Community Work as Opposition: Tensions and Potentials in a Formalistic Welfare Context

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A number of tensions pertaining to social problems and human suffering become
apparent when analysing community work in a Danish welfare setting. As a source
for critical reflection, we discern challenges and potentials, which relate not only to a Danish context, but to challenges in any highly institutionalized welfare system.
Three community work social enterprises serve to exemplify the objectives of addressing social problems by fostering participation and empowerment. To enhance and include the voice of service users, the programmes attempt to cultivate human resources as opposed to perceived municipal formalism and a subsequent diminishment of the potentials of community inclusion. Such a dichotomy offers a podium for users, professionals, policymakers and researchers to consider alternative expressions of community work, and how these can address social problems.
Rapidly changing welfare models require an increased sensitivity to human suffering as a position embedded in the habitus and sociological imagination of community work. It is a source for reflection on the role of welfare arenas perceived as spaces in which service users ideally, based on their own social situation, can improve their social circumstances. It is an invitation to reflect on the potentials of community work in a diversity of cultures and practices.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Comparative Social Work
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)33-55
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020. All rights reserved

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • community
  • civil society
  • Social enterprise
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • social innovation
  • formalism
  • opposition
  • social work


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