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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 7: An Alternative Social Vision


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This chapter analyses questions about who we work for and why we do this kind of work. It challenges practitioners to reflect on who the real beneficiaries of their work are and whether youth and community work can be tokenistic, or uses core concepts but does not deliver in practice, thus becoming complicit with political ideologies that counteract a social model for equality and social justice. The chapter questions the kind of practices that aspire towards the creation of a more equitable and socially just society, and challenges whether practitioners are identifying and addressing structural disadvantage, discrimination and inequality by refocusing on process, participation and collective rights.

As noted within the previous chapter we have advocated the need to explore macro level agendas and question the normative societal structures in which we operate. This chapter therefore seeks to articulate an overview of the current context in which our practice is situated. We are aware that internationally there are variations on this context and that we cannot provide an individualised summary of these differences. As such we begin from the starting point that our work is generally taking place under a patriarchal, neo-liberal, capitalist agenda which seeks to dominate, individualise and marketise. This chapter sets this context but then offers a vision for an alternative social ← 127 | 128 → vision. It assesses how this vision might be achieved and challenges whether, as practitioners, we are critically conscious in...

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