Chaos theory and complexity theory, collectively known as nonlinear dynamics or dynamical systems theory, provide a mathematical framework for thinking about change over time. Chaos theory seeks an understanding of simple systems that may change in a sudden, unexpected, or irregular way. Complexity theory focuses on complex systems involving numerous interacting parts, which often give rise to unexpected order. The framework that encompasses both theories is one of nonlinear interactions between variables that give rise to outcomes that are not easily predictable. This entry provides a nonmathematical introduction, discussion of current research, and references for further reading.
Sung Sil L. Sohng
Community-based participatory research (CBPR) embraces a partnership approach to research that equitably involves community members, organizational representatives, and researchers in all aspects of the research process. CBPR begins with a research topic of importance to the community and has the aim of combining knowledge with action and achieving social change. It is community based in the sense that community members become part of the research team and researchers become engaged in the activities of the community. Community–researcher partnerships allow for a blending of values and expertise, promoting co-learning and capacity building among all partners, and integrating and achieving a balance between research and action for the mutual benefit of all partners. Various terms have been used to describe this research, including participatory research, action research, participatory action research, empowerment research, collaborative research, anti-oppressive research, and feminist research.
This entry discusses community planning in the context of community social work. Distinctions are made between community planning as a rational comprehensive process of the planning discipline, and the process of community planning in community social work. Community planning is defined as a process of participatory and inclusive organized social change, directed toward community empowerment, building community, and developing members’ capacities to take part in democratic decision making. A three-dimensional model of empowering community planning is presented and discussed. The model focuses on the tasks of community social work in the planning process, and the empowering outcomes they can enable.
David P. Moxley
Interdisciplinarity links social work to other disciplines within complex domains of practice. Contrasted with multidisciplinary practice, in which social workers practice alongside other disciplines and professions, all of whom pursue their own intervention aims, interdisciplinarity requires a blending and combining of those practices distinctive within each of the disciplines in pursuit of a common set of outcomes. Interdisciplinarity requires collaboration, the integration of knowledge and action, and the formation of a common agenda of practice guided by unified goals. While interdisciplinary practice amplifies the distinctiveness of social work in a given domain, it underscores engagement of the profession in collaborative knowledge development, social learning, and innovation.
Paula T. Morelli and Jon Kei Matsuoka
Social impact assessment (SIA) is the process of analyzing (predicting, evaluating and reflecting) and managing the intended and unintended consequences on the human environment of planned interventions (policies, programs, plans, and projects) and any social change processes brought into play by those interventions so as to bring about a more sustainable and equitable biophysical and human environment (Vanclay, 2002). This subfield of impact assessment attempts to identify future consequences of a current or proposed action related to individuals, organizations and social macro-systems. SIA is policy-oriented social research often referred to as ex-ante evaluation, which involves pre-testing actions/interventions, or analyzing consequences.
Michael S. Kelly
Task-centered practice is a social work technology designed to help clients and practitioners collaborate on specific, measurable, and achievable goals. It is designed to be brief (typically 8–12 sessions), and can be used with individuals, couples, families, and groups in a wide variety of social work practice contexts. With nearly 40 years of practice and research arguing for its effectiveness, task-centered practice can rightfully claim to be one of social work's original “evidence-based practices,” though the relative paucity of research on its effectiveness in this decade suggests that the approach itself may have become increasingly integrated into other brief social work technologies.