The arts and cultural institutions can be powerful resources for promoting the development of individuals and communities. Social work agencies and cultural institutions share similar goals at the individual and community levels, such as personal improvement, the creation of social bonds, expression of communal meaning, and economic growth. Studies on the use of arts in social work practice suggest that they can be powerful tools for intervention. These collaborations were essential to practice in the social settlements and in economic policies of the New Deal. Social work practice into the future can build upon this historical engagement.
Lorraine Gutiérrez and Mark Creekmore
Amanda Moore McBride
Civic engagement is the backbone of the social work profession. Through our civic mission, we have long organized and empowered citizens in common pursuits to address social, economic, and political conditions. In the United States, the status of social and political engagement is of heightened concern, particularly as emerging research demonstrates a range of effects. The challenge for social work is to increase the capacity of the nonprofit sector to promote and maximize engagement, especially among low-income and low-wealth individuals, through theory-driven, evidence-based interventions.
King Davis and Hyejin Jung
This entry defines the term disparity as measurable differences between groups on a number of indices. The term disparity originated in France in the 16th century and has been used as a barometer of progress in social justice and equality in the United States. When disparity is examined across the U.S. population over a longitudinal period, it is clear that disparities continue to exist and that they distinguish groups by race, income, class, and gender. African American and Native American populations have historically ranked higher in prevalence and incidence than other populations on most indices of disparity. However, the level of adverse health and social conditions has declined for all population groups in the United States. The disparity indices include mortality rates, poor health, disease, absence of health insurance, accidents, and poverty. Max Weber’s theory of community formation is used in this entry to explain the continued presence and distribution of disparities. Other theoretical frameworks are utilized to buttress the major hypothesis by Weber that social ills tend to result from structural faults rather than individual choice. Social workers are seen as being in a position to challenge the structural origins of disparities as part of their professional commitment to social justice.