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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 6: Critical Reflexivity


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This chapter asserts that working towards a more equitable society can be achieved by ensuring that practitioners are critically reflexive and engage in consciousness-raising as regular practice. Thompson and Pascal (2012) note the theory which underpins reflective practice is underdeveloped and often not integrated with practice. Therefore, this chapter unpacks the theoretical, epistemological and ontological differences and distinctions between reflection, being reflexive and adopting a critically reflexive stance. Discussion is developed around the impact of professional identity on the work of community practitioners by asserting that being reflexive ensures a depth of understanding of who we are, our social context and our positionality in relation to ‘other professions’. It argues that unless practitioners understand the impact that the ‘self’ can have on their practice it is difficult to promote agency amongst people they work with, in seeking social transformation. Drawing on the work of Taylor (2010), we suggest that ‘emancipatory reflexive praxis’ will facilitate self-reflection, critical reflexivity and ensure that it has a theoretical underpinning that informs practice towards social change.

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