The Social Work Profession’s Contributions to Community Organization and Development

The Social Work Profession’s Contributions to Community Organization and Development


now we’re gonna turn we’re gonna turn
the discussion now to social works contributions to community practice
community organization we have Lorraine gets yes and Larry Gant from the
University of Michigan and the discussion is Michael rice from the
University of Maryland with that I’ll hand it over to Lorraine so we are
Lorraine Gutierrez and Larry Gant we’re at the University of Michigan School of
Social Work we’re very happy to have been invited to share our thoughts at
this symposium and so I want to thank the organizers of this event I also you
know I realized that we did not use U of M logos so I’m feeling kind of bad but I
do want to let you know that the U of M has achieved the 20 by 2020
in fact we achieved the 20 by 2020 before it was a goal so we have over 20
percent of our MSW program students enrolled in some form of macro practice
the largest concentration is community the next is management and the third is
policy and evaluation so it can be done and it is done in some places so Larry
and I are gonna I we split this up I’m doing the first half he’s doing the
second half our presentation is focused on what is
community practice in American social work what are our roots and foundations
what is our what is the current status and trends in the field and then what
are some future challenges and directions for us so what is community
praxis or community practice in social work gamble and while in the
Encyclopaedia social work define it as formal practice interventions for
community work and the roots of community practice are deep in terms of
our field it they run from the community organizations societies work in social
planning the settlement work that contributed to the development of
neighborhood services and policy advocacy and community research
community extension work in rural areas with community
development and the group work practices and traditions which contributed to our
development of social action strategies what distinguishes community
organization practices social work from other types of community practice in
other fields or community practice out in the community is that we have
developed formal methods in the context of the Social Work profession that
reflect our values ethics and the priorities of our field we can be
distinguished from but we have been always been linked to broader social
movements for justice and community change that have occurred outside of the
Social Work profession or in the grassroots in communities not connected
to professional work we can think of ourselves as being oriented more toward
the wholesale rather than the retail forms of social welfare and social work
to the macro and less often the micro though we do work that incorporates both
and community can be viewed as both a method of practice and the development
of community as an outcome of practice and that’s an important distinction to
think about our foundations for community practice or what we often
refer to as praxis in the field praxis referring to the unity of thought
and action or research in action our interdisciplinary we draw on social
science field such as sociology political science community psychology
and anthropology we are both theoretically and
practice-based in terms of what we write about and think about and teach and
we’re very interprofessional and and draw upon and communicate with other
fields that also use community practice methods such as community development
urban planning public health and adult education so what is the role of
community practice and social work this is a framework that was created by
Roland Warren wrote the book the community in America
that was published in 1978 you know when I talked to my colleagues who are not
teaching community practice they may have ideas of what we’re teaching they
may be thinking we’re teaching students to protest and not realizing that that’s
the frame for community practice is much broader than protest protest as one of
the methods we teach but we also teach about collaborative practice we teach
about community consensus building we’ve teach about education and lobbying in
the community and informing people of their rights or about issues and
conflict or what Warren called contest or conflict approaches the community
practice we’re really are really only oriented towards situations where
agreements are not likely we’re bargaining advocacy are needed and where
we might need to employ methods of protest boycotts and legal action when I
talk to students about why they went into social work they usually give one
of two answers I want to help people or I want to change society many of us
myself included want to help people and we want to change society people who go
into community practice typically see themselves as helping people by changing
society whereas many of the clinically oriented students I talk to see
themselves as changing society by helping people and I can’t reinforce
more of the importance that we need to understand that we’re all trying to
achieve the goals but perhaps from different perspectives in different
directions Jack Rothman in the late 60s who was at
the University of Michigan at the time created a model of framework of three
models for community practice that we’re going to allude to in our presentation
those models being Community Development Community Planning and community action
and we continue to teach those and work from those frameworks in most in many
schools of social work including the University of Michigan community
organization concentration and our profession has made contributions to
community practice by developing those methods from the inception or
