SCWK 3243

Dr. Norma Jean Profitt Fall
Department of Social Work
Telephone: (506) 452-0495 St. Thomas University

Course description:

This course will focus on the theories and practices of community organization - the facilitation of meaningful change within communities to improve the quality of life for community members and promote progressive social change. Areas to be explored include the nature of community and culture, power structures and relations in community life, issues and dilemmas in community organization, strategies to organize communities, and our location as a community social worker. This course is intended to provide students with an understanding of the theories, concepts and methods of community work and opportunities to develop some practice skills.

Using lectures, discussion, practice exercises, videos, small group activities, guest speakers, and case studies, SW 3243 will examine various elements of the change process.


Upon completion of this course, students will have:

1. An understanding of the concept of "community" and the complexity and diversity of community life.

2. Familiarity with some community organization theories and approaches to community work from a social work perspective.

3. A working knowledge about community work in relation to antioppressive social work theory and practice.

4. An appreciation of the complexity of the issues, tensions, and dilemmas in community organization.

5. An understanding of the range of professional dynamics and activities in community work.

Required text:

Lee, B. (1999). Pragmatics of community organization. (Third edition). Toronto: Commonact Press. Available at the UNB Bookstore.

Two binders of all other readings are on reserve under SCWK 3243 in the Harriet Irving library for a two hour in-library loan period.


Attached to this course outline is a selected bibliography on community work theory and practice which contains many excellent readings, some of which are foundational. If you are looking for a specific topic, please ask to see if I can help.


The grade for this course will be based on class participation,an exercise/skill demonstration, and two assignments.

1. Class participation - Value 15%

Class participation means attending class, engaging in class discussion, contributing your knowledge, experience, comprehension of required readings and a curiosity about the themes and ideas for each class, and building and supporting an environment of mutual learning and respectful exchange.

2. Exercise demonstration - Value 20%

Students will facilitate a short classroom exercise demonstration in small groups (dependent on the size of the class) that you, as community workers, could use in carrying out your work. Examples are a warm-up exercise, or exercises to introduce participants in a workshop, set an agenda or ensure equitable participation in a planning meeting. Some helpful resources are Lee & Balkwill (1996), Coover, Deacon, Esser, & Moore (1977), Avery (1981), and CUSO (1985). Students are asked to schedule their presentations by the third class.

You will have 30 minutes at the beginning of class to carry out this exercise and elicit feedback from your colleagues.

Criteria are:

-Introduction - What is the purpose of this exercise and in what settings/communities would it be appropriate?

-Articulation of how it facilitates aspects of community organization.

-Demonstration of skills in carrying out the exercise.

-Getting feedback from colleagues and responding to it.


3. Assignment #3 - Value 30%

This assignment should be maximum 8 pages including references.

Option #1

Practice Illustrations:

Students will select one of the three Practice Illustrations and analyze it according to the following guidelines:

-What does the Practice Illustration tell us about culture, gender, race and ethnicity in community organization?

-Identify some community development principles in the Practice Illustration.

-What organizational forms encourage participation and empowerment?

-Discuss how you see some of the tensions around a community development approach and a social service approach.

-Identify some issues in relation to government or other funding sources, community participation and control of community initiatives, and professionalization and its effects.

-What connections do you make between empowerment at the collective, cultural, and personal levels?

-Summarize your learnings from this assignment and identify areas where you might need to gain further knowledge and experiences for community practice.

Absolon, K., & Herbert, E. (1997). Community action as a practice of freedom: A First Nations perspective. In B. Wharf & M. Clague (Eds.), Community organizing: Canadian experiences (pp. 205-227). Toronto: Oxford.

Chambon, A., Simalchik, J., & Abai, M. (1997). The Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, Toronto: Transforming relations between refugees, professionals, and the community. In H. Campfens (Ed.). (1997). Community development around the world: Practice, theory, research, and training (pp. 51-63). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Peters, R., & Cameron, G. (1997). Kindling community capacity: Onward Willow; and Narayan, J., & Vanderwoerd, J., Case study: Onward Willow, Guelph. In H. Campfens (Ed.). (1997). Community development around the world: Practice, theory, research, and training (pp. 77-90). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Option #2

Learning Through Review, Thought, and Critique:

Students will select one of the following readings on reserve and address the following points:

-Identify what you learned from the reading and how this learning contributed to your understanding of community organization as you understand it.

-Discuss two key issues raised by this reading and why you think they are important in community work.

-Elaborate on another issue raised in the reading that you think would be a challenge in community work and what steps you might take to prepare for this challenge.

-What connections can you make between this reading and other course material/class discussions?

-Do a personal critique of the article.

-Did this reading encourage self-reflection and analysis on your location as a community social worker? If so, how? -Any other points that you feel are important to discuss.

Select one of the following readings for this assignment:

Bernard, W. T. (Date unknown). Working with black men for change: The use of participatory research as an empowerment tool.

Smith, W., Alschuler, A., Moreno, C., & Tasiquano, E. (1975). Critical consciousness. Meforum: Journal of Educational Diversity and Innovation. Spring, 12-18.

Young, I. (1997). The complexities of coalition. Dissent, Winter, 64-69.

4. Assignment #4 - Value 35%

You can choose from three options. This assignment should be maximum 14 pages including references.

A) Reflection paper on community work

If you have chosen to work with a community organization, you will need to describe the work you carried out and then critically reflect on your work. You will need to:

-Describe the work and the context for it

-Situate the organization and its place in the community

-Critically analyze the work in which you were involved

-Articulate the links between your work, the goals and strategies of the organization, and course material/class discussions

-Analyze the relations between the organization and the community it serves

-Identify theoretical, practical, and ethical issues in the work you carried out

-What is or might be the work of the community worker in this organization?

-Summarize your learnings about yourself and community organization that you achieved through doing this work.

B) Case study

Students can select a case study (from actual community practice) and talk about how you would work with the community. Bill Lee's book can serve as a guide.

Criteria are:

-What is your value base as a community social worker?

-What is the context of your work, your assumptions about the community and the issue on which you are working?

-Are there historical lessons about context, oppression, and culture that you need to consider when working with this community?

-How would you work with the community to analyze and define the issues that the community is facing?

-What would be some of the ethical issues you might face?

-What kinds of activities and interactions would you undertake as a community social worker?

-What kind of strategies and interventions would the community develop?

-What would the community hope would be the outcome(s), and how would you evaluate them?

-Summarize your learning from this case study and identify areas for further action, reflection and/or research.

C) Research Paper on Community Organization

Students will research a topic relating to the theory and practice of community organization. For example, how would you use popular education with a community group? What tensions and ethical issues need we be concerned about in community practice? What knowledge and skills are necessary to work with specific populations? This paper should clearly present what you have found through your research and integrate your own thoughts and ideas about it as you consider your community practice.


Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the due date specified in the course outline.

Evaluation of written assignments is based on the St. Thomas University policy. Assignments are evaluated on both content and form, for example, organization of material, grammar, and non-oppressive language. Please note that grading is based on the following criteria:

-clarity and quality of argument

-scope and comprehensiveness of material covered

-creative, thoughtful and inclusive critical analysis

-use of inclusive, nonoppressive language

-integration of relevant readings/class learnings

-basic scholarship skills such as syntax, grammar, and proper referencing. The style of referencing should follow the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

-ample and judicious use of references, which include scholarly books (single author and edited), journal articles, and Internet (maximum 20%).

Other Courses:

SCWK 2013 - Introduction to Social Welfare
SCWK 3213 - Women and Social Work
SCWK 3873 - Social work and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Two-Spirited Peoples

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