Lessons from Crisis: New York City Nonprofits after September 11

This study from six months after the September 11 attacks provides a grounded snapshot of New York City’s nonprofit organizations struggling to get back on their feet after the one-two punch of the 9/11 terrorist attack and the resulting free-fall economy. The lessons that can be drawn from it are still enormously useful—namely, flexibility and networks are what helped some even very small organizations sustain even through unimaginable turmoil and grief.

Social Welfare After September 11

In 1991 off the New England shore, three systems combined to create the strongest single storm in recorded history. The colossal collision of “three pieces of energy” was a regenerated hurricane. This event, now known as the “Perfect Storm”—the title of a popular book and movie—was not acknowledged as a single phenomenon at the time. According to meteorologist David Epstein, “most meteorologists still refer to it as the no-name storm because it wasn’t given a name and it probably should have been.” Its power was unmistakable. Winds peaked at 100 miles an hour, and ocean waves of up to 100 feet and shore waves 30 to 40 feet high left devastation in their wake. Many of those who died in the course of this combined event were never found.

Welcome | Spring 2002

September 11 focused national attention on the risks and complexities of survival in a global society. In its wake, the notion that any nation-state, even one with the economic and military might of the United States, can guarantee the safety and security of its citizens has all but collapsed—much has changed in six months. Yet, with time to reflect, some voices in the nonprofit sector are suggesting that the events of September 11 merely brought many conditions that existed on September 10 into bold relief. The long-term trend toward devolution, disinvestment, privatization and profitization of vital human services continues unabated. So, trying to make some sense of the radically changed environment we now share, the Nonprofit Quarterly reached out to practitioners, academics and advocates, inviting them to share their insights and opinions.

The New Federalism

The three D’s of the conservative political revolution—disinvestment, dismantling, and devolution—spell out the challenge for nonprofits and their constituents.