even before we even were a profession our roots as a field are in the
Progressive Era in US history we saw the development of neighborhood
and community approaches to social conditions such as poverty and
inequality and I see that as one significant social work contribution
these community-based methods that were developed during that era predated the
development of social work as a profession but the engaged in activities
such as group work Community Planning social action community-based research
and advocacy that eventually became part of our field so they made quite a strong
contribution to the social work field in general these programs were most in the
u.s. were most often developed by women of color and European American women
whose focus was allocating programs where people lived on approaching
community members as residents rather than as cases or clients and were
focused on improving community conditions in human capital the work of
the social settlements but also the black women’s clubs and the National
Urban League were very instrumental in this development of the Fort this form
of social work community practice and I have here if you don’t recognize them
two of the leaders in this field IDB Wells Barnett who is one of my great
heroes and also jane addams who when I was in fourth grade inspired me to learn
more about social work by reading her biography written for kids the chair
another root and foundation in social work and social community practice are
the planning a united funds that were developed around a hundred years ago and
earlier in many of the Midwestern to eastern cities and the charity
organization societies that predated them and they also contributed to our
thinking about community practice and development of community practice and
social work in general this work focused on organizing relief work coordinating
the work of DIF charity and coordinating the work of different charitable
organizations as these efforts evolved they supported and benefit from
community study and Community Survey projects such as the Hull House maps and
papers and the Pittsburgh survey which
collected data on social conditions and pinpointed areas of high need in many
most many if not most communities has work also involved the solicitation and
disbursement of public funds to charities and other human service
organizations and so they were involved in developing the field fields of
community prac planning and service coordination that
also continue to be a part of social work and also social work community
practice group work social group work especially the formation of was
something called so intergroup work in went 40s and 50s contributed to Social
Work community practice as well inter the concept of intergroup work which was
social group work that brought together individuals who represented competing
interests in communities was first written about by Neustadter who was a
Dean of Pittsburgh in the 1950s and late 40s he defined social intergroup work as
that part of social practice that is concerned with the achievement of
mutually satisfactory relationships among groups in a community in terms of
a goal or goal selected modified or carried out by the intergroup so this is
group work deliberately developed to bring together differing interests to
work on common issues or areas of conflict to look toward conflict
resolution the first community organizing program that took this form
and was focused on intergroup work was founded by Dean Neustadter at Pitt in
1958 this framework for community practice was also instrumental the 1950s
and 60s especially with after the development of the opportunity theory by
Cloward in Olin which influenced the founding and mobilization for youth in
New York City and other fort funded demonstration programs in the 50s and
60s which were developed to deal with what were seen as problems in the inner
cities or in urban areas and these perspectives also influenced our Great
Society programs of the late 60s including models cities and they and the
concept maximum feasible participation of
community members in the development and provision of services during that time
period community organizing as a method in social work really was at its height
in terms of an area of study for students an area of larger enrollment
and a development of a lot of theory in this 1960s and in the late 20th century it can be attributed in some ways of a
sort of moral panic that took place in the late 60s regarding in the post-war
era in the late 50s in the 1960s concerns about what’s going on in our
society concept ideas about juvenile delinquency about the anti-war movement
and the civil rights that were going among other issues the early development
of second wave feminism all of which were occurring during that time period
the development of community practice of the late 20th century was also informed
by methods that originated from the labor movement were translated into the
industrial areas foundations work and in Chicago and other areas and interpreted
by Alinsky and Ross and they were brought into community practice in
social work the social movements toward racial justice gender justice gay
liberation youth and anti-war movements were instrumental in providing a vision
for how more conflict oriented methods could be used by social workers engaged
in community practice the neighborhood based services in the war on poverty
became a place where people who had community organizing degrees could work
and have a career with their MSW and CEO and also the development of the Peace
Corps and Vista programs during that time period were places where young
people might go and have that experience and then want to come to the u.s. do
similar work and get an MSW and community organizing this led to various models of
