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). 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 [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). Community engaged scholarship and the university's civic role: Shifting the culture of the academy. Engaged Scholars Journal: Community-Engaged Research, Teaching, and Learning, 2(2), 25-43. doi:10.15402/esj.v2i2.164

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

Case study of water activism: The Wellington Water Watchers (Wellington County, Ontario)

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.

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.

An evaluation of community development activities in Ontario Community Health Centres. (Partnership with the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC), 2017-2019.

Community development is beginning to gain more profile in the health sector as a viable and effective approach to health promotion and the pursuit of health equity. Community health centres across Ontario have been on the leading edge of this approach for some time now, directly implementing and/or collaborating with other agencies on a wide range of innovative community development programs in response to emergent local needs.

This project, led by Jennifer Rayner, Director of Evaluation and Research at the AOHC, will document and begin assessing the impacts of community initiatives being led by Ontario's community health centres. This project aims not only to generate insights about best practices in health-oriented community development programming, but in so doing to also contribute to the knowledge base concerning the dynamics of community wellbeing that underlie health and wellbeing at the family and individual level.

Data gathering on the first stage of research is expected to start in April 2018 and continue through March 2020.

Do Wins for Water Equal Wins for the Movement? Exploring the impact of campaign ‘wins’ on social movement organization in two Canadian communities”. (SSHRC Insight Development Grant, June 2014-May 2016)

When a local environmental campaign is successful, do more people sign up?  Through the exploration of the recent experiences of two water activist organizations, this project will examine the consequences of short-term success on longer-term grassroots participation in community-based social movement organizations.

The Wellington Water Watchers, a citizens' group in Wellington County, Ontario, was one party that in 2012 challenged an appeal by Nestlé Waters Canada, to the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal, to have certain conditions removed from a water-taking permit issued for operations in the county. Nestlé's eventual withdrawal of its appeal was celebrated in the community (and across Canada) as a significant victory for water activists. In Hope, B.C., where Nestlé Waters Canada also has water bottling operations, activists involved in the newly-formed Water Wealth Project (and others) organized themselves to take aim at Nestlé's operations there, drawing attention to the lack of regulation governing water use in that province and eventually contributing to the enactment of the province's new "Water Sustainability Act" in late 2013.

By comparing the consequences of success experienced by these two small, locally-focused social movement organizations at different stages of development and in different contexts, my aim is to generate insights of strategic value to community-based social movement organizers. 

Further information on the "Water Wins" research project.

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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