Associate Professor, Social Development Studies

Robert Case profile pictureEducation

Ph.D., Wilfrid Laurier University - Social Work

M.S.W., University of British Columbia - Social Work

B.S.W., McGill University - Social Work

B.A., McGill University - Psychology<--break->

Research and teaching interests

Social welfare policy; community organization; community resilience, localism and community-based activism; social development and the environment; social ecology.

Recent publications

Case, R. & Connor, L. (2018). Launching a local movement: The founding of the Wellington Water Watchers. [full text, open access]

Case, R. & Connor, L. (2018). Groundwater protection in Wellington County: The battle over water bottling, 2000-2018. An interactive time-line and archive:

Case, R. A., & Zeglen, L. (2018). Exploring the ebbs and flows of community engagement: The pyramid of engagement and water activism in two Canadian communities. Journal of Community Practice26(2), 184-203. doi:10.1080/10705422.2018.1449044 Winner of the 2019 Marie O. Weil Award for outstanding scholarship, co-sponsored by the Association of Community Organizations and Social Administration (ACOSA) and Taylor & Francis Publisher [full text, open access]

Jaffee, D., & Case, R. (2018). Draining us dry: scarcity discourses in contention over bottled water extraction. Local Environment. Published online February 2, 2018. doi:10.1080/13549839.2018.1431616

Shaikh, A., Kauppi, C., & Case, R. (2017). Flooding in Kashechewan First Nation: Is it an environmental justice issue? The Canadian Journal of Native Studies, 37(2), 105-130. 

Case, R. (2017). Community resilience and eco-social work praxis: Insights from water activism in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Journal of Social Work, 17(4), 391-412. doi:10.1177/1468017316644695

Van Katwyk, P. & Case, R. (2017). From suspicion and accommodation to structural transformation: Enhanced scholarship through enhanced community-university relations. Engaged Scholars Journal: Community-Engaged Research, Teaching, and Learning, 2(2), 25-43. doi: 10.15402/esj.v2i2.164 [Full article; open access

Case, R. (2016). Social work and the moral economy of water: Community-based water activism and its implications for eco-social work. Critical Social Work, 17(2). [Full article; open access]

Case, R. (2016). Oversight through activism: lessons from an oral history of activism surrounding Elmira, Ontario's 1989 water crisis. Community Development, 48(1), 1-19. doi:10.1080/15575330.2016.1249491

Case, R. & Haanstra, S. (2014). Final evaluation report: Parent Outreach Worker program, Guelph Ontario. For Guelph Community Health Centre, Wellington -Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, Family & Children's Services of Guelph and Wellington County, and Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition. Retrieved from

See also "Water Wins" Community Reports on community-based water activism (2015-16)

Recent conference presentations

Case, R. (2019). Social work, social ecology, and the battle over water bottling in Ontario. ORAL PRESENTATION to the Canadian Association for Social Work Education Annual Conference 2019 (@ Congress, Vancouver, June 2-6).

Case, R. (2019). Getting activism started: The founding of the Wellington Water Watchers and the battle against water bottling. ORAL PRESENTATION to the Environmental Studies Association of Canada 2019 (@ Congress, Vancouver, June 2-6).

Tester, F. & Case, R. (2019). Planetary limits to anti-oppressive practice in a modern world. ORAL PRESENTATION to the Canadian Association for Social Work Education Annual Conference 2019 (@ Congress, Vancouver, June 2-6).

Current projects

Environmental history: Oral history of the Wellington Water Watchers

The Wellington Water Watchers is a volunteer-led community group that formed in 2006 in response to risks to local drinking water presented by quarrying and water bottling in the area. From its inception as a small group of friends sharing concerns, the Wellington Water Watchers has become a leading voice on groundwater issues in Ontario, attracting international attention and stimulating regulatory change at the provincial level.

objectives: Using media and archival review, participant observation, and life-history interviews, this project aims to document and analyze the history and evolution of the Wellington Water Watchers, and to draw lessons from this case study for scholarship and practice in community organization and social change.

Funder: unfunded.

Timeline: ongoing.

Community organization: Case studies in water activism

  • COVID adaptation and campaign resilience: A Case study of the Wellington Water Watchers' Peoples' Water Campaign

Qualitative interviews and social media analysis exploring adaptation strategies, and impacts on community engagement, campaign outcomes and longer-term capacities of the shift to on-line organizing and campaign activity. Objective: to generate theory and practice propositions regarding on-line organizing strategies and campaign/organizational resilience.

Funder: UW/SSHRC Robert Harding/Lois Claxton Humanities and Social Sciences Endowment Grant.

Timeline: Sep. 2020-May 2021

  • Nestlé Tracker: Comparative case studies of community-based water activism

Mixed methods case studies of opposition to Nestlé Waters groundwater taking for bottling in various communities in Canada and US. Objective: to document the stories and strategies used by activists and their opponents in communities opposing corporate water bottling, and to draw lessons about community organization and the operations of corporate and state power from them.

Funder: SSHRC Insight Development Grant (PI: Andrea Muelebach, UofT Mississauga)

Timeline: June 2021-May 2022

Basic income and green resilience

Stimulating and convening conversations across sectors in 25-35 communities throughout Canada regarding the income security and the transition to a sustainable economy. Objective: To build wider and deeper understanding of the synergies between community resilience, income security, and the low-carbon transition; and to build momentum for related policy advocacy.

Funder: Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Timeline: January 2021-March 2022.

Courses taught at Renison

SOCWK 222R/ SWREN 222R  Community Organization 1

SOCWK 322R/ SWREN 322R  International Perspectives in Community Organization

SOCWK 300R/ SWREN 300R  Canadian Social Welfare Policy

SDS 260R  Social Development and the Environment

SDS 322R  Community Engagement and Social Development

SDS 400R  Comparative Social Policy

Renison University College
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