Let's Extend the Clan
Cynicism or hope. That's the real question, the choice all of us face.
P. LOEB (1999, P. 340)
One goal of community practice is to expand the circle so that more and more people will be embraced by others as an integral part of the human family. Chapter 4 presented environmental factors and the context of community practice. The purpose of this chapter is to convey a sense of what much of community work is like today, in terms of goals, approaches, and preoccupations. Through concrete examples, this chapter will showcase contemporary community intervention modes and successes. 1 It will describe the kind of programs underway to address some of the problems outlined in Chapters 3 and 4. It will show how direct service practitioners can be part of activities such as building capacity, identifying assets, creating caring connections, and joining with others to promote community cohesion and individual and group self-respect. Community intervention encompasses the ability to tap community strengths and the skills of including, linking, engaging, and empowering citizens. (See Chapter 14 for advanced skills in connecting and organizing people and communities. )
After decades of pessimism about the quality of community life, phrases such as community resiliency and comeback cities suggest a new societal atmosphere. Community practice also has increased status in our profession and workplaces. U. S. News2 labels social work a “hot job” and says being a community practitioner is part of that hot track: “Elected officials are hiring these organizers as a liaison to the community, tracking problems facing constituents. Labor unions employ them to do fieldwork, and nonprofits bring them aboard for local issues, like organizing low-income neighborhoods against hospital chains said to be unsympathetic to the poor. More groups are bringing them on to do good work” (U. S. News & World Report, n.d. ).
Such positions involve working beside people of varied backgrounds to create a culture of change, identify assets, and link groups. Thousands of neighborhood associations have been