Social Worker Roles in Macro Practice

Generalist social work practitioners may assume a wide range of professional roles in macro practice. A role is a culturally expected behavior pattern for a person having a specified status or being involved in a designated social relationship. For example, people have certain expectations of how social workers will act and of the activities they will pursue.

Professional roles in macro practice include enabler, mediator, coordinator, manager, educator, evaluator, broker, facilitator, initiator, negotiator, mobilizer, and advocate. Note that professional roles are not necessarily mutually exclusive. A worker may perform the functions of more than one role at a time. Similarly, aspects of the roles may overlap.

An enabler provides support, encouragement, and suggestions to members of a macro client system, thus allowing the system to operate more easily and more successfully in completing tasks and/or solving problems. In the enabler role, a worker helps a client system become capable of coping with situational or transitional stress. Specific skills used in achieving this objective include conveying hope, reducing resistance and ambivalence, recognizing and managing feelings, identifying and supporting personal strengths and social assets, breaking down problems into parts that can more readily be solved [partialization], and maintaining a focus on goals and the means of achieving them (Barker, 2003). For example, an enabler might help a community develop a program for identifying and shutting down crack houses. Community citizens do the work, but the enabler provides enthusiastic encouragement and helps participants identify their strengths and weaknesses and work out their interpersonal conflicts while keeping on task. Enablers, then, are helpers. Practitioners can function in the role of enabler for systems of all sizes.

(Note that this definition of enabler is very different from that used in the topic area of substance abuse. There, the term refers to someone else such as a family member or friend who facilitates the substance abuser in continuing to use and abuse the drug of his or her choice.)

A mediator resolves arguments or disagreements among micro, mezzo, and/or macro systems in conflict (Toseland & Rivas, 2012). At the macro level mediators help various factions (subsystems) in a community or community systems themselves work out their differences. For example, a community (or neighborhood) and a social services organization may require mediation over the placement of a substance abuse treatment center. Perhaps the social services organization has selected a prime spot, but the community or neighborhood is balking at the establishment of such a center within its boundaries.

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