Social Work and Human Services Homework Paper on Theory of Community-Development and Practice




The courses of social work teach fresh students of social work to conceptualize the problems of the community and the solutions on a range from ‘micro’ practice with individuals to practice with groups and families to ‘macro’ practice that interrelate with communities, organizations and society at large.  Most of these youthful students of social work swiftly learn the micro concepts out of the aspiration they have of directly serving the people.  In most programs of social work, this fact toward the practice of micro is further affected by the judgment and experience of organizations or instructors.  Community social work turns to be relegated to mentions that are concise in the course of policy and practice

Some students within the line of work have become increasingly alarmed about the lack of macro theory in the education of social work and its practice.  One author affirms that the emphasis of social work on therapy has been so extensive, since most of the activities initially linked to the profession are no longer known as social work (Jacobson, 2001, p.52).  The immense divide that exists between macro and micro is a fresh phenomenon, but a theme, which existed right through the past of the profession of social work as social, political, and rational trends recede and flow between a focus on the individual and an emphasis on the community.  After giving a chronological perspective of this trend, this essay gives more insight into the suggestions of linking this divide and proposes the framework of the theory of community-development as a genuine, contemporary solution.

History of Macro-Micro Divide

The social work field has been polarized by a wide split between a focus on the community and individual since the profession commencements.  In 1880s, two modes of what could be termed as social work started to compete for recognition.  These were the movement of house-settlement and Society of Charity Organizations (SCO).  The two models that were initiated as of care to the poor, illustrate the divide of micro –macro, principally as it relates to the social worker role in the process of change.  SCO centered its attention exclusively on individuals and wanted to offer services and charity to the poor.  The model of SCO looked at the social worker role as the ‘expert’ in the change and aid process.

By contrast, the movement of house-settlement focused on the communities and environment in which the poor lived by going to the oppressed and immigrant regions and creating an understanding of issues causing the poverty of an individual.  The workers of house settlement then considered working in partnership with the poor to attain change in the community, viewing the worker’s role as a facilitator in the change process.

The profession encountered another phase of difference between macro and micro spotlight during the Second World War (1939-1945).  During this era, the efforts of community change within the field encountered resistance from many who linked the efforts of community social work with colonialism and Euro-centrism, both internationally and nationally.  The Theory of Marxist Dependence and the Theory of Modernization, both which were centered on the development of the community as a process of incorporating oppressed and poor communities into the model of ‘success’ of Western industrialized are seen as immensely accountable for this resistance to community social work.

In 1960s to 1970s, the social work of America saw another concrete debate in the intervention of micro and macro divide, particularly to the location and mode of therapy.  Americans encountered an elevated public awareness concerning oppression and parallel trend towards government engagement social and advocacy change, which was as a result of the Civil Rights Movements.  The centers of Community Mental-Health started emerging in areas of risk and the profession started to refocus on individual-in-environment.  Yet, as the movement of anti-war enlarged so did the conservatism professional return that started at the commencement of social work program accreditation nationwide and a key change in focus towards the interventions of psychodynamic therapy.

The reputation escalation of Liberation Theology, between 1980’s and 1990 had directed the social work profession towards macro-level change.  The Theology of Liberation is “focused on the shift from repression to liberation within solid issues in the life of the family, instead of oppression acceptance.  Both ‘social’ and individual sin (specifically structural repression by social institutions) should overcome by a social change that is non-violent through individual empathy with others and their social situation (Payne, 2005, p.210).  This needed the social workers to perform their medical duties in the perspective of the society at-large.  The Liberationists focused on directly linking personal problems to “isms” within the society, hence tackling the issues of repression and racism was significant to tackling the personal needs of a client.

In 2008, a large number within this field remain focused on clinical practice and personal therapy.  Nevertheless, there is an increasing accord about the need of focusing more holistically and internationally in our duties.  I suppose we are encountering rebirth, again of the significance of the social work community level.  As we deal with the globalization’s effects, we require innovative and fresh solutions to the model of care for traditional medical.  Mendes (2008, p.3) proposes that the present trend away from the practice of individualistic  and towards systematic, structural and individual-in-environment practice is a healthy match for emphasizing the development of community theory and practice.  Contemporary and progressive social work place less worry on social worker expertise and it alternatively stresses the need for the client to be a component of their own change.  The justification for this kind social work is elaborated in the section of the paper that follows.  The paper will as well seek to explain the value that the Theory of Community-Development may offer to attempts at linking the macro-micro divide.  Social workers who are based on the Theory of Community-Development can provide innovative and fresh face to the profession of social work.

