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Communities for Social Change

Practicing Equality and Social Justice in Youth and Community Work


Annette Coburn and Sinéad Gormally

Communities for Social Change: Practicing Equality and Social Justice in Youth and Community Work examines core ideas of social justice and equality that underpin community and youth work. It informs understanding of a range of community concepts and practices that are used to identify practical skills and characteristics that can help to promote equality by challenging injustice. Working with people in different types of community can bring the kind of social change that makes a real and lasting difference. Although justice is a contested notion, Annette Coburn and Sinéad Gormally assert that it is closely interlinked with human rights and equality. A critical examination of contemporary literature draws on educational, sociological, and psychological perspectives, to set community practices within a context for learning that is conversational, critical and informal. Social justice is about identifying and seeking to address structural disadvantage, discrimination, and inequality. The authors assert that by refocusing on process, participation, and collective rights, it is possible to create and sustain social justice. Transformative research paradigms help to produce findings that inspire and underpin political social action, and an analysis of practice-based examples supports the promotion of increased critical consciousness. This makes Communities for Social Change a must-read for anyone studying or teaching community youth work or who is working in communities or with individuals who experience oppression or inequality. If you are committed to teaching and learning about theory and practice that promotes social change for equality and social justice, you will not be disappointed!

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Chapter 1: Introduction


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This chapter introduces the social structures, purpose and core ideas that underpin community work for equality and social justice. It considers core concepts and practices that inform why and how community and youth work (CYW) practitioners, and community members, are able to promote and develop social change. First, it contextualises our main concerns about working in a neo-liberal society that has shifted focus towards changing behaviours and the over-regulation of caring professions. In doing so, neoliberal ideology promotes compliance in taking forward punitive policies that stigmatize and individualise communities and young people (Giroux, 2009). This leads to discussion of the nature and purpose of CYW by offering a clear outline on what this means in the context of working with young people and communities. While drawing largely on research from the United Kingdom, the ideas and practice examples discussed will resonate with anyone involved in community and youth work as practitioner or participant, both inside and outside of the United Kingdom and Europe.

In critiquing routinised perspectives on resilience as an individual coping mechanism, we assert that community and youth workers should consider building and utilising community resilience that, as a more collective and social endeavour, can be used to resist and to challenge dominant discourses ← 1 | 2 → and positively impact on the lived experiences of people who experience inequality and injustice. The chapter also outlines a distinctive and clear epistemological stance that relates to CYW practices. The possibility...

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