Päivi Turunen, senior Lecturer/PhD in Social Work, previously worked as a social worker and community worker within municipal social services, encompassing work with social assistance, social pedagogy with Roma people, field-based social work with young people, and community work and planning in a new-built housing area. She is co-editor of two books about community work in Sweden. Research areas have encompassed diverse directions of community work in urban and rural contexts, explored from socio-political, socio-spatial and gender perspectives.
OBJECTIVES: The aim of this article is to highlight empowering community work in elasticreflexive transformation within professional social work in the Nordic context under the neoliberal
transition of welfare states, focusing on Sweden. Two cases from Sweden: community work in
a suburb, consisting of a municipal activity, and an association-based community project in a citycentre closed housing area are described, analysed, and compared. THEORETICAL BASE:
Theories of empowerment and community work incorporating social policy and socio-spatial
perspectives on local communities. METHODS: Literature review and qualitative case studies
encompassing the triangulation of methodological devices (documents, webpages, interviews,
field visits and observations, and a follow-up survey) within practice research. OUTCOMES:
Community work has been transformed and has almost totally disappeared from professional
social work in Sweden. Compared to the 1970s, community work has become less political,
structural or collectively confrontational, and its aims of empowerment are more individually
supportive, group-orientated, and resilient. SOCIAL WORK IMPLICATIONS: There is a great
need to develop community work and the associated empirical research within professional social
work, paying attention to changes in the everyday lives of people in marginalised urban and rural
housing areas. Even comparative studies between diverse countries are asked for.
empowerment, community work, social work, neoliberal change, social development and change, socio-spatial aspects, transformative praxis, Sweden