Community Intervention Models: Problems, Strengths and Future Applications



Community Intervention Models: Problems, Strengths and Future Applications

Many community intervention models are mentioned in the literature, and three key approaches are referenced (Rothman, Erlich & Tropman, 2001). Let’s look at a brief description of these approaches. The first, locality development, stresses the involvement of a wide range of participation among community members addressing issues of central concern to them. Social solidarity is a strong requirement for success in this approach (Homan, 2004; Rothman et al., 2008). The second approach comes from social planning and policy and stresses the use of experts and educated professionals solving the community’s problems-often from a distance. This approach is empirical and data driven (Homan, 2004; Rothman et al., 2008). The third type of model comes from social action approaches which frequently emphasize the differences between the advantaged and disadvantaged within a community. This approach applies pressure on the advantaged group to leverage social change (Hoeffer &Chigbu, 2015).


While these three models are not exhaustive, (Rothmanm 1996) this has been somewhat of a useful lens from which to conceptualize and develop and evaluate community change efforts. Each model has been utilized to some degree to help create and measure community change, has mobilized community members and has provided useful ways for people to address systemic problems.

Associated Problems

In today’s rapidly moving and complex social environment not all of the three models produce positive community change.  In fact, they are likely outdated ( Boehm & Cnaan 2012). To meet the challenges of today’s societal demands, scholars and community practitioners have called for a hybrid approach due to the problems inherent in each modality. For example the locality approach emphasizes helping people help themselves, but this approach is often to blind to the larger factors of national, state or local government which often overshadows the ability of the localized population to mobilize for themselves see themselves as relevant actors (Carlton-LaNey, &Burwell, 1995). The social planning approach is criticized for being overly, rigorous, rational, and technical. In communities where the populace has less educational opportunities data driven strategies may leave people behind. Finally, one of the problems associated with the social action approach is that is highly militarized (Hoefer &Chigbu). The use of confrontational tactics and pitting one group against another usually requires the use of a third-party to resolve the inherent conflicts.

Newer Approaches

The literature suggests newer models have been developed in recent years including the community advocacy model, community engagement and feminist models, as well as a number of others (Boehm & Cnaan, 2012). While all these models have relevance and are more useful, than previous ones, they are primarily rooted in the classical models so many of the original limitations exist. One of the main criticisms is the overall lack of community involvement from the beginning stages. Newer approaches will need to include community members and community practitioners’ perspectives from conceptualization, implementation through evaluation. This empowers participants to share and build strengths as active initiators based on their perspectives on what needs to change, how it will change and when change will take place (Hoefer & Chigbu).

A new conceptual approach to community intervention is called the MAP-  Motivation and Persuasion Process, which is a hybrid configuration that addresses most of the gaps in the 3 classic models .(Hoefer & Chigbu). A major criticism of all three classic models is the lack of community involvement of its members in decision-making (Boehm & Cnaan, 2012). Bundled in a theoretical framework of empowerment, the MAP brings together persuasive psychology, motivational counseling, and principled negotiation to integrate community involvement as central to the model.  A number of studies indicate these approaches have been successful in working with communities, institutions and individuals (Cialdini , R.,2009; O’Donohue & Beitz, 2007; Pliois, 2007).  The MAP helps community members develop skill in self- negotiation with institutions and is built on principles which are central to social work:  self-determination and community empowerment (Goldworthy, 2007). Community members work alongside community practitioners and policy makers to learn a variety of skills leading to positive outcomes including use of authority, maintenance of consistency, demonstration of commitment, maintenance of objectivity, tactful response to resistance, display of empathy, and pursuit of self efficacy. These components comprise a model of community change by empowering community members to collectively come together with a skill set that can lead to successful outcomes (Hoefer and Chigbu).

macrosw 6-1-17 community models


Hopefully as macro social workers assume more central roles in public policy, urban planning and municipal government, social work values will support more community planned change models.   We must continue to advocate for centralized, normative opportunities for collaboration between community members, community practitioners and strength based problem solvers to work equitably in solving community problems.

Questions for tonight’s chat:

1 .What are the macro (social and community) challenges receiving most attention in your community today and why?

  1. In addition to the MAP what community intervention models do you think are more relevant to today and why?
  2. How do you see macro social work values operating in your community’s approach to solving problems and identifying strengths?
  3. What is the level of engagement between community members and community practitioners in addressing your community’s challenges?

If time permits-

  1. How visible are macro social workers and allied professionals in city planning, municipal and county government in your community?
  2. What is social work’s role today in helping our communities develop new models of community intervention?



Boehn, A. & Chnaan, R.  (2012). Towards a practice-based model  for community intervention. Linking So theory and practice. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 39, 141-168.

Carlton-Laney, I.,  & Burwell, N. (1995). African American  community practice models:  Historical and contemporary responses. Journal of Community Practice, 4(2),1-6.

Cialdini, R. (2009). Influence: Science and Practice (5th ed.). New :York NY; Pearson.

Hoefer , R. & Chigbu, K.2015) The motivation and persuasion process (MAP):  Proposing a practice model for community intervention

Goldsworthy, J. (2002). Resurrecting a model of integrating  individual work with  community development and social action. Community Development Journal, 37, 327-337.

Homan,M. (2004). Promoting community change: Making it happen in the real world. Belmont,CA: Brooks/Cole

Pliois, E. (2007).Competency in generalist practice: A guide to theory and evidence based decision making. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Rothman, J. ,Erlich, J., & Tropman, J., (2001 strategies of community intervention. (6th ed.).  Itasca, IL: F,E.Peacock.



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