Importance of Community-Level Change

All along the history, an effort on societies and communities macro level change becomes significant for two motives.  One, trusting in the significance of community-level change develops the opportunity to trust in the power of unity in the population of the oppressed.  The Movement of Civil Rights is possibly the best example of power unity may have to give power to individual people and to bring change to the larger society.  Such action that is collective is significant as “uniting together in harmony enhances the members of the community to understand that their personal problems have social origins and collective resolutions.  In his clarifications of shedding light on community-development for students of social work, Mendes mentions this as one of the key reasons his students eventually concluded that community-based interventions grounded on investigating the communities’ strengths and individual are usually more effective than interventions of personal casework in tackling social needs (Mendes, 2008, p.4).

The other grounds for emphasis on social work community-level change is acknowledgment the dilemmas faced by people are not individual but social.  If the dilemma is eventually one of injustice, then the resolution is participatory change and insurgency, and not personal therapy.  Most initiators of community models strongly consider that we (as a nation and as a profession) most of the time deal with the indicators and results of problems in society rather than working to mend the foundation.

Theory of Community-Development

Since there might be any number of macro-level theories having implications for direct practice, it is believed that community-development theory is may be the most practical structure for social workers that seeks a lasting change for communities and individuals in the societies where they live.  It centers on the demoralized individuals in the process of winning the outwardly imposed social crises.  The foundation of social work shares a lot in general with the theories of Community-Development.  Mendes provide the descriptions of both which concisely point to the unique differences as well as the similarities.  “Social work is described as professional intervention to tackle the situations of individual agony by changing and shaping the social surroundings where people live.  Community-Development is described as the community employment structure to tackle social wants and peoples’ empowerment” (Mendes, 2008, p.3).  The unique spotlight on community employment structures in the change process branches from the Theory of Community-Development’s roots in sociology, as opposed to psychology based theories of micro-level practice of social work.  When these people of the community and structures are well involved and empowered, the social worker role in the framework of Community-Development falls greatly on the side of facilitator.  The theory of Community-Development is presented in this study as a framework that is competent of linking the divide of macro-micro divide in social work.  The theory’s tenets have suggestions for the ways medics view and connect with clients plus how social workers can make significant changes within a community.

Even though there does not exist a manual of social work and community-development or a textbook conveying the same, the theory is very well documented in its own unique way of literature with the help of some experts of these modern days.  For the purposes of a deeper digging of the analysis concerning micro inferences of the theory of community-development, it is necessary to lay much focus on one concise set of tenets which sum up the values of the theory, the priorities and the whole theory itself.  A few authors do try to offer these kinds of tenets.  For instance, York sums up the theory of community-development as an organization that serves the community agencies, local developing competences and the action for political change.  On the other hand, Schiele refers the theories as tenets aimed to change in structure, the socioeconomic integration, renewal, and development of institutions.  Mendes also adds a slice of the cake and refers to the procedures of community-development as participative, distributive, and human-developed.

The theory and the work of community-development is also summarized by Schiele, who refers to it as collective self-help, problem solving and empowerment theory.  To add to the list of authors is Payne, who refers to this as a unit of capital development, social exclusion, and inclusion together with capacity building.  Different authors describe or explain the meaning of the theory of community-development using the different terms.  However, all this can be termed as the general truths and are common in their works of description.

To serve as a material for the next discussion of the implications for macro and micro levels of practice and work theory, I have chosen the Association of Christian Community Development (ACCD).  The simplicity of this particular tenets offer an obvious insight into the social work and practice at all levels.  The founder of ACCD John Perkins speaks of relocation, reconciliation, and redistribution commonly known as the 3Rs of development of community work globally.  These particular three tenets are linked by a strong fundamental emphasis on the establishment of indigenous leadership and they tend to sum up the community development model and its contents.


From the perspective of Perkins, relocation refers to the physical or tangible relocation of any social worker in the community that he or she prefers to serve.  This therefore means that a literal move of a past residence has been made in the neighborhood.  This further harkens us back into history of the house settlement and movement.  In this part of history, the staff lived in the settlement housing, unlike the poor who served in their locales only.

This particular concept of relocation explains the model of community-development not as one of the most expertise and out-of -state impact but as that of collaboration with the whole community.  Most of the people have made this dedication to relocating in Chicago Lawndale region, mostly on the western area of the city.  Gordon Wayne, who is the pastor of a local church, led those who chose to follow this commitment.  Gordon shares his part of the story and his experiences since he moved into Lawndale, which was exclusively African-American.  “He says that everyone told him that he was crazy for accepting to relocate to Lawndale.  With this, Gordon is said to tell very honest stories and this helps in knowing the challenges that come with relocation itself.  They claimed that the people would not permit me to live in Lawndale.  Christians advised me to stop moving there as the non-Christian did.  In my heart, I felt that I was supposed to live there.”

Relocation in itself allows any social worker to develop all the experiences shared between him or her and the clients.  It also does allow more active and random ability to establish smooth rapport with the clients being attended to most specially in the underprivileged and diverse communities.  Relocation can also be used to serve as a catalyst to help establish trust tremendously.  Using my experience as an example, relocating to Lawndale provides many examples of how my own residing in the community augmented my ability to help my clients.

