual violence. In the end, we made a very strategic and intentional decision to let go of this organization as a central entity, a locus of change. Instead, we chose to distribute our programs and knowledge among partner organizations and networks, believing that at this evolutionary phase of our growth we would have more impact by investing these resources in the broader movement ecosystem.

By July 2014, Close to Home's local and Massachusetts programs—along with the seeds and spirit of our mission—were transplanted into new organizational homes, while we turned our focus to documenting the approach, training new California communities, and engaging in national movement building with Move to End Violence Movement Makers.

What we have learned above all through Close to Home is that the work of organizing communities to end violence is bigger (and deeper) than all of us and certainly bigger than any one organization. By virtue of its underlying values, it calls into question the boxes and structures we are so accustomed to working within. It reminds us that the most we can do is imagine, try, learn, share, and engage with our fullest most authentic selves. From this, our movement can grow.