Neighbourhood networking
: a critical social work approach to 'creating community' in a culturally diverse setting

  • Gretchen Ennis

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    Creating and strengthening supportive networks is a cornerstone of social work practice with communities. Whilst there has been some exciting literature on network approaches to community development, there is little research about the application of such approaches, particularly from a critical social work perspective.

    This study explores the processes and outcomes of a community project based in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. An overt network focus (integrating social network analysis) was applied to a strengths-based neighbourhood project in a culturally divided location. The “Ludmilla Neighbourhood Connections” project involved a diverse network of people and organisations working together to “create community” and increase connections across cultures.

    A variety of methods were embedded within a case study framework to provide an in-depth exploration of what happens when a focus on social networks is applied to strengths-based community work. Using social network analysis within the case study framework proved to be a particularly effective way of understanding project outcomes. Combined with qualitative narrative methods, and descriptive statistical data, this case study provides a rich exploration of critical social work practice with communities.

    This study demonstrates that a network focus with communities is useful in a range of ways including: thinking about what a “community” is, linking up already existing resources, mobilising to create new resources, and creating flexible, nonhierarchical networks within which community work can occur.

    It is argued that that focus on networks provides a useful framework for critical social work practice with communities. A social networks focus can shed light upon the way in which relationships between individuals, groups and communities form and are formed by broader social structures.

    This thesis provides an exploration of how a social networks focus can contribute to both social work practice with communities, and the researching of that community practice.

    Date of AwardMay 2011
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDeborah West (Supervisor)

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