Community Practice: A Modern Branch of Social Work

The task of helping people within a specified group or demographic area to liberate themselves and to hold their own in a demanding society is best approached from a community level. Social work is a long standing profession which has been mainly aimed at empowering the weaker and more vulnerable members of our society. We live in a capitalist economy where opportunities are not evenly divided and people must compete to succeed. The society itself usually creates the very community problems that social work seeks to address.

Macro Practice

Effecting the desired change within a community requires several modes of guided interventions. These interventions fall under a new branch in the field of social work - Macro Practice. This practice deals specifically with the larger social systems interventions which are essentially a mix of several areas of the social sciences, and are meant to bring about a positive impact on society. These include economic development, urban planning, public affairs and nonprofit management.

Community practice involves more than the use of casework as a tool for addressing large scale problems. The activities within the practice are largely based on the needs, issues, concerns and problems that the practitioner identifies during an individual session with his or her client, but the interventions are designed to go beyond addressing them as individual issues. Social improvement plans are developed and implemented through a series of discussions and consultations between small groups, community organizations and the entire community. This means the practitioner will be involved at the organizational, community, and policy levels. Social workers are required to master skills that will enable them to organize people who have good intentions and desire a change, but lack the necessary coordination and direction to effect that change. 

The Basic Principles of Macro Practice

1. Informed Approach - A lack of adequate time and resources usually pose a threat to the development of quality macro interventions. In spite of this, the decisions must be based on the use of a complete set of data and information. The limited time and resources must be used to the maximum.

2. Consumer Input and Participation - This may be costly, time consuming and require extra energy, but once the social worker carefully selects the client the information they receive could help him/her avoid numerous pitfalls.

3. Critical Thinking - Armed with the problem statement that was agreed upon, the social worker must ensure that the planned interventions are really suitable for the problem to be addressed. Designing new and innovative programs is one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of macro practice.

4. Goal Directedness - The goals represent a shared vision between the clients and colleagues, and serve to help the social worker maintain the focus of the whole process/cause.

5. Outcome Orientation - Historically, the focus of social work was on the process (what the social worker does), but the interventions of macro practice will be centered on outcomes (the projected changes by and for the target community).

Social workers who are engaged in community practice are required to have their Masters in Social Work (MSW) degree as they will be working directly with people and groups of people to solve micro-level problems. The different branches of social science that are related to community practice are integrated into the masters program, thereby creating a clear picture of community practice for the candidates. A major part of the program is focused on how to get groups of people involved in making micro level decisions that serve as a solution to the community's problems.

Kevin Pearson is an independent real estate consultant. He has been actively involved in many new estate project communities. Visit Reunion to learn more.


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