conceptualising community practices in Social Work I’ve put up one one
framework I’m going to just briefly touch on four and let me turn over to
Tulare the first is one I alluded to already the three the tripartite model
developed by Jack Rothman in the late 60s which talks about you know Community
Development Community Planning and social action community action as the
sort of the three main forms of community practice he then has gone on
since 1967 or so when he developed that to talk about the mixing and phasing of
methods the interactions of these different combinations of these methods
so phasing would be you might start using one method and then move into
other types of method in a particular community he also in his work talks
about combining methods in certain situations this perspective that’s up
here is from my colleague Barry check away article in 1995 where he talked
about six strategies Community Change again very similar to the Warren
perspective I put up there which moved from sort of the more collaborative to
the more conflictual methods a more collaborative development in education
being toward the bottom of that chart and the more conflict oriented such as
mobilization and action being up near the top and then also what are the role
social workers would play in those different methods what are the what are
the goals of those methods so it’s really a framework for thinking about
what’s the best issue place and time for using a particular method a while and
Gamble in the work that they have done have identified eight methods so they
have many of these methods but include for example what they call functional
communities which are not place-based but are like virtual communities or
communities of identity and also to have economic development as separate from
social development and then piles Loretto piles at albany and her current
work on what she calls transformative community practice
which works as she and this is a quote from her most recent book works through
the liberation of oppressed and marginalized individuals and the
transformation of social systems that perpetuate oppression so with equal and
dual focus on both individual and community transformation in doing
community organization work okay great in hello I’m Larry Gant so I’ll pick up
and continue with this so I’m gonna talk briefly about where community practice
is today and community practice in the future hopefully our review of the
information and literature shows us then suggests to us that the likelihood is
very is strong that there are incredible there I think increasing writings
available text strong text and an interesting kind of an evidence base
which we’ll talk a little bit about going forward here we share the space in
community practice with other professions and with other perspectives
and locations so depending on any particular kind of project we are
engaged in community work and we run into people from programs in art and
design from urban planning from architecture from public health and from
community psychology who are many times as surprised to see us in community work
as we are to see at them in the community work as well so that’s an
interesting observation and an interesting reality it’s not going away
as far as health goals Public Health is here to stay with community-based
participatory research they’ve got a paradigm and a framework and that is
that is involved and that is enforced there are other models of various kinds
various aspects of community practice including it including participant
action research community-based participatory
search and others in that kind of way we would suggest however that this provides
and this elicits it’s a fraction of the range of community practice the
organizing acts aspects the agency aspects are still very very important
and one of the things that we’re kind of we’re seeing right now is more riding on
the importance of organizing the importance of activities as being core
components we’re finding these core components of organizing of community
work really embedded in other aspects of doing community work so in community
development in the philanthropic aspects even in the private sector work in
working in communities we see that there’s always a really interesting kind
of component of community organizing it’s a matter of fact there’s another
slide here in terms of the new directions and we see that in these new
directions whether it’s strategies for social intervention evasion advocacy for
social change power and organizing we still see at the Nexus if you look at
the table of contents for each of these books each of these documents you’ll see
critical aspects of organizing in terms of going forward with this the extent to
which the extent to which the community organizing has an evidence base is
really quite interesting we just finished a review of the
cochrane literature on the evaluation of community-based programs and so this is
very very interesting because some of you may know that Cochrane routinely now
reviews community-based programs in health promotion and savings accounts
mostly on health but also increasing and the evidence base is really really
strong in terms of the efficacy and the cost benefit cost benefits of engaging
in work at the community levels around health promotion
problem-solving juvenile justice hiv/aids prevention and a number of
other activities what’s really interesting is that Cochran and the
reviews focus on the actual engaging of work in communities they don’t talk
about community organization however in our readings of the methodology sections
of each of these systematic reviews we always see that there’s always a
discussion on the importance of engaging community audiences stakeholders and
