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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 [1]. 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 [2].

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.[1]

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.[2] 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.[1]

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 [2].

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 [16]/ 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

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