Community organization has been considered a major component of social work practice dating back to Jane Addams and the settlement house movement in the late 19th century. However, only a small number of social workers engage in community organizing practice. One of the prevailing myths in social work is that students who choose this curriculum option either are not interested in working with individuals or simply do not have the skills necessary to engage in face-to-face interaction with individuals, groups, and families.
Consequently, social work programs are somewhat ill prepared to educate students for employment as community organizers. In most schools of social work, community organization is de-emphasized and there is little understanding of how skills such as engagement, relationship-building, and interviewing are applied in community practice. This is unfortunate because effective community organization practice actually requires substantial interaction with diverse groups of neighborhood residents, constituency group members, politicians, and other policy-makers. The types of inter-personal skills used by community organizers include engagement with and recruitment of volunteers, collaboration with a variety of organizations and groups, facilitation of task groups, forming and maintaining coalition groups, lobbying for legislation, and working with volunteer leaders to identify local problems or issues, conduct assessments, plan interventions, and evaluate community initiatives. Many of these skills are similar to or derived from basic social work practice methods that are routinely used to assist individuals and families, facilitate therapeutic groups, or motivate staff in social service organizations.
Interpersonal Social Work Skills for Community Practice addresses this gap in curriculum by examining the links between these two skill sets. Drawing upon traditional social work methods, empirical research, organizing manuals written by community organizers, and social psychology and other disciplines that examine why people join social movements, this textbook provides detailed information about the interpersonal skills needed for effective community organization practice and examines how these skills are typically used by organizers engaged in a variety of social change-related activities. The book also contains a specific value base that incorporates the NASW Code of Ethics and well as such principles as human rights, social justice, and strengths-based practice. The content is also explicitly linked to the Council of Social Work Education’s Education Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) in order to highlight the relationship between community practice and social work competencies.