Through this essay I will try to create a greater understanding of the term ‘community work’. I will begin with a short summary from two studies which help define the term on a broad basis. I will follow this by an explanation of the various approaches which can be used in community work. I will highlight the importance the community and voluntary sector have in social partnership in Ireland today. I will also discuss how funding, or a lack of it, impacts on essential services. Whether or not volunteers are an essential part of community work. I will also discuss the possible consequence of losing some of these organisations as a result of cuts in funding. Finally by looking at the work of ‘Community Platform’ I will show how, through a shared vision they hope to create a better Ireland through their work in the community.
To understand what community work is it is first necessary to understand the various definitions of community. While this may seem apparent initially, upon closer inspection one will discover that there is no clear consensus. What we do know is that as Hillery, a sociologist working in the 1950s pointed out, all 94 definitions of community referred to people (Mayo 1994). Varley (1988) defines these more concisely into three categories.
Communities defined in purely special or geographical term.
Communities defined as relationships that occur within a specific locality.
Communities defined as relationships which may occur within or transcend conventional geographical boundaries.
Working within these categories community workers seek to empower individuals and groups of people by providing them with the skills they need to effect change in their own communities. We will look at detailed examples of this later.
I will first explain my understanding of the five main strands or approaches identified by David A Thomas (1993) in his study of community work in the early 1980s:
Community Action: this... [continues]
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