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SWK 4210H – Promoting Empowerment: Working at the Margins - Elective

This course will examine concepts and processes of marginalization and empowerment among populations whose issues are poorly addressed in conventional social service delivery. We will examine various forces (e.g., historical, colonial, economic, political, social and ideological forces) that create and sustain the marginalization of various groups (e.g., First Nations people, people who are homeless, people with disabilities and other populations selected by the class). We will explore the processes of marginalization, social exclusion and empowerment from four perspectives:

(1) what theory, practice and research have illuminated;
(2) what people who are affected by the problem say about their lives and the services they attempt to access;
(3) innovations by social service organizations to develop appropriate delivery systems; and
(4) creative and collective efforts by those who are affected by the problem. In addition, transnational and international perspectives are introduced through some of the empowerment strategies used in the Third World and examples of transnational grass-roots organizing efforts.

We will also review other issues such as culture, spirituality and human rights as they relate to empowerment, as well as research studies and evaluation examples focusing on empowerment practice. Throughout the class, attention will be paid to our own social identities and how they affect our analysis and interventions.