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Article

Citizen Participation  

Martha Lucia Garcia and Yossi Korazim-Kőrösy

Citizen participation (CP) is at the root of democracy and the aspiration that everyone has an equal opportunity and voice in governance. For social workers, guaranteeing CP is a vehicle through which a core value of the profession’s code of ethics may be fulfilled, that is, to “enhance client’s capacity and opportunity to change and address their own needs”. A brief history of CP as well as the rationales for CP as a practice of social work are discussed. Regardless of the difficulties in achieving CP, it is a critical component to social work practice, that enable social workers to fulfill the ethical commitment of inclusion, social justice and equity. A framework or road map for social work practitioners embarking on a journey of ethical practice, is provided. While the focus is on practice examples in the United States, the democratic goals of inclusion and empowerment of marginalized and traditionally oppressed communities are global.

Article

Community Planning  

Elisheva Sadan and Edith Blit-Cohen

Community planning is a process of participatory and inclusive organized social change, directed toward community empowerment, building community, and developing members’ capacities to take part in democratic decision making. A three-dimensional model of empowering community planning is presented and discussed. The model focuses on the tasks of community social work in the planning process, and the empowering outcomes they can enable.

Article

Civil Society in Macro Social Work  

Jocelyn Clare R. Hermoso and Carmen Luca Sugawara

The connection between macro social work practice and civil society is inextricable. Macro practice focuses on forming and strengthening people’s organizations, communities, and other collectivities that make up the structure and foundation of civil society, defined as the sphere outside of the state and market where people can exercise their right to participate in decision-making on political, social, and other matters that affect their lives. Working with civil society can compensate for some of the limitations of working within state institutions. Civil society’s potential and ability to serve as an arena for realizing individual and community well-being, human rights, and social justice warrant positioning it on equal footing as the state as an area of practice for the social work profession.

Article

Voter Participation  

Lorraine C. Minnite and Frances Fox Piven

Compared to other rich, capitalist democracies in the contemporary era, the United States has a record of low voter turnout. Even as the right to vote was finally won by African Americans and the Civil Rights Movement a century after racial discrimination in voting was formally banned by the Civil War Amendments, voter turnout has failed to reach levels achieved in the late nineteenth century. Scholars offer two strong explanations for this. Some argue that the voting process has been encumbered by procedures that make actual voting difficult. Others favor an alternative explanation that voters must be mobilized by political parties and other activist groups. The dynamic interplay of electoral rules and political action have mobilized and demobilized the American electorate since the 1970s. Recent collective initiatives of social work faculty and practitioners in promoting nonpartisan voter registration campaigns are central to social work’s core values and social justice mission.

Article

Urban Planning and Social Work  

Laurie A. Walker

Urban neighborhood disinvestment in the United States resulted in deferred maintenance of buildings and common social problems experienced by residents. Strategies to redevelop neighborhoods include collaboration among many subsystems seeking to collectively invest in places and people. Contemporary federal initiatives focus on incentivizing coordinated investments between existing local community-based organizations, local and federal government, and private investors. Public–private partnerships include anchor institutions with commitments to the long-term success of place-based initiatives who invest their financial, intellectual, social, and political capital. Social workers are embedded in local community-based organizations and relationships with residents in neighborhoods experiencing redevelopment. Social workers can help guide top-down and bottom-up approaches to neighborhood revitalization toward more equitable and inclusive processes and outcomes. Resident engagement in redeveloping neighborhoods takes many forms and requires differing skill sets for social workers. Urban redevelopment is a global trend with common critiques regarding relying on gentrification and market-driven strategies with private investors.

Article

Political Social Work  

Suzanne Pritzker and Shannon R. Lane

Political social work navigates power in policymaking and politics to elicit social change. It is grounded in core social work values and ethics, including the professional responsibility to challenge systemic discrimination and institutional inequalities through political action. Political social workers address systemic barriers to social, political, economic, and racial justice, and engage in political action to promote individual and communal well-being through policy processes and outcomes. This article discusses the five domains of political social work: engaging individuals and communities in political processes; influencing policy agendas and decision-making; holding professional and political staff positions; engaging with electoral campaigns; and seeking and holding elected office. It also examines social workers’ political activity in the United States and globally, the role of social work education, and challenges for political social work, including the profession’s legacy of supporting injustices and tensions around the role of political social work, and identifies opportunities to address these barriers.

Article

Community Economic Development  

Steven D. Soifer and Joseph B. McNeely

The basic concepts and history of community economic development (CED) span from the 1960s to the present, during which there have been four different waves of CED. During this time period, practitioners in the field have worked with limited resources to help rebuild low-to-moderate-income communities in the United States. There are particular values, theories, strategies, tactics, and programs used to bring about change at the community level. The accomplishments in the CED field are many, and social workers have played a role in helping with community building at the neighborhood, city, county, state and federal levels.