Although the community is traditionally a place where social work has been established and developed it seems that in recent decades this tradition has faded away. Social workers are less involved in direct work with communities and community development is more a political phrase than a reality. Social workers have to rethink their role in the community, especially when it comes to the questions of solidarity, principles of participation, empowerment, respecting human rights and personal dignity. The aim of the course is to create an open place for discussions and expertise which can encourage social workers to reclaimethical community work.
We are witnessing an epoch of change where social and economic arrangement that hitherto represented basis for social security and welfare has become a source of risk and precariousness. In the process of growing global economies the degree of dependency of local communities upon the market production and consumption as well as dependency on the state and international sustenance and support has grown. Economic development and demographic change have however put people at risk and there is a little certainty that systems of social and material security, care and other welfare provision will be available from the dominant providers in the future. While there might be more innovative systemic solutions to be sought, there is also need for research and invention of the ways of ensuring sustainability and empowering the communities to withstand the systemic shocks in the future and provide the basic security by informal means that stem from themselves rather than from the state and the market. Rationale of the proposed endeavour is to combine the social sciences knowledge and social work and development methodologies for the purpose of fostering bottom-up, grassroots responses in the communities.
The construction of tentative models of empowering communities may be done by promotion of community actions and re-conceptualisation of the theoretical and practical assumptions and also by conceptualisation of basic grids of community work and organisation based on previous experience and predictable trends. The symposium is a chance to become involved: as researchers academics, practitioners, students, people with own experience and community resource persons, in order to learn from each other and construct pragmatic knowledge traversing the layers of economics, sociology, social policy, social work and community organisation, to ensure integration of abstract concepts with local knowledge in a dialogic procedure. Cooperation and working together of the teams of different sites will be encouraged in order to learn from each other in situ and to make the lively exchange and immediate comparison possible.