Social work and community development have always been uneasy bedfellows not least in terms of where power and ‘experts’ are located (Walker 2016). Two decades of neo-liberal influences on social work have increasingly pushed the profession toward managerialist, detached ‘professionalism’, rather than kinship, solidarity and activism.  

The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 has set the stage for a reuniting of social work and community development with a focus on relational rather than procedural ways of working and re-engagement with communities. However, there is a danger that this could become an opportunist and exploitative venture, that focuses on the transfer of responsibility rather than resources and power to local communities.  

This seminar outlined a particular approach to community development in a particular area of Cardiff, that is asset-based and people-led. It provided a narrative of community development that illustrates its complex, relational, creative and emergent nature. Such an approach does not sit well with traditional approaches to planning and evaluation in social care, which often try to control and predict rather than go with the flow.  

The fruits of asset-based community development were illustrated by the example of a heritage project involving archaeologists from Cardiff University. The seminar concluded with an outline of a storytelling approach to evaluating such work that is focused on learning, rather than performance.

Presented by: Prof Fiona Verity, Dr Nick Andrews, Swansea University, Dr Oliver Davis, Cardiff University, Ian Rees, Neath Port Talbot Council, and David Horton, ACE Caerau Ely.