Social work is supposed to empower people with the tools that they need to solve their own social problems, and a way that this is done is through community empowerment and program development activities.
These social problems can vary and include inadequate healthcare, insufficient education and chronic unemployment. Many social workers are trained to actively listen to clients so that they can identify the appropriate resources that their clients can use to improve their unique situations. Other social workers query community members and civic groups to identify social challenges within the community as a whole. These social workers then design, organize and help to implement activities that allow community members to improve their own quality of life.
Training for this type of social work is usually conducted at the graduate school level for social workers who choose to concentrate in areas like community empowerment and program development.
Here are some examples of the special projects and initiatives of which graduates with social work degrees are involved.
Improve Access to Real, Fresh Food for Low Income Communities
A growing problem in many low income communities across the nation is the perceived lack of fresh produce and real food products. The real problem is that most people in the United States depend upon grocery stores for their food. When grocery chains decide that it is not cost effective to supply certain stores with fresh produce instead of nutrient poor, processed foods, many people go without nutritious meals. Most of these people could not grow their own produce even if they wanted to because they lack access to farm land, tools and supplies. Social workers who are knowledgeable about city land zoning and regulations can use their connections with city officials to set aside land for community gardens that would allow community members to grow their own fresh, organic food supply. The health benefits of this type of initiative are only matched by the cost savings that community members experience by not relying solely on grocery store foods.
Organize Wellness Programs Within Communities
Poor diet and inadequate exercise has led to an explosion in degenerative disease and obesity cases worldwide. Low income people seem to be the hardest hit demographic for these negative health issues. Social workers can help community members to establish wellness programs at recreation centers or their local libraries that include dietary education, cooking and food preparation tutorials and fun fitness classes. Many social workers know about special resources that are set aside by the government for qualifying communities to get active and stay fit like subsidized consultations with registered dietitians and certified fitness instructors
Increase Economic Opportunities Within the Community
Chronic unemployment is an issue that is faced by many people, and it can lead to homelessness and degraded health in many cases if left unchecked. While every person's case is unique, some people only need to refresh their skills to become employable again. Others can benefit from resources that are designed to help them start their own viable businesses.
Social workers can coordinate programs that recruit trade specialists and instructors to teach community members targeted skills like sewing, shoe repair and computer restoration that they can use immediately for employment or later for entrepreneurial ventures.
While social workers gain general field knowledge during their years as undergraduates, more specialized social work concepts like program development are taught within Master of Social Work degree programs. One of the great things about nearly all social work degree programs is the requirement for supervised field work. Subsequently, social workers who specialize in community empowerment and program development in school often graduate with the experience that allows them to make meaningful contributions in the work place as quickly as possible.