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Article

Civil Society  

Kristin M. Ferguson

Considerable definitional vagueness exists regarding civil society, in part due to the concept's long history and multiple underlying schools of thought. Issues of multiculturalism and social justice are central to the term. Civil society is also a global concept, referring to the supranational sphere. The social work profession can benefit from collaborative action with local civil society associations in working to dismantle structural inequality and enhance opportunities for disadvantaged populations.

Article

Social Capital  

Katrina Balovlenkov

Social capital is a social science concept used within macro social work practice to describe the role of human relationships, connectivity, and networks in the planned change process. Social capital has been used to examine how marginalized populations and resource-limited communities mobilize and act to improve social conditions relying on human relationships, connectivity, and networks. Social capital, particularly as it relates to social support and collective efficacy, is linked to preventing and treating disease and addressing socioeconomic conditions that create community-level barriers to well-being. Cultivating social capital has influenced social movements in the United States to produce positive change, such as efforts to create green spaces, challenge discriminatory laws, expand access to healthy food in food deserts, preserve native lands, and enact healthcare reforms. While the definition and measurement of social capital has evolved over the years, in the broadest sense it informs macro social work by improving our understanding of how collective advocacy built on interconnectedness, reciprocity, and trust in both the quality and quantity of social relationships results in real change.

Article

Social Movements  

Michael Reisch

Since the 19th century, social movements have provided U.S. social work with its intellectual and theoretical foundations and many of its leaders. Social workers played leadership roles in the Progressive movement and have made important contributions to the labor, feminist, civil rights, welfare rights, and peace movements for over a century. Since the 1960s, social workers have also been active in New Social Movements, although not to the same extent as in the past. These movements have focused on issues of identity, self-esteem, human rights, and the development of oppositional critical consciousness. Social workers have also been involved in international movements that have emerged in response to economic globalization, environmental degradation, and major population shifts, including mass immigration. More recently in the United States, social workers have played a supportive role in the transnational Occupy Wall Street movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, the #MeToo movement, and organized efforts to establish marriage equality, protect immigrants and refugees, promote the rights of transgender persons, and advocate for environmental justice.