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How group work can bring social change

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1719 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Essay topic- How can group work be used to bring about social change? Identify an example of a social change that you want to work towards, and describe and critically analyse what role group work might play in bringing about this change.

The development of thinking and practice that is known as groupwork has its basis from the establishment of human civilisation. Group work is the foundation in the existence of human beings, no individual can survive alone, therefore all human beings need to work together in order to live there potential life and achieve their goals. It has been discovered throughout history that people would live in groups, hunt in groups and travel in groups in order to protect each other from the unexpected. This goes to show how vital it is to work together in groups. Papell (1997, p.11) notes that [groupwork] history reflects "the essentials of the human condition" through social concern, collective action, empowerment and survival. This essay will examine how social change can be achieved by groups through groupwork as well as emphasising the range of changes which women's groups are capable of bringing about (papell 1997, as cited by Mcdermott 2002).

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Defining the term 'group', as with a lot of the theories regarding group work, has been undeniably problematic and controvertible. Konopka (1963) identifies groupwork as a practice of social work that is developed sequentially to `help individuals to enhance their social functioning through purposeful group experiences and to cope more effectively with their personal, group or community problems'. This demonstrates a more long-established approach within groupwork of helping individuals with their tribulations. Brown (1992) conveys that `groupwork provides a context in which individuals help each other ,it is a method of helping groups as well as helping individuals, and it can enable individuals and groups to influence and change personal, group, organisational and community problems'.

One of the five perspectives outlined in McDermott (2002), group as a power base, focuses on the group taking political action ,which in turn 'brings about social changes instead of attempting to change individual behaviour' (Vinik and Levin 1991; weeks 1994, ch.3; Butler and Wintram 1995; DeChant 1996; Benjamin et al 1997, cited by McDermott 2002). Examining the power structure that manages our capitalist society reveals that parts of the population are discriminated against and oppressed. Women and those who belong to minority ethnic or race groups are often stereotyped and excluded from attaining influence and success in the broader community. Whilst developing a group it turns out to be the place where viewpoint, measures, and outcomes transpire which results in the opportunity to liberate and empower group members (McDermott 2002).

It's been evident since the last couple of decades that groupwork has become a generally recognised strategy for improving the quality of life of people in a very broad range of situations. Groupwork is now known as a specialist means available to social workers and many other workers in social welfare agencies. Heap (1985) implies that the use of groups often improves the merit and the importance of help. Heap asserts that these are basic human situation and as such the social/group workers need to recognise the key group practices as the major source in groupwork (Heap 1985, as cited by Philips 2001).

The effectiveness of groupwork is its ability to bring about change (Coulshed and orme 1998, as cited by Philips 2001) .Group involvement is seen to encourage and support members to divulge aspects of their own lives in order to give advice to others on how their behaviour and reactions affect the group and the wider community. The progress of this insight into personal motivation and others reactions are seen as providing good potential for change (Philips 2001). The fundamental nature of the effectiveness of group work for Coulshed and Orme (1998) and heap (1985) is that it make the most of personal resources or experiences of members to improve concerns and provides a position 'to help as well as be helped' (Coulshed and Orme 1998). Nevertheless Coulshed ,Orme and heap do not downplay the intricate nature of group dynamics.

Group dynamics is interested with the way in which groups function. The ways in which groups attempt to achieve such goals by the relations or communication of their members is viewed as a key area of study, as are the factors that effect member interactions.

The women's Group could be distinguished as encompassing the psychodynamic theoretical base. This perspective emphasises on feelings and revelations and is centered around the idea that people's current motivations and actions are a reaction to problematic past experiences, Several of which are likely to be in childhood.

The aim of many Women's Group is to provide a supportive environment. Whereby each member attempts to discusses issues of concern to them. The group members therefore look for solutions to these issues and reinforce one another's to attempts to combat with helpful planning.

Women's groupwork encourages significant outcomes for organisational and individual. The group turns into self-supporting which leads to structure of successful group work practice and other women's groups and individuals benefit from their work. Therefore has benefits for people who undertake group work but for those desires to understand and treat with contempt institutional attitudes of racism, and sexism and class attitudes.

The conception of 'power from within' is an important part of women's empowerment, and forward to an awareness of external reality as well as their sense of group. The method of empowerment is intended to enable women to be part of decision-making spaces on different levels of society. Then they can act as representative for social change and carry feminine values of peace, justice and equality as it has been shown through out the feminist movement. (Jeong, 2000, Sen, 1999)

Being empowered throughout a process of discussion and cohesion can lead to develop a sense of self involving and progression to a political identity. (Rees, 1998, Carr,2003). Which highlights that there should be no hierarchical structures and no 'power over' dynamics as part of an approach for building self-confidence in the women in the course of women groups.

It is very vital to analysis and considerate the establishment for both personal and social change (Carr, 2003) .Moreover, individuality creation and self- focus are essential key of the empowerment process. Freire stated that the oppressed are often at odds in order to gain power need to gain self- knowledge. (Freire, 1970, Carr, 2003). The Burma women who were part of this empowerment process they went back to their community after gaining self confident about them self and understanding of their weakness and strength to share their knowledge and experiences with other Burmese women. They become as an active agents for social changes by empowering other women in their community by holding workshops using the some methodologies. According to Norsworthy and Khuankaew (2004) one group of women established a legal system to deal with partner abuse. Some of the women created organisations for women endorse power- sharing and open of other to have their input; they also work in document gender-based human rights violations by the authority such as the military and the police in Burma. They took risk to show others through unity social changes can be achieved.

Group work has continued to survive during tough times. Its' strength is a tribute to the determination of the heart of people as well as the power of the process (Ramey interview, 1988).

Group work philosophy has continued for a long period of time because it is well-established in a clear knowledge and understanding of human lives and the human circumstance facts. The theories of people, contribution, collaboration, and democracy are still influential. Middleman and Goldberg (1988) prompt that "it is group work that has kept and continues to secure social work in its practice of social reform.

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There lies within every person the dread of be alone in this world, forgotten by God, overlooked by tremendous of households of millions and millions. The fear is swept away by looking upon all those around us as friends or family, but nevertheless it is there and one hardly imagines thinking of what would happen to one of us if all the rest were taken away; (Kirkegaarde,1938)

Human beings; dependent upon each other, Koestler explains this independence as

" one of the central features of human predicament' and describes it as an 'overwhelming capacity and need for identification with social group and/ or a system of beliefs which is indifferent to reason, to self-interest and even to claims of self preservation'(1969)

Each person can been seen as the product of a continuing process of interaction with others, but the basis of his or her individual personality has been established by many factors in the early years of life, particularly those close to him physically and affectionately.

Group experience therefore is a general term, but obviously in deferent qualities, intensities and duration; it is also a combination experience of most of people been part of different groups in one time. Our experience in each group has the same effect upon our behaviour in any or all of the others. The idea of dependence comes through different discipline and forms a counter of excessive connection upon the individual as an existing entity. Some strong arguments of interdependence stated in theory like Mead, Cooley and Berger "a process, continually created and recreated in each social situation that one enters held together by slender thread of memory (Cooley 1963).

Without the consideration of one's own standpoint concerning ideological issues, a good number of theorists would agree that experience has educated us that group work, with its tiny numbers, attempted to preserve identity in the midst.


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