Community based social work is grounded in civic activity and the societal work done by various NGOs. In addition to community work and regional social work in different neighborhoods, research on community social work is also interested in different forms of social capital as generated in “natural” communities at the grassroots. Furthermore, it is interesting to see whether and how this social capital meets various forms of institutional care part of the social welfare service system. (Roivainen, Nylund, Korkiamäki & Raitakari 2008.)
The research on community work covers also research on local communities, particularly urban residential areas and housing estates. A number of such studies conducted at the course of years explore the social aspects of urban life from the vantage point of different resident groups – from the perspective of children, young, single mothers, industrial workers – and the press.
Moreover, the community orientation has been strongly present in the research on settlement work and various socio-cultural environments. In social pedagogical research, the central focus has been on the relations between individuals and communities, and the theory and methodology of socio-cultural animation (animation socioculturelle) (Kurki 2004).
Local communities are central part of people’s well-being, realizing on their part the civil society in practice and functioning as buffers for the sometimes negative impacts of socio-political decisions. The recent and on-going restructuring of the welfare state has further increased the significance of the locality and the local communities that people are part of. In situations in which ”the natural” or the local communities lack the resources to meet the welfare needs of their members, or may actually be a hindrance to their well-being, such welfare deficits should be answered by the institutional service system.
Neither communities nor community work exist disconnected from the rest of the world. Globalization forces local communities to respond to issues related with, for example, increasing multiculturalism, diminishing resources, and border-crossing economic, political and environmental processes. Therefore, rather than location-bound activity only, community work must be increasingly perceived as a glocal, simultaneously global and local phenomena and sphere of action.
Irene Roivainen and Satu Ranta-Tyrkkö