institutions in the neighborhoods and that’s a really large part of
methodology so one of the thoughts is that community organizing really is you
know has the potential to be reviewed as a mediating variable as a process that
leads to larger outcomes that work is still being developed is still being
engaged in as of now the work and the frames that people usually look at and
Cochran is not it’s not immune to that it’s basically the extent to which
community organizing is an outcome it’s less an outcome and more an essential
variable and so there are some reviews underway that look at community
organizing primarily as a process or as a meeting mediating variable I am out of
time so thank you for all of that well I have some other kinds of information
that may occur in the discussion and dialogue but I want to keep us on time
frame thanks so much in the beginning there was community
organizing as Lorraine and Larry pointed out it’s been a central feature of
American social work since before the profession of Social Work existed
particularly during the Progressive Era the Depression years and the civil
rights era organizers and social work helped create more effective services
while pursuing broader social change goals yet even during these periods the
pursuit of professionalism prompted them to adopt practice models that reflected
the dominant values and goals of social works financial and political supporters
primarily government wealthy philanthropists and major foundations so
it’s important to point out that community organizing emerged less as a
specific method in social work than as a means for social service providers to
create programs and acquire the resources needed to support and sustain
them it was also initially inspired by
efforts to extend democracy into all phases of community life enable ordinary
citizens to regain control of their destiny through cooperation with others
and to reduce the demoralizing effects of social fragmentation and break down
the false distinction that had emerged between private and civic life but
pretty soon the professionalizing impulse transformed much of community
organizing from a cause related method to a function absorbed into the
administrative structure of Social Work this created a dilemma for community
organizing that continues today the more organizers aspired to professional
status the more they were the less they were involved with social reform and
social change the more they focused on systems change the more difficulty they
had distinguishing their activities from those of
like-minded individuals and groups outside of the profession by the late
1930s this dilemma came into sharp focus the definition of community organizing
in the 1939 lane report that was commissioned by the American Association
of Social Work included both the older planning function of organizing and the
newer occupational roles that had emerged during the New Deal
in contrast the left-wing rank-and-file movement which at the time had more
members than the AAA SW proposed that community organizers and shelter work
should emulate their counterparts in trade unions during the repressive
post-war McCarthy era this activism diminished considerably and Social Work
leaders frequently argued that organizers needed to observant ation and
class struggle so it was not until the 1960s that social workers again adopted
an activist stance within the community organizing field and but this was
largely due to the influence of outsiders like Sol Olinsky
but even then efforts to integrate activist principles into community
organizing did not occur without a struggle
many liberals in social work oppose the use of disruptive tactics and the
structural changes activists sought so a split emerged in the profession which
persists today grassroots organizers and advocates on the one hand and policy
analysts and planners on the other in addition for a century
critics of both approaches to community organizing bemoan the absence of
multicultural frameworks to guide practitioners so in response alternative
community practice models have emerged that reflected greater awareness of a
significance of race ethnicity gender and sexual orientation so community
struggles today increasingly afraind as contests over identity or ideology in
addition during the past four decades dramatic economic and political changes
and their accompanying ideological rationales have created
a new set of challenges for community organizing the growing and ability of
communities to solve local problems that have global roots ideological attacks on
the concepts of Social Welfare the privatization of major features of
community life the withdrawal of government support for Community
Development the declining influence of organized labor a longtime ally and
changes in the mission and roles of nonprofit community-based organization
proposed responses to these challenges have varied within the field some
organizers have abandoned geographically centered models of practice in favour of
a focus on communities of identity or interests others promote community
self-sufficiency through the development of alternative local institutions young
organizers in particular increasingly rely on social media as a tool to inform
and mobilize virtual communities so consequently to turn to the research
aspect of this it has become more difficult and edge ever to measure the
effectiveness of community organizing three factors in this regard standout
one is a lack of clarity regarding goals many forms of community organizing seats
seek to prevent community problems or prevent them from becoming more severe
which by definition are harder to assess for example the direct action model
focuses on organization building the acquisition of power and resources and
the attainment of tangible victories to inspire people by contrast the
