Empowering Community Work in Elastic-Reflexive Transformation – A Nordic Perspective from Sweden

Päivi Turunen

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