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Comparison Between Locality Development and Social Planning Models

The community can be defined in three different ways: a social system, fixed locality, and relationship quality. Community as a social system entails all social relationships, while a fixed locality refers to a geographical area. On the other hand, community as the quality of relationship refers to the spirit of community. Social workers are vital for the development of the community since they view the community as a grouping of people with common characteristics but no feelings of solidarity. Therefore, community work is about mobilizing resources and groups of people and solving problems in the community. A community to be organized takes the professional activities of social workers who join the clients together spontaneously. The social workers also work with families in cooperation with professional organizations to participate in providing and organizing a network based on relationships in the community.

Community organizing is essential to the development of any community, either through micro or macro intervention methods. Macro interventions are professional methods that target systems above the level of an individual, group, and family, including communities, regional, organizations, and national entities. The associated practices deal with the aspects of human service activity that are non-clinical but rather focus on broader social approaches to human betterment. The anticipated outcome for these practices emphasizes effective delivery of services, prevention of social ills, and strengthening community life. Therefore, according to Rothman (1987), the macro practice focuses on community organization, administration, and social policy. In this relation, Rothman developed three models for organizing the community, including the social action, social planning, and locality development models (Itzhaky & Bustin, 2018). However, in this essay, the primary focus will be on comparing then locality development and social planning models of community organizing in social work and community development.

A locality development model is an approach that presumes a change in the community should be pursued through broad participation by all people at the local community level. According to this model, the determination of goals and civic actions is done at the local community level. Additionally, this model relies on building community with a strong emphasis on notions of autonomy, participation, plurality, and mutuality among all members of the community. In doing so, the model fosters community building through social integration, community competency, and promoting process goals. Furthermore, the approach is strong people-oriented, meaning its primary focus is “helping the people to help themselves (Chen & Ku, 2017).” Under this approach, the local people are given the mandate to draw leadership from within and direction and control of their hands. For instance, community-based agencies and village-level work conducted in community development programmes are neighborhood work.

On the other hand, the social planning model emphasizes the technical process of solving social problems such as health, women’s development, housing, and education, among other problems in the community. This approach to community organizing relies on data to plan and conceive carefully calibrated change for the community. Therefore, the change is rooted in social science and empirical objectivity since data support it. Data has to be collected and analyzed before the problem at hand in the community is solved. In this approach, community participation is not essential, and sometimes it may vary depending on the circumstance and the problem at hand. The primary presumption for this model is that change itself is a complex modern environment that requires expert planners who can analyze quantitatively collected data and maneuver large bureaucratic organizers in order to improve social conditions (Knight & Gitterman, 2018). Therefore, there is heavy reliance in this model on decision analysis, research evaluation, and needs assessment, among other sophisticated statistical tools.

However, there are significant differences and similarities between the locality development and social planning models. Based on the goals championed by Rothman, the locality development model focuses on building community capacity and integration. Social workers using this model aim to empower members of the community to help themselves in tackling the issue affecting them. In other words, it is a model focused on self-help and mutual help for the community members through strategies such as community meetings and forums. These meetings allow each member of the community to voice their concerns with the aim of reaching a consensus. In contrast, in the social planning model, the primary goal is to help formal organizations treat data to develop the community structure (Pyles, 2020). This model is deeply rooted in solving substantive social problems which can be analyzed quantitatively. The collection of data about social problems is essential for social workers to use this model to make logical decisions about the course of action.

Whereas the locality development model involves a broad cross-section of people in determining and solving problems, the social planning model relies on collected data for logical decisions about the community’s social problems. This is a significant difference between the two models despite both being focused on solving social problems in the community. The basic change strategy adopted by the two models differentiates them because the social planning model determines social problems scientifically and empirically through data analysis, unlike the locality development model, which relies on the community members through forums and community meetings. Furthermore, the locality development approach uses the consensus change tactic approach, while the social planning model uses either consensus or conflict change tactics approach. The locality development models use the consensus approach, considering that the people are called upon in community meetings and forums to deliberate on the issue affecting them. In the social planning model, data has to be analyzed to achieve a consensus (Wallerstein et al., 2017). The consensus approach used in the social planning model results from conflicts of interest among the community members, thus necessitating the initiation of change through conflict where data is used to determine the best course of action to be taken.

Additionally, the primary role of social worker practitioners in the locality development model is to act as an enable-catalyst, coordinator, and teacher for improving ethical values and people’s problem-solving skills. In other words, the practitioners do interfere with the welfare and social problems of the community since they are the third party. In contrast, a social worker using the social planning model has to be a fact gatherer and analyst to ensure they present a reliable, scientific and empirical solution to the problems at hand. Also, they have to be program implementers and expediters as they have to oversee and guide the implementation of various programmes with the community (Brady & O’Connor, 2014). These are vital roles social workers have to understand in relation to which community organization model to use as they embark on a mission to determine and solve society’s problems.

The locality development model adopts guidance for small problem-solving task groups as the sole medium of change the practitioners can rely on when in the field. The social worker has to organize small tasks groups through which change can be realized in the community. Furthermore, this makes decision-making easy as the task groups can be grouped according to the similarities in needs and social problems. In contrast, the social planning model adopts formal organizations such as institutions and government parastatals and treats data through analysis. Therefore, the social planning model is more formal than informal since it uses formal organizations to initiate changes in the community. Additionally, formal organizations rely on data to initiate a change. All members involved in the locality development model are considered collaborators in a common venture in relation to an orientation toward power structure (Matarrita-Cascante, Lee & Nam, 2020). In the social planning model, employers or sponsors are more oriented to power structure than the community members.