insurrectionary model emphasizes spontaneous action rather than
organization building social movement theorists examine the attainment of
resources power rights and access by community groups and their relationship
to powerful institutions feminist organizers focus on process issues such
as enhanced participation and democratic consensus models of decision-making and
emphasized consciousness-raising and in a similar vein multicultural organizers
stress increased cultural awareness and matching community organizing methods to
people’s needs a second issue as result is that effective practice means
different things in different settings in part because of the ambiguous
definitions of such terms as empowerment and even the word community itself a third is the need to distinguish between
the outcome and process results of community organizing in different
contexts and how to measure them so as a result of these problems there is often
little scientific evidence that establishes what constitutes effective
community organizing particularly in the area of grassroots organizing and social
action same problem persists in community planning and particularly
although there’s been more research in there at air one of the particular
problems in the planning field is linking the efforts of planners to the
issue of social justice so as a result of trying to apply some of these values
to activists organizing community organizing several contradictions exist
which have particular salience in today’s increasingly diverse society
between the pursuit of distributive justice and value free practice between
an empowerment emphasis and the application of an empiricist model of
science that frequently diminishes constituents role in defining community
problems in their solution and between different definitions of social justice
and the common good so in addition to resolving these conceptual and ethical
dilemmas the future of community organizing and social work depends upon
our conducting research that answers the following questions this is where I’ll
conclude what organizational forms strategies and tactics are best suited
for a particular community in a particular context what are the most
effective roles for organizers in multicultural environments and to
enhance their participation in emerging social movements like black lives matter
hashtag me too and occupy what is the relative effectiveness of organizing
based on geography identity or interests what are the strengths and
tations of organizing virtual communities what skills will the
organizers of the future need to do these things successfully and finally
and perhaps most controversially what are the pros and cons of community
organizing remaining part of the Social Work profession thank you mark for this
opportunity we have about 10 minutes for questions answers comments in this area
of social works domain or not no questions about community practice
comments there we go and feel free actually you know to line up you know if
you’ve got a question that line up I again Tina sure Ellie how many I’m from
West Chester University so I think we’d be remiss to not recognize the
importance of social policy administrative and community
organization practice going together and so as a leader of a Social Work program
a Masters of Social Work program it is important for me to help our students
faculty and staff to understand why this is such an important part of our social
work identity these this is what sets us apart from other professions so when dr.
rice talks about social justice and our social justice mission of our profession
our students aren’t going to effectively affect that social justice mission if
they’re only working in individual contexts and so it’s important for us to
help our students to see the connection and the impact that the macro has on the
micro and the micro has on the macro and so really I think that what the 2015 I
possess to do as social work educators is to help our students see these
connections and not just say that it’s enough for
20% of our students had to have an interest in macro practice but for a
hundred percent of our students to see the connection between the micro and the
macro practice just comments yeah I agree totally with with what you’re
saying I think in order to do that effectively we need to have faculty who
understand that and who can communicate with that that to students and in order
to have faculty who can do that we have to have doctoral students who have been
educated to do that in order to do that we have to have doctoral programs that
see this as a priority in how they’re educating doctoral students because
people go into PhD programs may not understand that or have that perspective
you know we’re in a system so I absolutely agree with you I think that
thinking back at my years as a practitioner both direct and and macro
practice if I hadn’t had that understanding which I did get actually
from SSA they used to have a concentration that was focused on
integrating the to the macro and the micro and I was lucky enough to be in it
when I was a direct service practitioner if I hadn’t had that training as an MSW
student I wouldn’t have known how to do that in my own direct service practice
or my practice when I was a program manager and so we need to think about I
think some workforce concerns around who’s teaching in schools and and are
they prepared to teach that perspective yeah very very briefly I resonate with
your comments my initial involvement in equity and social justice was actually
not necessarily at the School of Social Work it was actually my internship with
the National Association of black social workers
and that organization was decidedly political progressive and it was
insufficient for us to talk about being involved in social justice and equity
