Techniques in Community Social Work Practice

Techniques in Community Social Work Practice


 Hardcastle, Wenocur, and Powers (1997, p. 1) define community practice as the “application of practice skills to alter the behavioural patterns of community groups, organizations, and institutions or people’s relationships and interactions with these entities.” Further, community practice, as part of macro-practice, includes the techniques associated with community organization and development, social planning and social action, and social administration (Hardcastle, Wenocur, & Powers, 1997). Whereas community organization and community development work with parts of a community, such as a neighbourhood or a group of people, social planners address the needs of people through agencies and delivery systems to best meet the larger-scale community functions and responsibilities. Common to the three parts of community practice (organizing, development, and planning) are the desire of community practitioners to assist the community to function as efficiently and as responsively as possible to its member constituents.

With such a common purpose and a common core of knowledge, it equally follows there should be a common, or core, technique base. In other words, if community practitioners essentially do the same task, then they should have the same techniques. Community practice begins with finding out what people want as individuals, determining which of those desires are shared and then helping them find collective ways of achieving it. The foundation and common purpose of community organizing are based upon relationships and self-interest. The same could be said for all community practice.

According to Rothman, Erlich, and Tropman (2001), there are two basic elements of community practice requiring a corresponding technique base: problem solving and understanding, and using influence. If they are correct, then the identification of essential techniques for problem-solving and understanding and using influence is appropriate and necessary. The trick is to link essential elements of community practice with essential techniques for community practice (see Figure 1). The authors propose the following five essential or fundamental techniques in the conduct of community practice:

  • Force Field Analysis (FFA), for assisting in problem-solving and understanding planned change.
  • Program Evaluation Review Techniques (PERT), for scheduling activities, to assure successful and timely completion of a community or planning project (or in foreseeing and preventing problems).
  • Nominal Group Technique (NGT), for facilitating structured group decision-making, assuring full and equal access participation by all members.
  • Delphi, for forecasting/future planning or to obtain a reliable consensus.
  • Q-Sort, for assisting small or large groups to identify and prioritize common concerns.


These practice techniques reflect essential techniques that correspond to the essential elements or tasks useful in all phases of community practice encompassing organizing, planning, and development. These techniques have been chosen in the context of the authors’ recent attempts to incorporate a set of essential techniques in their curricula. The authors were unable to find any empirical research identifying essential techniques for community practice after an exhaustive review of the literature. As a result, the techniques proposed by the authors came directly out of discussions with practitioners working as planners, developers, and organizers who cited these techniques as being most relevant to their field of practice. The authors utilized several focus groups with multiple one-on-one interviews and a series of “breakfast meetings” with agency practicum supervisors in consultation with the School of Social Work field practicum office. The above findings were reinforced by Lauffer (1981) who wrote of the relevancy and usefulness of several techniques–specifically, the Delphi, Nominal Group, and Force Field Analysis–for community practice.

Source: Pippard, J. L., & Bjorklund, R. W. (2003). Identifying essential techniques for social work community practice. Journal of community practice11(4), 101-116.

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