To understand the concept of community development and how it relates to social work practice, firstly the 'community' itself, should be defined in the context of social work. Community development is about giving people a fair and just share of available resources. This mode of practice highlights an extension of the skills and methods of social work 'direct' practice. Case work and community development, as separate modes of practice, are blended to empower the disadvantaged. In turn, important consideration of this modal link is the underpinnings of social justice in the community. This essay provides an example of problematic issues in the community and the options considered by the social worker in restoring the balance of economic and social empowerment of the community (Briskman, 1999, Pp89-90).
Generally speaking, the 'community' is made up individuals sharing a common identity with diverse interests such as class, geographic location, culture, age or gender. Examples of communities are urban or rural townships, environmental groups, parents and citizens groups and cultural communities such as aboriginal communities. The community development worker is concerned with negotiation for the control of resources to enhance living standards of the powerless and disadvantaged in the community. Before strategies can be implemented to access the resources, the community worker must initially evaluate their approach to issues on behalf of and including the community (Briskman, 2000, p89, Kenny, 1994, p1).
The community worker, when deciding an approach to the issues, primarily uses one of the following four roles. Firstly, working together with the group to help identify common needs of the people in the group and ways of overcoming these problems. Secondly, acting as a mediator to help resolve conflict within the group and alternatively, between the group and other organisations. Thirdly, representing the group as a supporting advocate in both formal and informal settings, and fourth, acting on behalf of the group, totally committed to agreed goals and concerned primarily with redress of grievance, policy changes and establishment of a service as a specific goal. Sometimes these roles are blended to suit individual problems requiring different approaches (Briskman, 2000, p93).
An example of a problematic issue in the community was in The Standard newspaper recently. At least 35 jobs will be lost when the Bonlac Foods factory closes in the Camperdown Township on June 30th this year. An excerpt of this article states, "The closure announcement has sent shock waves through the Camperdown community with fears that the loss of permanent jobs and potentially dozens more seasonal positions will economically devastate the town. It follows the closure of the town's abattoir and a clothing factory during the 1990s" (The Standard, 2000). This is an example of a rural town in Victoria losing 'another' of its large factories. The closure of the factory represents significant economic and structural concern for the community due to the relatively small population living in the town proper compared to the surrounding district. Living in a rural town also highlights the lack of employment options available to the 35 workers after being made redundant from a factory the size of Bonlac (The Standard, 2000, Pp 1-3).
To alleviate the problems created by the closure of Bonlac in Camperdown, the community worker needs to develop a specialised approach in undertaking an intervention strategy. There is a decision to be made as to the role played by the community worker. For example, working with the whole of Camperdown community to alleviate the problems created by the loss of the factory, working specifically with the 35 workers to help satisfy their needs or a dual role combining both areas of issue. To illustrate the position of a community development worker in the Bonlac closure, the issue of the group of 35 retrenched workers...
References: Briskman, Linda 1999, Social work modes of Practice (2): Community development, Introduction to Social work Study Guide, Deakin University, Geelong.
Kenny, Susan 1994, Developing Communities for the future: Community Development in Australia, Nelson, Melbourne, 1994, pp. 13-21
O 'Connor, I; Wilson, J; Setterlund, D; 1999, Social Work & Welfare Practice, 3rd Edition, Ch4-5, Addison Wesley Longman Australia Pty Limited, South Melbourne, Australia.
The Standard, newspaper. April 20th 2000; 'Bonlac Out- Big blow for Camperdown ', Pp 1-3.
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