because even at that time in the mid 80s the expectation was that you defined
very clearly what social justice and equity is and what models you’re using
and what the trade-offs were and you had to do that in real time with people not
at the academy but in the community and so that kind of orientation I got and I
didn’t know how lucky I was to get that orientation but I find that that is
something that we are still working to it and incorporate in you know our
School of Social Work insufficient to tell you about social justice which
model are you talking about and what model and what is that what does that
model presume about you know the community the abrogation publicly and
legally elected officials which we did not have in Michigan and in Detroit for
for several years and when the impact of that was but also what what are your
notions of equity as well too so we have to define those if we don’t define those
there’s no use in talking about the importance of justice what kind of
justice and what can the context and for whom okay well I agree with what was
said but I as a longtime organizer activist and advocate I always I’m
looking for hooks to how to get to change the situation and I think that
there are two possible hooks here one is the issue of practice by way of the
environment I think that’s a fundamental principle since Mary Richmond
articulated a century ago but I think what we have to do for our clinical
colleagues and students and practitioners in the field is also to
broaden their concept of what the environment is the environment is not
simply the family and maybe the neighborhood but the but it’s also the
political economic environment it’s the changing nature of work it’s the effect
of social policy on there it’s the effect of history and culture
so that’s one hook I think we could use the other hook is the frequently used
term of empowerment everybody talks about empowerment it’s
become watered down too it has no more meaning any longer Barbara Brian Solomon
is probably doing you know backflips about this when she first integrated it
it was a combination of political economic and psycho psycho social
factors we’ve we’ve to redefine that so if we focus on empowerment that means we
have to look at the issue of power and politics and social work has become deep
politicized in the last three or four gen decades and I think we have to make
students understand how politics small eat not electoral politics only but
small P politics affects everything because it involves the distribution of
resources status opportunities access and so forth so those are the two hooks
I think we might be able to use not to try to necessarily change people’s
orientation most of our students want to work with individuals and families and
they need to be there to do that but maybe we have to think about how they
conceptualize that work by using two principles with which they were already
familiar but broadening their meaning thank you very much I really appreciated
those comments I’m Jessica Toth from st. Thomas st.
Kate’s in Minnesota and I want to echo this idea about what is social justice
because I’ve heard it in many presentations throughout the time we’ve
been here and it’s a floating signifier and I think actually by not defining it
we end up we end up being able to say everything we do with social justice so
it loses its meaning so um I would like to a couple of a couple of ideas one of
them is that instead of just saying we are we implement a biopsychosocial model
why don’t we say biopsychosocial political model add political
intentionally because that social part comes from a medical background and it
means something different to people so political in that and I also would like
to think about the idea of a rubric of a democracy or even citizenship as an idea
of membership within society so the political civil social and economic
rights of citizenship by embodying those a measure of social justice and in
thinking about that and even obligations of citizenship to but if we could start
using a framework that’s a solidifying framework somehow I think we can look at
different models practice and say to what extent are you doing that practice
because it benefits your your profession and what percent and what extent are you
doing it because it benefits the clients you work with or maybe the people you
work with and get that we’re client out of there as much as possible so a couple
of ideas I’d love to hear your comments about that well I completely agree thank
you for letting me go first I completely agree with you that the ambiguity of the
definition of social justice not just the United States but globally is a
fundamental issue I mean it is one of the six ethical imperatives that NASW
was established at nowhere in the code of ethics does it define what that means
so it’s up to everybody to define it him or herself and I think that that’s a
fundamental issue I could go on for far too long about how I would define it and
how others have defined it but I think that that’s absolutely critical because
I think it’s part of the fundamental effort as I alluded to in my earlier
comment about linking the gap between our rhetoric and our practice and if we
don’t do that we’ve lost our integrity whether we aspire to be professionals or
social change agents or just helpers and I so I think it’s absolutely critical
that we do that we need to have more discussion about it people need to be
more informed about the literature internationally about how that’s defined
about the linkage between social justice and human rights or not and about a
whole bunch of other issues so thank you for raising that question thank you so
we’re gonna let’s thank our panelists and

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