Robert Case

Associate Professor, Social Development Studies

Pronouns: he/him


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

Research and teaching interests

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

To learn more visit his website.

Courses taught in SDS

SOCWK 222R  Community Organization 

SOCWK 300R  Canadian Social Welfare Policy

SDS 260R  Social Development and the Environment

SDS 322R  Community Engagement and Social Development

SDS 400R  Comparative Social Policy

Current projects

Village Finding: Community Development for Child Welfare 

Village Finding is a provincially-funded pilot project of Family & Children’s Services (Guelph-Wellington) that aims to identify and mobilize community supports (extended family, neighbours, local service agencies and volunteers, etc.) towards supporting and building protective factors around vulnerable children. While child welfare will always need formal services and foster placements to keep children safe, the overall goal of this project is to create safety and promote the wellbeing of vulnerable children where they live, and reduce reliance on intrusive measures and formal services, by building community around them and their families. If successful, this pilot project could revolutionize child welfare in Ontario. 

Objectives: This project involves tracking and critically assessing the processes and impacts of implementing a new pilot initiative in child welfare, and connecting it to community development theory. 

Community organization: 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. 

Objectives: 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

Timeline: June 2021-May 2023

Environmental history: Oral history of the Water Watchers

The Water Watchers (formerly "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 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 Water Watchers, and to draw lessons from this case study for scholarship and practice in community organization and social change.

Funder: Renison Research Grants.

Timeline: ongoing.

Basic income and green resilience: The Green Resilience Project

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. View/download the final report here.

Funder: Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Timeline: January 2021-March 2022.

Recent publications

Case, R. (in press). Social ecology, hierarchy, and social action: Opportunities for eco-social work education. In S. Hillock (Ed.), Greening social work education: Caring sustainability (page #s). UofT Press.

Case, R. & Eady, A. (2022). Crisis and opportunity: The impacts of COVID-19 on water advocacy in Ontario, Canada. Journal of Community Practice. doi:10.1080/10705422.2022.2103864  

Grant, B. & Case, R. (2022). Youth empowerment and climate anxiety: Investigating the mental health impacts of climate change on youth and exploring the efficacy of a photovoice intervention. Educação, Sociedade & Culturas, 62. 

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 [full text, open access]

Jaffee, D., & Case, R. (2018). Draining us dry: scarcity discourses in contention over bottled water extraction. Local Environment, 23(4), 485-501. doi:10.1080/13549839.2018.1431616

Case, R. (2017). Community resilience and eco-social work praxis: Insights from water activism in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Journal of Social Work17(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 Work17(2). [Full article; open access]

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

Recent conference presentations

Case, R. & Barrett, B. (2021). Could local environmental activism be a pathway to direct democracy at the municipal level? Reflections from water activism in Wellington County, Ontario. ORAL PRESENTATION to Conference 2021 - Transnational Institute of Social Ecology (international, online, October 30)

Case, R. (2021). Reimagining connections: Lessons for community engagement from Ontario's battle over bottled water. ORAL PRESENTATION to the Sustainability Network - Conference 2021 (US based, online, January 28).

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).

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).