Earlier this year, when President Obama spoke to a group of middle-school students about his plans post presidency, he said he was interested “in doing the kind of work [he] was doing before”… alluding to his time as a community organizer.
However, even prior to the President’s spotlight of the profession, many social workers have been creating positive change through their work as community organizers.
Community organization is a specialized field of social work that involves working with communities to create social change and address larger social problems such as crime, environmental issues, prejudice, and quality of education among other concerns. Social workers who serve as community organizers empower communities by bringing people together around a common concern and helping them organize for action. Their work involves facilitating discussions, recruiting community leaders, suggesting organizing strategies, identifying and securing funding resources and much more.
The National Association of Social Workers offers the following example of community organization in action.
An urban community suspects an unreasonable decline in the number of loans city banks are giving to its neighborhood residents, thus hindering home improvement and sale of homes. A social worker helps by organizing community members to survey the neighborhood and generate an accurate measure of the number of loans sought, received, and declined. Gaining proof for their suspicions, community members pitch the results of the survey to newspapers leading to TV exposure and added pressure on banks to adjust lending policies and enable more residents to receive loans.
Community social workers can be employed in a number of settings including nonprofits, grassroots and advocacy organizations, health systems, and government agencies. Students interested in community organizing can aspire to become a social and community service manager, earning a median income of $64,740 per year.
To help prepare students for careers in community organization, Limestone students pursuing a Bachelor of Social Work will take SW 304 – Social Work Intervention: Large Groups and Community Organization. The course teaches students to recognize and use appropriate skills to empower oppressed groups. Students will also learn about the effect of politics on social workers, clients, human services agencies, and strategies to effect change in the political arena.