Micro-level social work can be offered by agencies and nonprofits, as well as in schools, police departments or even the military. Since micro-level social work involves sensitive interactions with individuals, undergraduate degrees in fields like psychology or sociology can be especially helpful for students hoping to work in this field. While micro social work happens on an individual level, mezzo-level social work zooms out to look at groups instead of individuals. Many practitioners use micro and mezzo social work simultaneously to solve problems in businesses, schools, organizations and communities.
Since mezzo-level social work addresses group issues, it is a valuable tool for creating small-scale institutional, social and cultural change. Undergraduate degrees in psychology with an emphasis on group psychology or sociology help build a solid foundation for this kind of work. Macro-level social work involves interventions and advocacy on a large scale , affecting entire communities, states or even countries.
It helps clients by intervening in large systems that may seem beyond the reach of individuals. For many people unfamiliar with the field, macro-level work may not even be recognizable as social work. Macro social workers may be involved in crafting laws or petitioning local, state or even federal governments for funds to help communities.
They may also organize state- or nation-wide activist campaigns. Since macro social work often involves governmental assistance or interventions, an undergraduate background in a macro-level discipline like political science will prepare students well for this career path. While certain social workers specialize in one aspect of the micro-to-macro scale, most social workers interact with all three levels.
As such, social workers must understand the entire spectrum and how the scales interact. Think of a school counselor, for example, who is tasked with helping a child who is facing difficulties at school and acting out. It might be hoped that individuals would use their coworkers as positive role models upward social comparison , which would inspire them to work harder. On the other hand, if group members believe that others are being rewarded more than they are for what they perceive as the same work downward social comparison , they may change their behavior to attempt to restore equity.
Perhaps they will attempt to work harder in order to receive greater rewards for themselves. Taken together then, incentives can have some positive effects on group performance, but they may also create their own difficulties. But incentives do not have to be so directly financial. However, when each individual was given his or her own personal microphone and thus believed that his or her own input could be measured, social loafing was virtually eliminated.
Thus when our contributions to the group are identifiable as our own, and particularly when we receive credit for those contributions, we feel that our performance counts, and we are less likely to loaf. It turns out that the size of the group matters in this regard. In the end, because of the difficulties that accompany large groups, the most effective working groups are of relatively small size—about four or five members. However, the optimal group size will be different for different types of tasks. Groups will also be more effective when they develop appropriate social norms.
If the group develops a strong group identity and the group members care about the ability of the group to do a good job e. It is also important for the group to fully define the roles that each group member should play in the group and help the individuals accomplish these roles. Even if we are successful in encouraging the group members to work hard toward the group goals, groups may fail anyway because they do not gather and share information openly. However, the likelihood of poor information search and information sharing, such as that which occurs in groupthink, can be reduced by creating situations that foster open and full discussion of the issues.
One important method of creating adequate information sharing is to ensure that the group has plenty of time to make its decision and that it is not rushed in doing so. Of course, such a luxury is not always possible, but better decisions are likely to be made when there is sufficient time. Having plenty of time prevents the group from coming to premature consensus and making an unwise choice. Time to consider the issues fully also allows the group to gain new knowledge by seeking information and analysis from outside experts.
One approach to increasing full discussion of the issues is to have the group break up into smaller subgroups for discussion. This technique increases the amount of discussion overall and allows more group members to air more ideas.
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In some decision-making groups, it is standard practice to set up several independent groups that consider the same questions, each carrying on its deliberations under a separate leader; the subgroups then meet together to make the final decision. For this reason, the group leader should formally assign the person to the role and make it clear that this role is an essential part of group functioning.
The job can profitably be given to one of the most qualified group members and may sometimes rotate from person to person. In other cases, it may be useful to invite an expert or another qualified individual who is not a regular member of the group to the decision-making meetings to give his or her input. This person should be encouraged to challenge the views of the core group. The group leader is extremely important in fostering norms of open discussion in decision-making groups.
An effective leader makes sure that he or she does not state his or her opinions early but, rather, allows the other group members to express their ideas first and encourages the presentation of contrasting positions. This allows a fuller discussion of pros and cons and prevents simple agreement by conformity. Leaders also have the ability to solicit unshared information from the group members, and they must be sure to do so, for instance, by making it clear that each member has important and unique information to share and that it is important to do so.
Leaders may particularly need to solicit and support opinions from low-status or socially anxious group members.
In this final meeting, the goal is to explicitly consider alternatives and allow any lingering doubts to be expressed by group members. One difficulty with many working groups is that once they have developed a set of plans or strategies, these plans become established social norms, and it becomes very difficult for the group to later adopt new, alternative, and perhaps better, strategies.
As a result, even when the group is having difficulty performing effectively, it may nevertheless stick with its original methods; developing or reformulating strategies is much less common. The development of specific strategies that allow groups to break out of their existing patterns may be useful in these cases. In some cases, the consultation may involve restructuring the group by changing the status hierarchy, the social norms, or the group roles, for instance.
These changes may help reduce conflict and increase effective communication and coordination. Groups that set specific, difficult, and yet attainable goals e. In addition, groups that set clear goals produce better attendance. Goals have been found to be even more important in determining performance than are other incentives, including rewards such as praise and money.
Groups tend to select more challenging goals, and because they have set them themselves, they do not need to be convinced to accept them as appropriate. One potential problem associated with setting goals is that the goals may turn out to be too difficult. If the goals that are set are too high to actually be reached, or if the group perceives that they are too high even if they are not, the group may become demoralized and reduce its effort Hinsz, Fortunately, over time, groups frequently adjust their goals to be attainable.
Generalist Social Work Practice
As we have seen, most groups tend to be made up of individuals who are similar to each other. There are some potential advantages for groups in which the members share personalities, beliefs, and values. Similarity among group members will likely help the group reach consensus on the best approaches to performing a task and may lead it to make decisions more quickly and effectively.
For one, assuming that people are willing to express them, diverse interests, opinions, and goals among the group members may reduce tendencies toward conformity and groupthink. Diverse groups may also be able to take advantage of the wider range of resources, ideas, and viewpoints that diversity provides, perhaps by increasing discussion of the issues and therefore improving creative thinking.
However, she also found that groups made up only of men performed well on tasks that involved task-oriented activities, whereas groups of women did better on tasks that involved social interaction. Thus, and again supporting the importance of the person-by-situation interaction, the congruency of members and tasks seems more important than either member characteristics or group characteristics alone.
However, although gender and ethnic diversity may have at least some benefits for groups, there are also some potential costs to diversity. Furthermore, if there are differences in perceived status between the members of the different ethnic or gender groups, members of the group with lower perceived status may feel that they are being treated unfairly, particularly if they feel that they do not have equal opportunities for advancement, and this may produce intergroup conflict.
Problems may also result if the number of individuals from one group is particularly small. One difficulty is that it may be harder for diverse groups to get past the formation stage and begin to work on the task, and once they get started, it may take more time for them to make a decision. In sum, group diversity may produce either process losses or process gains, but it is difficult to predict which will occur in any given group.
What is a Strength-Based Approach? (Incl. Activities and Examples)
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- Nina Aronoff | School of Social Work!
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