According to Schiele, a client will only be honest with a social worker who is more likely to understand the client’s reality.  This only means that for a social worker to be helpful to a client, honesty is highly required.  As already said before, the ACCD emphasizes that relocation means the physical or tangible transition of residence into a community.  However, the relocation tenet has its interpretations concerning the community-development theory.  Transferring within community-development framework directly refers to the relocation of power back into the community.  Opposite to the models, expertise of the many existing micro level and practice models and theories, the relocation of power back to the most oppressed communities requires much partnership with the members of the community.  This is believed to be the most powerful method of investment in the belief of people solving their own problems in their own community.  This type of community transition will also result in improvement in individual lives.

Building of indigenous leadership is one good and efficient way of bringing back power to the community, as put by Perkins.  If the leaders are well educated, trained, and empowered, then they are suited to bring back the change to the communities since they will be able to hold the necessary power required.


Among the 3Rs of the ACCD, redistribution comes out to be the most widely cited and accepted tenet by all experts and even authors based on the community development subject.  The oppressed populations and the communities lack power and resources as well.  This therefore means that for the well-being of these communities and for their independent smooth functioning, redistribution is very essential.  To add to that, if redistribution is centralized, then there will be a need to develop businesses so that the underclass people may develop skills through their own hard work in the industry.

Though this procedure may require the participation of the social worker or any other expert, the main emphasis remains with the individual within the community who will obviously be in a better position to solve the problems within the community itself.  Once during a speech, Maggie Walker, who was an African-American leader said boldly that during her term, she would see to it that the lands can be tilled, the hungry fed and the naked clothed (Schiele 2005, p.27).  This is the kind of leadership needed to transform the communities.  This process can be much more successful if social workers and clinicians continue to facilitate and encourage clients to participate in the same.

The Future of Social Work Community-Development

May be the most coercing criticism of Theory of Community-Development and its significance to modern and  future practice of social work is the lack of its effectiveness proof.  During governmental accountability, inadequate resources of funding, a continuous emphasis on a practice that is evidence-based, some in this field may argue that operating services from a pure framework of Community-Development is not likely to secure funding.  While truth may exist in this concern, Community-Development focused organizations of service exists and will still be committed framework and theory due to its value to communities and individuals that they  serve.

The Community-Development Theory is a genuine practice and hypothetical model that deserve the attention of a social work expert.  It is motivating to scrutinize the nature of the Theory of Community-Development using Fischer’s criteria for establishing the value of theories in the practice of social work.  These criteria are: the theory’s relevance to the phenomenon that social work engages with, the value of theory convergence with the profession of social work, the empirical, and credibility justification, the presence of principles that are teachable within the curriculum of social work and the specific prescriptions of the theory in action.  With no argument, the Theory of Community-Development demonstrates most of these criteria.  Those theories that achieve this legitimacy level deserve to be considered by social workers with a conviction in the value of eclecticism as a social worker.  In addition, the Theory of Community-Development should be viewed as significant due to its applicability with every level social practice: micro and macro.

There is an exciting and strong future for connecting Community-Development and social work, but these affiliations need interrelated theoretical shifts in the ideas and beliefs of the social workers.  First, social workers of Community Development must be prepared to shift the command and wisdom in attaining change from community worker and client.  Ife and Fiske (2006) created a model to demonstrate the proportions of service stipulation that is understood from a community viewpoint.  Describing the model and its social work Community-Development implications, they suggest, “The work of the community has a bottom-up approach built in as a central value and guiding code.  The work of community is explicit in its program of providing dominance to the grassroots level wisdom ahead of external professionals” (Ife & Fiske, 2006, p.304).

The willingness of a social worker to shift the wisdom and responsibility for attaining change to the indigenous community and clients is intrinsically linked to the second theoretical shift that is required for successful connection of Community-Development and social work.   Community-Development framework tightly places the social worker in the facilitator’s role and not expert.  Usually, the Community-Development action seeks for stipulation of change to be managed within the community.  Qualified work in these areas engages arousing the creation of such groups and supporting them through institutions engagements.





Ife, J. & Fiske, L. (2006). Human rights and community work: Complementary

theories and practices. International Social Work, 49(3), 297-308.

Jacobson, W. (2001). Beyond therapy: Bringing social work back to human services

reform. Social Work, 46(1), 51-61.

Mendes, P. (2008). Teaching community development to social work students: A

critical reflection. Community Development Journal, 2008.

Payne, M. (1997). Modern social work theory. Chicago, Ill.: Lyceum Books.

Schiele, H. (2005). Maggie Lena Walker and African American community

development. Affilia, 20(1), 21-38.