Strategies and Tactics in Social Action

Strategies and Tactics in Social Action

The dictionary meaning of strategy is plan/policy/ approach/stratagem. Tactic means method/approach/ course/ploy/policy/device/scheme/way/trick/ manoeuvre. As indicated by the definitions of the two words, we understand that, like many social workers do, they can be used interchangeably. However, some social workers have made finer distinction between strategy and tactic, as the former is a larger term equivalent to a form or type of social action. Strategies and tactics in social action means to organise strike, boycott, persuade, negotiate, bargain, etc.

The tactics and strategies involved in social action. Porter R. Lees suggests nine tactics used by social actionists in various stages of social action. These tactics generally overlap across various stages in the process of social action. They are:
1. Research
2. Education
3. Co-operation
4. Organisation
5. Arbitration
6. Negotiation
7. Mild coercion
8. Violation of legal norms
9. Joint action.





There is hardly any consensus on the strategies that are possible and available, which can form the core of social action practice. However, three main strategies identified by Lees are:
1)    Collaboration:
In this strategy social workers collaborate with the local authority and other authorities or agencies in order to bring about improvements in the existing social policy. The underlying assumption of this approach is homogeneity of values and interests, through which substantive agreement on proposed interventions is obtained. It doesn’t involve loss or gain of power, authority or money; change occurs within a consensus that includes both values and interests. In collaborative strategy, the change in the social structure or institution is brought about by peaceful means which include education, persuasion, demonstration, and experimentation. One of the premise on which it is based is that all those who have power will not necessarily respond to change only through the conflictual approach. Through the above techniques, change can be brought about as for them, the intended change is either the lesser of the two evils, or, they have themselves identified the factors which affect the very existence of the institution or the achievement of its goals. They themselves are disenchanted or dissatisfied and hence willing to change.
2) Competition or Bargaining, Negotiation, Advocacy:
The second set of techniques are based on the premise that one anticipates some resistance to change, and the activity of the change agent may have to be accompanied by tactics which are not persuasive rather seek to affect change through pressure. In this strategy contending parties utilize commonly accepted campaign tactics of persuasion, negotiation and bargaining with the willingness to arrive at a working agreement.
3) Disruption, and Confrontation:
Third set of techniques are based on the premise that in the struggle between those who are pro status quo and those who are pro change, resistance is an aspect of the change effort and therefore the dynamics of conflict is inherent in the social action effort. This strategy signifies a more militant approach and it may include strikes, boycotts, fasts, tax-refusal, ‘sit-ins’ etc. Lees also includes riots and guerilla warfare though these may be omitted by many other social workers as any use of violence will be unacceptable to values and ethics of professional social work.



Richard Bryant also postulates two sets of strategies—
1)  Bargaining : By bargaining he means lobbying, submitting petitions, information and publicity campaigns, etc.
2)  Confrontation :  Whereas confrontation includes strikes, demonstrations and sit-ins.

Surender Singh adds another approach or strategy as Administrative approach. He mentions that “Most often than not, any struggle or effort towards drastic or radical change is viewed by the establishment as a law and order problem and therefore, an administrative approach or strategy is adopted to deal with the situation”. It includes persuasion, bargaining, pressure, coercion, infiltration, concession, co-option, splitting, etc.

It may be noted that perception of the situation by the leaders or decision-makers and their experience counts much more in the selection of the strategy. To exemplify, in the backward classes or peasant movements, strategies like withdrawal, selforganisation, conversion, combining of caste with class, mobilization, division of labour, attacking the monopoly of reference groups by the deprived, use of secular and religious themes, participation in or shunning of elections (democratic political processes), emulation, propaganda, mass-appeal, articulation, deprivation, sensitization, protest, demonstration, etc. have been used.

Hornstein  lists certain strategies for social intervention. They are: Individual change, techno- structural, data-based, organisational development and cultural change, violence and coercion, and non-violent direct action, accommodation, exposures, living examples, public support, presentation of proposals, competition, lobbying, agitation and subversion. Hornstein has classified these strategies or tactics of social action as:
1) Direct action: E.g. picketing, marches, fraternization, haunting, leafleting and renouncing honours.
2) Non-cooperation: E.g. strikes, boycott, tax-refusal.
3) Intervention: E.g. sit in, reversal strike, obstruction.

In the Gandhian tradition, non-violent protest and persuasion, non-cooperation and non-violent intervention have been included in the three broad categories of strategies or methods of social action. In fact these three characteristics of Gandhian social action shares striking similarity with the ethics, values and philosophy of professional social work. It may be noted that though social action requires confrontation, negotiation or persuasion, it does not approve of any violence, or hostility, cruelty and blood shedding. It means that even the discontent is shown in a peaceful manner.

Common methods used in Gandhian social action are: parades, vigils, posters, teachings, mourning, protest meetings, etc. These methods are peaceful demonstration of discontent and dissatisfaction. In Gandhian approach workers are guided by certain factors in the selection of methods or strategies they adopt for social action.



According to Zeltman and Duncan: There are four types of strategies in Social Action. They are :
1)   Educational Strategy : Social action can be procedure by education and education does not mean formal education. It means informing people about the programes and its goals and objectives. Basically make awareness towards the programs to the people. Techniques of education :
a.    Education at individual level.
b.    Education at group level.
c.    Mass level education (meetings, motivational speech, public opinion)
d.    Education by demonstration (dailies, poster, wall arts, leaflets)
2)   Persuasive Strategy : Encourage , Manage, Convince , Motivate , Influence, Understanding etc.
3)   Facilitate Strategy : Cash money , education ( free materials, night school) , health (medicine , prescription, consultancy)
4)   Power Strategy : Co-ercion, force, pressurize, power apply, campaign, persuasion, and rebellion activities (hartal , strike ) etc.

According to W.A.Friedlander : There are four types of strategy in Social action such as :
1)    Communication
2)    Information  & educational
3)    Promotion/ Development of Social Legislation
4)    Legislative Publicity

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