Centre for Applied Research on Social Sciences and Law

Urban Social Work

The research group Urban Social Work aims to identify key knowledge and skills needed by social workers in their effort to overcome social exclusion amongst city residents.

Urban social divide

Modern-day cities have different 'faces'. The city is a source of creativity and innovation, drives economic development and attracts large numbers of people. However, urban centres such as Amsterdam are also home to a disproportionate number of residents with persistent social problems. The city of Amsterdam is seeing a growing rift between the employed and unemployed, the advantaged and disadvantaged and those with and without a strong social network.

Social exclusion

Social exclusion is especially prevalent on the urban outskirts, in areas with a high percentage of social housing. The term 'social exclusion' refers to people who are not capable of, willing or allowed to take ‘fully’ part in society. For example, they are not able to take part because they have little money to spend, lack a social network or have no access to suitable care or a liveable environment. In some cases, they no longer wish to participate due to past disappointments in life. In others, they are not allowed to take part due to (perceived) lack of appreciation from broader society. These aspects can also exacerbate each other, and may apply to both individuals and groups.

To overcome social exclusion in 'disadvantaged' urban areas presents a major challenge to social workers - both professionals (from community teams or other organisations) and volunteers alike. They are in need of additional knowledge and skills in the area of citizen participation, outreach work, community work and dealing with diversity.

Tools for Street level professionals

Social workers focused on specific urban neighbourhoods face intricate and complex issues. How can they approach these combined problems in an effective way? What kind of knowledge, skills and preconditions will they need to improve the situation of the residents in these ethnically diverse neighbourhoods? What tools do they need to develop a sense of belonging among the residents? The research group assesses the wide range of complications and success factors inherent to urban social work.

We then apply this research to develop realistic and effective improvements in collaboration with professionals, formal and informal partners from the field and local residents. As a result, current and future street-level professionals will be better equipped in order to take action against social exclusion in problematic urban areas.