U21 & ASSWA Symposium – Community Development in Social Work

Community development or community work has been a method of social work for over 100 years yet is all-too-often neglected in favour of clinical or statutory work. Many would argue, however, that community development is ideally suited to achieving the mission of the social work profession, as summarised by the global definition of social work.

The University of Johannesburg in South Africa has a long investment in community development as a core method of social work practice. This is evidenced in its attention to asset-based community-led development, grassroots community participation and social action, and through its establishment of separate bachelor’s and master’s degrees in community development. South Africa is also a unique context for community development, as community development is soon to become a fully-fledged social service profession, on a par with social work and child & youth care.

Community development is seen as being of central importance of in addressing the vast macro challenges facing most peoples on the continent of Africa. This community development in social work symposium will therefore address some of the cutting edges of community work in Africa, and of relevance to other parts of the world, concerning leadership of community development, professionalisation of community work, social action and economic empowerment through community development.

The symposium will be chaired by Dr Tasse Abye, president of IASSW from 2004-2008, 2016 winner of the IASSW Katherine Kendall Award and coordinator of the development of the Global Agenda 2020–2030 for Social Work and Social Development. We are honoured to have Dr Abye leading this symposium.

The Social Work Community of Practice of the Universitas 21 network of universities is pleased to host this symposium, in partnership with the Department of Social Work and Community Development at the University of Johannesburg, and the Association of Schools of Social Work in Africa (ASSWA).

Early career academics are encouraged to attend alongside those more established in their teaching and research careers. The symposium is open to anyone (including staff and students) affiliated with a member university of Universitas 21 or ASSWA.

The symposium will comprise four papers with opportunity for discussion between the presenters and participants:

How should leadership look like in community development?

A comparison study was undertaken between the asset-based community-led development (ABCD) approaches versus the traditional needs-based approach to community development relating to community leadership. Twenty-four community projects were investigated, of which 14 were sensitized to ABCD and 10 not. The kind of community leadership development in the ABCD communities enabled communities to lead their own development by co-investing their own assets and leveraging their assets with resources from external agencies. In comparison, although development took place in the needs-oriented projects, the leadership that emerged was more authoritarian in nature and seemed to establish a dependency on external agencies.

Hanna Nel, an emeritus professor of the University of Johannesburg, has been in academia for 40 years, and has a passion for research, teaching and community outreach. Her field of expertise is community development, and especially Asset-Based Community-Led Development. She has published more than 60 articles, a book and several book chapters.

Professionalisation complexities of community development in South Africa: Dilemmas for the social work profession

The quest for professionalization of the community development field in South Africa has deepened and gained momentum. As a multi-disciplinary professional and voluntary practice, the professionalisation of this field poses controversies, tensions, quandaries, and turf issues. This paper reports on the findings of a broader explanatory qualitative case study design that focused on the complexities of professionalization of community development in South Africa. Multiple data sources, constructivist grounded theory, constant comparative analysis method, and coding processes were used. The paper will focus specifically on the intricacies of the professionalisation of this field and the dilemmas facing social work in this country.

Kefilwe Johanna Ditlhake is a social worker and lecturer at the University of Johannesburg. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from the University of the Witwatersrand and the former Rand Afrikaans University. She is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, University of the Witwatersrand. She has extensive experience in teaching, the medical field, working with children, and community development.

Social action in community work

Social Action is one of the models or approaches of community work practice. However, in South Africa, social workers tend to shy away from social action, seeing it as ‘political’. Welfare agencies also do not encourage or promote the use of social action in their work. Yet one of the key values of social work is social justice, and social action is the one way in which social injustices towards individuals, families and communities could be addressed. The question that I explore is, “As social workers, how can we enable social action?”

Jessie Turton is a senior lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, teaching mainly in macro practice and social development. She is one of the founding members of the Social Work Action Network in South Africa (SWAN-SA). This network of social workers supports social action in addressing the structural causes that causes poverty and various social ills in our society.

Sustainable livelihoods, entrepreneurship and women’s economic empowerment in South Africa

Women entrepreneurship is one of the fastest growing entrepreneurship populations in Africa and contributes significantly towards innovation, employment and sustainable livelihoods. The development of women entrepreneurship is vital for any country’s economic growth and is regarded as a key solution to alleviating the feminization of poverty. This paper presents qualitative empirical evidence from 23 women entrepreneurs from Gauteng, South Africa. Underscored by sustainable livelihood theory, I present three themes: motivations for entrepreneurship, obstacles to entrepreneurship and coping strategies of women entrepreneurs. The paper concludes with considerations for harnessing the valuable contributions made by women entrepreneurs to the second economy.

Tanusha Raniga, professor of social work, teaches social work and community development at the University of Johannesburg. She is a C2 NRF Rated Researcher. She is involved in social protection policy, feminization of poverty and sustainable livelihoods research. She has published widely in national and international journals and has presented at numerous conferences.

The Community Development in Social Work symposium will be run twice on Friday 12 November 2021 to accommodate different time zones. Information about how to register is included below.

Meeting times (CTC / GMT):



To register please follow this link: https://forms.gle/QnsgWxHdDahRw4U89 For security reasons, the link for the symposium will be sent only to those who register.

For further information regarding this symposium, please contact Prof Adrian van Breda, University of Johannesburg, South Africa. Email: advanbreda@gmail.com

For further information regarding the wider work of the Social Work Community of Practice, please contact Professor Robin Miller, Director of Global Engagement for College of Social Sciences, University of Birmingham. Email: R.S.Miller@bham.ac.uk

Event start date
12 November, 07:00
Event end date
12 November, 14:00
How to register