Working in the community
By Dave Mohnke
Modern social work consists of three levels: individual social work, group social work and
social work in the community. Specialists lead a lot of discussion about community,
sometimes equivocal and even inconsistent about concept of community, contents of social
programs realized at a local level, and activity of social workers which are not members of
the community. In professional social work in Great Britain the term “community” is used in
two meanings: territorial community and community on interests . The community that
unites people who live within one geographical district is called territorial community. The
community on interests unites people that have common problems (such as disabled children)
or people who have common interests, social connection or characteristics. The communities
on ethnic or national attributes also belong to this group. American definition of the
community emphasizes that it is “a group of individuals or families” which members share
certain values or have common interests, use the same services or organizations, or live
within one district .
The idea of community has been put forward recently as the answer to problems of
modern society and shows crisis of modern state. Similar tendencies are observed all over
the world. The national states are not perceived as the formations that are able to satisfy all
requirements of their citizens. People try to realize themselves in small groups which meet
their requirements. And more than that, people all over the world consider public services to
have bureaucratism and low efficiency. In Great Britain there is a law that regulates mutual
relations in granting the help in the community. According to this it is possible to involve
non-state organizations in granting services that should be given by state organizations.
Suprisingly the process of total globalization has generated a new type of thinking. This
process had led to the fact that people feel necessity to belong to some concrete group.
Development of work in community is similar to process of individual social work.
We speak about contacts, analysis, planning, work with groups in community, attraction of
mass media, etc. Modern work in community has passed several phases in its development:
organization of services in community, development of professionalism and competence of
community’s members, struggle for changes in social policy. The social workers who
engaged in organization of communities have more in common with politicians or trade-
union leaders than social workers who serve separate persons, families or small groups. Such
disagreement in methods of work caused a pressure in the professional environment during
many years. Except for polemic on character of activity there were essential disagreements
about vision of goal of practical social work in community. It was difficult to decide what
should it be – ability of construction and integration of community or development of the
programs aimed on social changes. The sixties were a turning point in attempts to define a
role of practical social work in community. The American National Association of Social
Workers had defined a role of social work. According to them the main characteristics of
social work is the system of values, purposes, sanctions, knowledge and methods. It had been
declared that a task of social planning and organization of communities is aimed at values of
practical social work and helps to realize overall aims of social work. It is possible to
confirm that forms of work in community include also many kinds of activity that are not
usual for this direction: providing services, studying of problems, preparation for expert
judgements, work with mass media, negotiations, holding conferences, strikes, public
hearings, actions of civil disobedience, taking measures through legislative or executive
organs. The mail person in community can be so-called agent or different groups. For
instance in territorial community it can be local people, state bodies or other external persons
which represent charitable organizations, commercial sector, religious organizations, etc.
There is a concept of “community initiatives” in social work that differs in spontaneity
and formality. Neighborhood life – this is the name for daily activity in its spontaneous
form. For example, inhabitants of a small geographical area maintain neighbor relations. The
task for social worker is to help to create a group to protect their interests and to direct their
activity. If this is a group of disabled people they would need building of exit for wheel chair.
Some local initiatives try to stimulate contacts between people. Community action – is also
begins spontaneously but has more organized character. It can be arrangement of a
playground or creation of council of district. Such initiatives are supported in the majority of
countries. Community development – this is cooperation of enthusiasts and professionals
for activization of different parts of local life. As a rule such programs require external
support. And this can bee carrying out a festival of arts or creating a club. Community
policy – this is a complex of programs aimed on attraction of community’s members for
achievement of certain purposes. For example neighbors can create a group for guarding one
another’s property, for assisting the police in their work .
Despite of various theoretical models all social workers should have a set of knowledge,
skills and methods of work in community. The main task of social worker is to develop home
and daily services and services of temporary care to make residing people in their houses
when its pertinent. Social workers can carry out functions of mediator, manager, agent of
social changes, expert, leader or secretary of a group, etc. A. Twelvetrees counts that not
only qualified social workers can consider themselves community worker but also active
workers of community and volunteers of different social services and programs can be
community workers / Work in community (such as studying of requirements, planning
and realization of local social programs, protection of residence, attraction of local
initiatives) became the most widespread phenomena in the second half of a 20th century.
1. Stacey M. The Myth of Community Studies // British Journal of
Sociology.- 1969.- Vol. XX.- № 2.- P. 140.
2. Twelvetrees A. Community Work.- London: Macmillan, 1991.- P. 13.
3. The social work dictionary/ 3d ed. by R., Barkier .- Washington: NASW Press,1996.- P. 68
4. Popple K Analysing community work / Open University press, 1995.-P.144
5. Twelvetrees A / Community work /Palgrave, Basingstoke, 2002.-P 224