Structural Social Work Lens: A View of Youth Engagement in the Social Policy Life of their Communities

Donna Hardy Cox, E. Michelle Sulivan, Nancy E. Sullivan


Presented through a structural social work lens, this paper is a description and analysis of an action research project designed to explore factors that encourage or impede the engagement of youth in the social policy life of their communities. The project was conceptualized in a geographic region characterized by the erosion of community sustainability due to social economic disadvantage and out migration. The project aimed to strengthen communities by enhancing participation of youth in social policy development. It utilized a workshop designed and delivered by youth for youth and the development a Social Policy Action Plan (SPAP) to address a policy issue of concern in youth’s local community. Principles of structural social work, with particular attention to power sharing, unmasking the structures, collective consciousness, transformation of power/political and personal change, social action and community capacity building are applied as a lens to explore this project.

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