Bridging a gap: The conceptualization of power


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Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Description The term "policy practice" means influencing formal ways of solving the recognized problems. In social work, policy practice refers to the active involvement of social workers in policy arenas and effective engagement in policy-making, which is an integral part of their practice with people in need. Although current research on policy practice in social work reveals an array of inspiring ways to realize policy practice in diverse nation-states, one crucial aspect of social workers' policy engagement is overlooked. This crucial aspect is power. Power is an omnipresent element that determines the success or failure of social workers and other policy actors promoting policy changes. Since being a vague term, power is often mistaken or conflated with force, authority, influence, knowledge, or domination over resources. In terms of power, there is a gap in policy practice research: the lack of an appropriate conceptualization of power in policy practice. In my contribution, power will be conceptualized as a highly contextual, situational, and relational aspect of competition among policy actors, including social workers, while promoting their values or interests in policy arenas. In addition, driven by institutional theory and the concept of governance, I will describe the institutional map of social work practice and the possible positioning of social workers in it. It helps me delineate policy arenas and horizontal, vertical, and diagonal power relations among policy actors in policy-making. My contribution offers a suitable theoretical framework for future research on power in policy practice.
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