Competent solidarity: the alternative for professional social work


  • Alastair Russell Auckland Action Against Poverty



competent solidarity, radical social work, activism, neoliberalism, welfare


There is very little evidence of radical politics within social work and community development in Aotearoa/New Zealand where social workers here are caught in the constricting grasp of professionalism. Community development is strictly confined through funder capture and the “no politics” embargo of the Charities Commission. These realities sit comfortably within the oppressions perpetrated by neoliberalism. Professionalism is not compatible with a fight against the neoliberal status quo. The fight against poverty and its social consequences should be the focus of social work and community development. Within the professional paradigm, social workers have become increasingly irrelevant to the people they work with. An alternative paradigm is needed to make social work relevant. The paradigm shift advocated here is to replace professionalism with competent solidarity.

This extended viewpoint article provides a definition of competent solidarity and considers the implications of competent solidarity in Aotearoa/New Zealand. It will then discuss the problems that emerge within professional social work and apolitical community development. Competent solidarity case studies from within Auckland Action Against Poverty are provided and opportunities for future action are discussed.


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How to Cite

Russell, A. (2017). Competent solidarity: the alternative for professional social work. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 29(2), 137–144.