Principles of Social Action

Considering the Gandhian principle of mobilization as a typical example of the direct mobilization model of social action Britto (1984) brings out the following principles of social action:

Principle of Credibility Building:

It is the task of creating a public image of leadership, the organization, and the participants of the movement as champions of justice, rectitude, and truth. It helps in securing due recognition from the opponent, the reference[1]public, and the peripheral participants of the movement.

Credibility can be built through one or many of the following ways:

  • Gestures of goodwill towards the opponent:
  • Example setting:
  • Selection of typical, urgently felt problems for struggles
  • Success

Principle of Legitimization

Legitimization is the process of convincing the target group and the general public that the movement’s objectives are morally right. The ideal would be to make a case for the movement as a moral imperative. Leaders of the movement might use theological, philosophical, legal-technical, and public opinion paths to establish the tenability of the movement’s objectives. Legitimization is a continuous process. Before launching the program, the leaders justify their actions. Subsequently, as the conflict exhilarates to higher stages and as the leader adds a new dimension to their program, further justification is added and fresh arguments are put forth. Such justification is not done by leaders alone. In the course of their participation, followers too, contribute to the legitimization process.

The following are the three approaches to legitimization:

  • Theological and religious approach to legitimization
  • Moral approach to the legitimization
  • Legal-technical approach to legitimization

Legal-technical approach to legitimization

Dramatization is the principle of mass mobilization by which the leaders of a movement galvanize the population into action by emotional appeals to heroism, sensational news management, novel procedures, pungent slogans and such other techniques. Almost every leader mobilizing the masses, uses this principle of dramatization.

Mechanisms of dramatization

  • Use of songs
  • Powerful speeches
  • Role of women
  • Boycott
  • Slogans

Principle of Multiple Strategies

There are two basic approaches to development: conflictual and nonconflictual. Taking the main thrust of a program, one can classify it as political, economic, or social. The basket principle indicates the adoption of multiple strategies, using combined approaches and a combination of different types of programs. Zeltman and Duncan have identified four development strategies from their experience of community development. These have been framed for use in social action. They are

  • Educational strategy
  • Persuasive strategy
  • Facilitative strategy
  • Power strategy

Principle of Dual Approach

Any activist has to build counter-systems or revive some unused system, which is thought to be beneficial to the mobilized public on a self-help basis without involving the opponent. This is a natural requirement consequent upon the attempt to destroy the system established/maintained by the opponents. Gandhian constructive work programs performed such a function, in a small measure, together with conflictual programs of satyagraha. This cooperative effort indicates that Gandhians adopted or attempted a dual approach in their mobilization.

Principle of Manifold Programs

It means developing a variety of programs with the ultimate objective of mass mobilization. These can be broadly categorized into three parts: Social, Economic, and Political programs. Dr. Rajendra Singh has taken up the issue of water conservation as a composite of manifold programs. His water conservation helped the villagers, particularly women, who had to go miles to fetch water. It helped in better development of crops, and better animal husbandry, implying more economic benefits. During the movement, there were direct and indirect conflict resolutions with the local leaders, panchayat bodies, and state government.

Skills in Social Action

A social worker using social action, as a method of social work, requires certain skills; the more important among these are briefly described below.

Relational Skills

The social worker should have skills for building rapport with individuals and groups and skills for maintaining these relations. He/she should be able to develop and maintain professional relationships with the clients. The social worker should have the ability to identify the leadership qualities among the clientele and should be skillful in harnessing these qualities for social action. Along with this working harmoniously with the established local leaders is also needed. He/she should be able to deal with intra-group and inter-group conflicts effectively. The ability to diagnose problematic behavior among the clients and provide counseling is needed to develop and maintain integration within the community. The social worker should identify tension-producing situations and diffuse them before they become serious. Developing and maintaining cordial relations with other agencies and NGOs working in the same geographical area and those working for similar causes is also required.

Analytical and Research Skills

The social worker should have the ability to objectively study the socio-cultural and economic characteristics of the community. He/she should be able to find out the pressing problems and needs of the clientele. He/ she should be able to analyze the social problems, the factors contributing to the social problems, and their ramifications on the social, economic, political, ideological, cultural, and ecological aspects of life. He/ she should be able to conduct research and/or understand the likely impact of research studies in a functional sense. Added to this, the social worker should be able to facilitate the community people to speak out about their own felt needs and prioritize them. The social worker should never try to impose his/her own understanding of the social situation and problems on the community.

Intervention Skills

After need identification, the social worker should have the ability to help the clientele chalk out practical intervention strategies to deal with the problem. The social worker should provide various options to the clientele and help them analyze the pros and cons of each option for taking proper steps. Social action may require ‘confrontation’ with authorities. The social worker must inform the community about the consequences of taking hard steps like sit-ins, boycotts, strikes, etc. The social worker should be able to maintain the desired level of feeling of discontent and emotional surcharge to bring about the necessary change, enthusiasm, and courage among the community people for a fairly long time so as to minimize the possibility of failure of mass mobilization before the set objectives are achieved. The social worker should be able to maintain patience and composed behavior as he/ she has to deal with emotional balance of the clientele in a rational way.

Added to this, the social worker should have the ability to create an environment wherein individuals and groups can actively participate. The interventions should be developed keeping in mind the pressing need, resources (human and material), and socio-cultural milieu of the community. He/she should be able to improvise situations for targeted interventions.

Managerial Skills

The social worker also needs the knowledge and ability to handle organization, which may be the outcome of the institutionalization of people’s participation. He/she should be able to coordinate and collaborate with various groups and local leaders so as to unite the clientele for the required intervention. He/she should be skillful enough to make policies and programs, program planning, coordinating, recording, budgeting, and elementary accounting and maintenance of various records. He/she should be able to mobilize internal/ external resources in terms of money, men, materials, equipment, etc. The social worker also requires the skills of supervising human and material resources and their effective utilization for the welfare and development of the targeted community.

Communication Skills

These skills are highly crucial for social action. The social worker should have the ability to develop effective public relations with local organizations and leaders. He/she should be able to effectively communicate verbally (including public speaking) and in writing as well. The social worker should be able to deliver or identify people who can deliver powerful speeches. He/she should be able to devise indoor/outdoor media for effectively communicating with the target audiences. The social worker should be able to evaluate and use folk and mass media suited to diverse groups. These skills are used for developing slogans and motivational songs, speeches, and IEC materials for mass mobilization. The social worker should have skills to educate, facilitate, negotiate, and persuade for necessary actions at needed places.

Training Skills

The social worker should be able to train local leaders and identify leaders for taking up the charge of mass mobilization and confrontation with the authorities. He/she should be able to train selected people at the local level aimed at imparting knowledge about the social issue taken up for action and the modalities of carrying out the intervention including the ‘confrontation process’. These people should be trained to create public opinion for or against the social issue taken up and identify and involve people in social action. They should also be trained to utilize social action strategies and tactics (confrontation, persuasion, negotiation, boycott, etc.) without the use of violence.

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