Locality-based social development

A theoretical perspective for social work

Authored by: Abiot Simeon , Alice K. Butterfield , David P. Moxley

The Routledge Handbook of Social Work Theory

Print publication date:  July  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9780415793438
eBook ISBN: 9781315211053
Adobe ISBN:


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Social development offers a singular framework to address the multiple and interrelated needs of not only individuals and groups, but also whole populations within geographies in which poverty is prevalent. Social development intertwines social institutions, policies and programmes to improve human well-being in nations undergoing development. Hobhouse recognized the relevance of social development in the early 1920s, in which mass literacy campaigns were seen as ways of bringing about development. By the 1940s, British colonialists used the term to describe Western efforts to address social unrest and economic issues in West Africa and other European colonies around the world (Midgley, 1995). Since the 1960s, the United Nations has played a key role in popularizing the social development approach. In 2000, the UN developed the Millennium Development Goals (www.un.org/millenniumgoals/) to underline the importance of social development. South Africa has built its national welfare policy on the foundation of social development (Patel, 2015), and work in Asia has emphasized the role of social development in social policy (Desai, 2013). Social development theory has been used in engaged research on human rights in Ghana (Sossou & Yogtiba, 2016) and the development of a professional association for social work in Namibia (Ananias & Lightfoot, 2012). The theory has been used to address the needs of unemployed middle-aged women in China (Sung-Chan & Yuen-Tsang, 2008), to facilitate the well-being of children in child welfare (Schmid, Wilson, & Taback, 2010), to create social entrepreneurship (Van Wyk & Mandla, 2010) in South Africa and to act in response to tsunami recovery in India (Hawkins & Nalini, 2008). Estes (1994) provides an early summary of four models of social development and curricular issues for social work.

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