HomeBlogMeaningful transformations: when social work and community work go hand in hand

Meaningful transformations: when social work and community work go hand in hand

I am Esti Carrasco, trainee social worker at Matia. On a date as special as today, "World Social Work Day", I would like to share a series of reflections from someone, as in my case, who is taking her first steps in this interesting discipline.

I would like to start by talking about those stereotypes and preconceived ideas that not so long ago were going around in my head, and as a result of which I framed the work and functions of a Social Work professional exclusively in direct intervention with people.

After my arrival here, I had the good fortune to land on the community side, and that house of cards that had been with me collapsed.

To my surprise, I discovered how little I knew about a fundamental area for people who need support in their daily lives, and how much we can contribute from our role as Social Workers.

It would be great to reach with this reading all those people, professionals or not, who imagine Social Work in the same way as I had previously conceived it, from the purely welfare perspective. Over the last few months I have been able to get to know it in a broader and more enriching way, which has completely changed my view and my way of approaching the subject. 

From my point of view, when we currently reflect on the concept of community, great doubts arise.  This is because there is no definition that can be used to understand its meaning holistically. This polysemous concept needs to be studied and reflected upon in order to create a common understanding of its true meaning, because in social work practice, the community perspective is decisive.  In order to approach the complex concept of community, Zuñiga defines it as "a dynamic, constituent and performative reality of the collective action that a group carries out to achieve a specific end that it deems valuable, and from which it weaves a web of special relationships. The community would be those who are interested in defending the common space or resource" (Zúñiga, M., 2020).

Social work will be community-based or it will not be

It is impossible to give individual answers to social problems, hence the community perspective provides us with the best path to offer the world significant transformations.

There is no doubt that we live in an increasingly individualistic system, which poses an enormous challenge when it comes to providing solutions to conflicts and needs of a social nature, and which by their very nature require intervention from and for the community.

Social Work professionals should be aware of these limitations that accompany individual interventions, and thus create interest in those methods and practices of a community nature, in which as professionals we cease to be mere managers of resources and contribute to providing the community with tools to manage their daily lives.

From fragmentation to continuity

Looking closer at the reality we can appreciate the fragmented nature of services. Unrelated and seemingly unrelated to each other, this lack of connection makes it impossible to adequately meet people's needs.

Projects such as Etxean Bizi allow us to explore new roles for social workers, in this path of transformation of care that takes on board the social demand to remain in the home even when a situation of dependency arises. A change of perspective in which care is not only based on the monitoring of the user's home, but goes beyond that.

We are talking about broadening the horizons of those we accompany, preserving or incorporating resources and services that meet their wishes and needs. Perhaps accompanying Petra to the library to enjoy some reading time, or making an appointment at the hairdresser's and a manicure for Irati, or for Andoni to enjoy a coffee in his favourite café?

The aim is to encourage the integration and participation of the person in community life by promoting a different way of understanding care, in which it is the system that adapts to the person and not the person to the system, as happens under a person-centred care approach.

Therefore, from Social Work, but also from other professions in the social field, we must promote and provoke reflection on the inclusion of the community perspective; recognising its potential and thus favouring its development.

I conclude with the motto of this year's World Social Work Day: "Building together a new eco-social world: leaving no one behind". An opportunity to rediscover our profession. Nothing can have a better impact on this than the community itself, since in addition to being essential for the systemic approach, it is the driving force for leaving no one behind, for leaving no one excluded, for promoting the integration of people and for the community as a whole to be the driving force for the social change and significant transformations that we so desperately need. As Eito y Gomez (2013) point out, "the community is a valid concept for Social Work as it is an engine of change, of participation, of counting on people, of being able to improve, of strengthening or building social relations, of social change...".

In short, intervention from community Social Work leads us to include and take into account the entire network of resources, services, people... that exist in the community, regardless of their origin and roots. Let's express it and make the most of it!


Matia Orienta and SAPU Manager

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