In the locality development model, the beneficiary system is defined by the total geographic community since it involves all people. This means that all people within the geographic community are beneficiaries of all the solutions made under the model, and the citizens are the conception of beneficiaries. Additionally, under this model, it is assumed that the community has common interests, and in case of differences, they are reconciled for the betterment of the community. In contrast, the beneficiary system in the social planning model is defined by the totality of the community or community segment. This means there is variance in the beneficiary system for the social planning model. It can be the total community or a segment of the community, with the consumers being the biggest conception of beneficiaries (Rabea, 2021). Like the locality development model, the community’s interest is assumed to be reconcilable or in conflict with the social planning model.

Finally, the locality development model uses empowerment in building the capacity of the community for better collaborative and informed decisions independently. Through this model no much-needed input for the practitioner working with the community since they encourage the community to act independently by coming together to liberate their issues. Furthermore, the model promotes a feeling among the residents of personal mastery since they are all given the opportunity to express their concerns and input solutions to their problems. On the other hand, the social planning model uses empowerment to determine the needs for services from the customers. The model is not concerned with the needs of all customers but instead the specific needs of particular customers within the community (Wilkinson & D’Angelo, 2019). Further, the model empowers the customers by informing them of the services choices available where they can choose.

Community Selection – Underprivileged Elderly in Wong Tai Sin

Wong Tai Sin accounts for 16.9 percent of the total elderly population. In this city, the population is aging, and concerns have been raised about the state of affairs for this population as most of them have turned into scavengers. Most elderly persons in this city have to trek long distances through the grocery shops collecting smelly and filthy discarded paper scraps every day. The elderly have no one to lend a hand through these ordeals, and they have to make their earnings alone, however meager they are. Nevertheless, other elderly persons in this city live deplorable life with no one to help as some of them collect free newspapers to entertain their boring lives. Additionally, other elderly persons rely on unwanted ones to sustain themselves. This is a serious problem that needs an urgent solution in the city, whether through the government or non-governmental organizations. Data show that most elderly scavengers suffer from family problems of different degrees, such as the absence of filial piety that generates emotional problems like boredom (Wong & Chan, 2011). These problems push them into scavenging as a way of looking for diversions.

In some instances, the elderly have been abused by their sons and daughters despite their age and abilities. Some have been forced to sweep the floor and wash dishes before they are allowed to have dinner forcing most of them to leave the house. Living in the same house with their daughters and sons for elderly persons have been difficult in this city, and thus, they have found themselves out in the MTR stations begging for a few coins and bread while other are all out there scavenging. Studies show that one in a hundred elderly people in Wong Tai Sin were willing to live in a Home for the elderly. Despite there being government programmes aimed at helping the elderly people, including the CSSA. However, it is alleged that the money for this programme is not enough or not of use or not delivered, overshadowing the psychological need of this group of individuals in the community.

The suitable community organizing for this particular community is the social planning approach. This model is suitable for the selected community because of its emphasis in identifying the needs of the community and determining ways of improving quality of life. Considering that the social planning model requires data to support change empirically and scientifically, the statistics from the social welfare department are worrisome and show that this model is the most suitable over the locality development model. The model focuses on substantive social problems by conducting research, gathering and analyzing data related to this social problem. Therefore, social planning model will be suitable for the elderly in Wong Tai Sin since the whole community would not be involved in resolving the problem unlike in locality development model which emphasizes on self-help with the whole community involved. This means the decisions for the elderly solely bestowed on experts, formal organizations and social workers.

The change for the elderly persons in Wong Tai Sin can be initiated by the formal organizations which heavily rely on facts. Social workers have to gather enough data and present facts to these formal organizations for solutions aimed at helping this particular segment of the community in Wong Tai Sin. The formal organizations are essential foundation for administering and implementing the change policies, the specific services or programs unlike the locality development model which does not rely on formal organizations. Some organizations include Hong Kong Buddhist Association located at Buddhist Ching Hang Neighborhood Elderly Center and sub-base. Other organizations include Caritas –Hong Kong in Caritas elderly Centre -Tang Tau and Pentecostal Church of Hong Kong Ltd, located in Choi Wan Neighborhood Elderly Centre. The presence of these organizations in Wong Tai Sin could enhance allocation of resources to the elderly persons in an effective and efficiency way which is more better than using the locality development model which does have structure through resources can allocated.

Furthermore, the social planning model sets the elderly people as the sole beneficiary system in the community, unlike if the locality development model would have benefited the whole or total community. The model also ensures that the employees or sponsors hold the helm of the power structure in the community for these programmes or solutions to the problems identified. This ensures accountability, and the rightful consumers of the model benefit from the programmes set for this model. In this case, the conception of beneficiaries are the elderly people of Wong Tin Sin who live in a deplorable state due to neglect and abuse by their family members who do not offer a helping hand in the provision of basic needs and wants. Therefore, the social planning model would ensure that the needs of the elderly persons are empowered, and they are informed of the services choices available to them.


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Itzhaky, H., & Bustin, E. (2018). Community practice and community organization: A conceptual understanding. In Handbook of community movements and local organizations in the 21st century (pp. 245-263). Springer, Cham.

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Matarrita-Cascante, D., Lee, J. H., & Nam, J. W. (2020). What elements should be present in any community development initiative? Distinguishing community development from local development. Local development & society1(2), 95-115.

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Wong S., & Chan I. (2011, May 31). The elderly scavengers in Wong Tai sin. Young Post.


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