Macro Practice in Social Work for the 21st Century: Bridging the Macro-Micro Divide


Steve Burghardt

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Copyright


    Many of those whom I thanked in the first edition remain central to this edition and will be mentioned below. Others have since entered my life and have only added to the value of this work. In particular, this edition is much stronger in integrating more clinical skills so that the text is much more inclusive of both macro and micro skill sets. Over the past 4 years, I have been fortunate to work with a set of people in a year-long foundation practice course. They have expanded my appreciation for and awareness of how clinical work, both with individuals and groups, informs macro practice—and how organizing impacts their clinical, individual, and group work. Robyn Brown-Manning, Carolyn Gelman, Chanda Griffin, Delores Hunter, Kyle McGee, Carmen Morano, Moyosore Paupau-Mickens, Beth Reiman, Judith Trachtenberg, and Norma Uriquen have provided me insights and practice wisdom of enormous value. A special shout-out goes to my long-time friend and collaborator Willie Tolliver, who walks the talk of anti-oppression work as few others do. I also extend thanks to Mary Cavanaugh for her clinical and humane insights outside of the classroom, as well as to my wise friend Evelyn Pederson. Finally, I especially would like to thank Samuel Aymer, whose clinical brilliance and personal openness to the social dynamics embedded in practice have contributed so much to our rich and rewarding conversations on the “macro–micro mix” over the past 3 years. The results of those conversations can be found throughout this edition.

    As stated before, it is a fortunate person who loves what he or she does more after 35 years than at the start of that career. I am blessed to be such a person because of the extrordinary group of people who have entered my organizing classes and gone on to work in the rough-and-tumble world where the struggle for social justice is ongoing. Cantankerous, smart as can be, and willing to take on the world, as well as the increasingly older white guy in the front of the room, filled with courage and moments of self-doubt— these community organizers have given a richness to my life that I never would have had without them.

    Another group of people with whom I have worked and who have added so much are the men and women who toil in the human service organizations that make up those other parts of macro practice—those agency workers, frontline supervisors, managers, and executives who head out each day to work in the trenches with groups others would prefer to forget: the neglected kids in child welfare, the homeless families thrown out of substandard housing, the mentally ill folks others might try to avoid. Their resilience and capacity to carry on each and every day, even as funds fall short—again and again—so others might be able to live with a touch of dignity leaves me humbled at all they do far better than I ever could.

    My hope is that this book honors them all.

    Others have provided encouragement and support along the way as I completed this new work. Friends who provided the occasional kick in the pants to keep me writing are Mike Fabricant, Kami Franklin, Liz Laboy, Ed Laboy, and Eric Zachary. Silberman School of Social Work colleagues Kristin Ferguson-Colvin, Nancy Giunta, Terry Mizrahi, Associate Dean Andrea Savage, and Dean Jackie Mondros continue to provide encouragement as well. Dr. Mohan Krishna Vinjamuri again used his special mix of analytic brilliance and extraordinary thoroughness to take on the writing of Chapter 9, addressing the Internet and social networking as organizing tools.

    One of the two new chapters was written by remarkable young practitioners who have lived their strategic vision, from the classroom we shared and into their life's work. Kristin LeBourveau and Meredith Ledlie-Johnson began discussing how social work had to stretch its definition of the “social environment” to include the work of environmental activists at a time when most of their classmates and professional colleagues thought little about issues such as community gardens, local food markets, hydrofracking, and climate change. As their own stories attest in Chapter 11, the field is slowly awakening to their vision as Earth grows in peril—along with us who inhabit it.

    Finally, the remarkable people who continue to write, compile, and maintain the Community Toolbox deserve special mention. Like macro practitioners everywhere, Stephen Fawcett, Jerry Schultz, and Christina Holt of the University of Kansas have toiled without much notice to create a vibrant and rich Internet resource for organizers that has helped countless practitioners across the United States and beyond. I hope readers of this book will take full advantage of it.

    That my best editor of thematic coherency and word choice—as well as pants-kicker par excellencehappens to be my wife, Pat Beresford, is another fortuitous part of my life, for which I give thanks every day. Being backed up by our brood of various Bs (and a few other letters)—Lila and Matty and their future 21st century organizer, Desmond; Josh; Lisa and Eric; and Jen and her sweet honeybee, Sara Kaye—rounds out the fullness of my life.

    The family at SAGE Publications is a pretty special group, too. Kassie Graves, editor extraordinaire, continues to be a class act in everything she does, whether signaling encouragement, quietly offering improvements, or kindly yet persistently making sure I complete all that needs to be done. I am blessed to be able now to call her my friend. Elizabeth Luizzi, Amy Schroller, and Megan Granger have provided able assistance in moving the work through its various stages, for which I am most appreciative. I am also again aware of the steady, wise hand of Armand Lauffer on this book. Giving him thanks continues to be a thimble's worth of the debt at play here.

    My final thanks still go to a man I met but once: Paulo Freire. The influence of his seminal ideas, first written in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, on my life and work cannot be overstated. Understanding how well-meaning educators (including professors of community organizing) can replicate domination through the banking system of education, the importance of genuine respect and belief in others' capacities to find within themselves the resolution to their internalized and external oppression, recognizing the dehumanization of those who oppress and how a transformed relationship with the oppressed leads to a new sense of humanity for us all, the value of posing problems as a vehicle for mutual exploration and eventual dialogue … the list of what his writings have given me is a long one that has become fundamental to how I try to live my life. My other hope for this book is that it uses his words in ways that further expand his contribution to a lifetime fight for social justice, a fight that will continue throughout the 21st century.

    The author and SAGE gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the following reviewers:

    Lynn Agre, Rutgers State University

    Steven Applewhite, University of Houston

    Sheli Bernstein-Goff, West Liberty University

    Cassandra Bowers, Wayne State University

    Fredi Giesler, MSW, PhD, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

    Dorlisa J. Minnick, Shippensburg University

    Anne Powell, University of Kansas

    Kathleen (Kat) Walsh, Millersville University of Pennsylvania

  • About the Authors

    Steve Burghardt, PhD, is professor of social work at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, City University of New York, and partner of the Leadership Transformation Group. He is a recognized expert in community organizing, democratic leadership, and popular education. He has taught, trained, consulted, and organized with both grassroots community groups and large-scale public agencies on new models of practice throughout his career. The author of seven other books and numerous articles, he has won numerous awards for his teaching on community organizing through popular education, political economy of social welfare, and theories of social change.

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