School: School of Social Work - Guwahati Campus
Social work with its simultaneous focus on human dignity and quest for social justice has evolved into a generalist profession which combines skill-sets and methods known to and employed by professionals according to the situation at hand. With only few universities in the North East region providing Social Work training at a Masters level, it becomes all the more pertinent for TISS with its 75 years of experience in Social Work and Social Sciences education and research to step in. The curriculum has been designed keeping the needs of the country as well as the region in mind, while retaining the global ideals of TISS and the social work profession. The proposed curriculum draws from the existing programmes in TISS Mumbai and extends the scope to include some changes and combinations in keeping with the needs and aspirations of the region and the profession in general.
TISS has over the years been engaged with the North East Region through various Government Projects, support to universities and NGOs and also through the network of its alumni from the region. From this association emerged the need to train young workers with a heightened sensitivity to issues concerning the people and environment around them as well as an ability to view and respond to situations as required. The Guwahati Campus of TISS was envisioned with the idea of reaching out to the area. TISS – Guwahati Campus now offers an MA in Social Work in following specializations:
The M.A. in Social Work programmes provide research and practice within a framework that is in tune with the existing and emerging needs and realities of India and the North East region while providing the larger picture of developmental and human professions around the world. The course objectives are to create Social Work professionals who are in a position to respond to the area and also take on the role of development workers elsewhere in the country and abroad. It would help the students develop a comprehensive interdisciplinary knowledge, skills and attitude on a range of issues pertaining to development, communities, social entrepreneurship and the cross sectional aspects of the same. The students after graduating can act as a catalyst to bring about positive change in society using enterprise and an in-depth understanding of communities and their environment within a framework of social work values.
The community has been an important site of social work practice right from the earliest days of the professionalization of social work, as seen in the Community Service Organisations and Settlement House movements in the US and the UK in the late nineteenth century. In India too, as the profession became established in the immediate pre-independence period and particularly in the post-Independence period, community organisation acquired increasing prominence in social work practice.
Over the years, the focus of Master of Arts in Social Work (Community Organisation & Development Practices) has also changed along with changing trends in social work practice. From an initial emphasis on charitable activities and urban-based work (similar to that seen in the US and UK), in the 1950s the focus shifted to the massive Community Development Programme (CDP) being implemented in India, with focus on rural development activities through government support. The limitations of this approach became evident with the passage of time, and came to a head during the social and political ferment in India in the 1960s. Critics questioned the efficacy of government programmes and challenged the notion that social workers should orient their work around these programmes. Community organisation was emphasised as an important means of social action for social change. Increasing involvement of voluntary organisations in community organisation for community development and social change was the most important contribution of the 70s and 80s, one that still occupies centre-stage in community organisation and development practice. Simultaneously from the 80s there has been greater interest in community organisation in urban settings, shifting away from the erstwhile almost exclusive focus on rural areas.
The period after the 90s has posed a new set of challenges for community organisers and development workers. The ascent of neoliberalism as the primary ideology governing the state's development interventions has meant a steady withdrawal of the state from development activities. In fact, a critical engagement with state policy as an integral part of social work practice has become even more vital, with neoliberal economic policy and structural adjustment programmes (along with the waning of leftist and socialist ideology) having led to further impoverishment of the marginalised sections of society and widening inequalities in society. Social security nets have been weakened and the state often fails to provide even basic welfare services to the masses, or demands that they pay for these services. The assault on labour rights, the liberal granting of permissions to the private sector to undertake industrial and mining projects, and the launch of infrastructure development projects have all led to large-scale displacement, dispossession and consequent migration, altering the very nature of communities. These communities have been fragmented, leaving people cut off from their traditional natural and cultural resources, leaving them at the mercy of the market, which, to use Joan Robinson's evocative phrase, often operates as 'the hidden hand which can work by strangulation'.
Tribal groups have been disproportionately affected by these changes, as development initiatives have caused huge amounts of displacement and dispossession in areas traditionally inhabited by these communities. Also, the weakening and loss of traditional knowledge and structures of governance and social organisation in these communities have left them without any recourse but to migrate to cities where they occupy the lowest rungs of the socio-economic structure, usually as unskilled labour.
Along with these changes, there have been changes in the framework of community organisation practice. Coinciding with the withdrawal of the state, international donor NGOs, which earlier used to keep in the background, have become extremely interventionist in their approach, often setting the agenda for development programmes. This has led to increasing numbers of community organisation practitioners working directly for these agencies rather than for grassroot NGOs supported by them. A heartening development in recent times, though, has been the move away from the funded NGO structure and the consequent 'NGO-ization of society' towards progressive and democratic people's movements which have mounted a challenge to the dominant neoliberal development paradigm and vociferously demanded a participatory, pro-people form of development.
The current scenario demands critical engagement, at both the theoretical and practical levels, on the part of the sensitive community organiser and community organiser. Working from a pro-poor, pro-marginalised groups perspective, the community organiser needs to work with communities towards extending the spaces for engagement with the state, and resisting the multiple onslaughts on their rights and entitlements. There is a need to evolve alternate models of development that are pro-poor and also environment-friendly. It is with these challenges that TISS Guwahati is offering this two-year Master of Arts in Social Work (Community Organisation & Development Practices)
Objectives of the course
To help students to develop an understanding of the centrality of community in the experience of society, economy and polity and hence, of the significance of community mobilizing and organizing.
To equip students with the knowledge base, skills and techniques for becoming an effective community organizer and development practitioner.
To build students' understanding of the political economy of development, poverty and marginalization, and ways of intervening effectively from a pro-poor perspective.
To produce members of a trained work force who can act as catalysts to bring about positive change in society using enterprise and an in depth understanding of communities and their environment within a framework of social work values.
Distribution of Credit Hours:
Foundation Courses – (6 papers)
Social Work Practice Courses – (7 papers)
Field Work Year I
Field Work Year II
Field Work 6
Rural Practicum 0
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