Networking in Social Work


In today’s era networking in social work has become an essential aspect. The historical development of social work shows that the methods to deal with the social problems evolved according to the nature of the problems as well as the levels of services delivery viz. micro, mezzo and  macro. The earliest methods were case work and group work and later other methods of social work intervention were formulated. In this age of globalization, the nature of social problems are complex therefore new methods and techniques are needed to deal with these problems. There are times when social workers find it necessary to network with people to whom he knows in order to render best possible help to the client who is in need. Networking involves making a contact with the third person in order to get help.

For example, there was a case of Rani, a domestic maid, who could not take her disabled husband to the hospital for regular treatment, as the hospital timings clashed with her work schedule. Hence she requested social worker do something for her. The social worker through her network contacted the social worker of that hospital and requested him to help Rani for giving her time as per her need.  On the request of social worker, the treating doctor changed the timings and made it convenient for Rani to take her husband for treatment.

In this case, the social worker could help the client through his healthy and thriving professional network.

Networking: meaning, concept, nature and scope in social work

According to “networking is a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest”

According to oxford dictionary networking is a system of trying to meet and talk to other people who may be useful to you in your work.

In a November 2012 blog post, Miser described a new definition of networking as “the process of developing and activating relationships to increase the business, enhance knowledge, expand the sphere of influence or serve the community (

In social work, networking, implies cooperative and collaborative relationship with like minded people for mutual development and support as well as rendering help to the clients.

Importance of networking in social work

Networking helps people who are in need by making contacts with other people working in the same field. Through proper networking information can be shared with other people and help can be sought. It can be one of the important sources of learning many new things. Many a times people are not aware about a particular issue and want to get information. In such situations networking becomes very helpful. For example PLHAs (People Living with HIV/AIDS) network.

People get membership of different national and international associations and come in contact with other professional social workers. Through network people can make connections, and build enduring, mutually beneficial relationships. Through networking people can use contacts to acquire information, advice, and referrals for people in need.

networking with people is an essential for social work profession
Image source: Forbes

In social work, networking is of utmost importance as many a times a social worker has to refer a client for other services which can be meted out through the use of people who are in network and are working in different departments. For example a child who is from a poor family and unable to get admission in a school. The social worker can make use of the contacts to the people who are working with educational departments and can find out how the help can be rendered to the child.

The objective of the networking is to increase the connection and coordination between people working in the same area or in different areas. Through networking people can share ideas and information and can generate new knowledge.

Essentials of networking

Resource mobilization

The purpose of social work is to enhance the problem solving and coping capacities of the people; link people with systems that provide them with resources, services and opportunities; promote effective and human operation of these system and; contribute to the development and social policy. (Pincus and Minahan, 1973).

Mobilizing of human and material resources is a key element of networking. Resources exists with individuals, groups, organizations and communities. At the same time either these resources might not be available to the people who need it or they may not be utilised optimally. Through networking this gap can be minimised, by making the existing resources available to the needy and be utilised maximally.

Building long term relationship

Human relationships are of paramount importance. Social workers always believe in building a long term relationship with people with whom they meet during their study, work or attending a seminar/workshop/conference or somewhere else and utilise these relationships whenever needed. They always believe in building relationship based on commitment and trust which is the key to a long term relationship. Networking plays an important role in building long term relationship. Similar to other methods of social work, networking too gives importance to human worth and dignity of each individual involved. It always believes in giving respect to everyone and believes in respecting the cultural differences.


As discussed before, building long term relationship is an important aspect of networking, communication is the key to maintain long term relationship. Individuals and groups communicate with each other regularly on common grounds and try to find solution to any problem faced by a member.

In the process of networking, communication allows the people to share experiences, interests, concerns, support each other, make decisions, and to work together to help the people in need. Effective communication plays a vital role in building positive relationship/networking with anyone. To develop a positive networking through effective communication it is very important to establish trust. Effective communication among/between the people depends on the quality of relationship. When negative emotions predominate in such relationships, communication is likely to be less effective in comparison to the situations where there are positive feelings of respect, trust and friendship. Therefore the essential task in the networking is the development of an atmosphere in which people feel safe and are able to express themselves. In the networking process, one should feel at ease and to be given an opportunity to communicate back with comfort and confidence. If good communication exists between everyone involved in the process of networking, it may prevent misunderstanding and unnecessary worry. If communication is effective, networked people are more likely to contribute to and offer best possible support and service to the person in need.

Mutual development and support

Mutual development is about helping each other. It is about working together with what one has. It always begins with helping, understanding and learning. Through networking one can help oneself by helping others. Networking gives an opportunity to learn new skills knowledge by interacting each other.  It benefits all the people who are connected.

Let us take an example, a child was in great need of blood while he was hospitalised. The hospital did not have sufficient blood. The social worker in the welfare department contacted several people in his network and requested them to spread the message to other people in their network. The result was very positive and the hospital got several people to donate the blood. This all could be possible through mutual support and the child was saved. 

Shared confidentiality

Confidentiality is the preservation of secret information concerning the client which is disclosed in the professional relationship. Confidentiality is based upon a basic right of the client; it is an ethical obligation of the caseworker and is necessary for effective casework service. The client’s right, however, is not absolute. Moreover, the client’s secret is often shared with other professional persons within the agency and in other agencies; the obligation then binds all equally (Felix P., Biestek, S.J., 1957).

It happens sometime when a person get some information through networking. The person who gives the information, wants no one else to know about it. He communicates this information upon the condition that it should not be revealed to anyone. He assumes that the information will be kept only with the person and would not go beyond the person engaged. However, in some cases, the information can be shared to others who need the same information.

Networking as a method of social work in the Indian context

The diversity of Indian population comprises diverse problems. Networking as a method of social work can be used in the macro as well as micro settings. It aims at solving the problem by minimizing the gap between the client and the resources. Networking can be an effective method to address the developmental needs of the Indian population.

networking with people for social work practice
Image source: Entrepreneur

Illiteracy, malnutrition, ill health, corruption, economic deprivation and destitution of a large part of the population are some of the problems that the social workers have to contend with and such problems can be addressed through effective networking. Social workers can take help of media and encourage them and civil society to expose corruption and educate the public and policy makers about the socioeconomic conditions of citizens. The educational campaigns can be introduced in order to inform citizens of their rights and teach them job skills that can be the source of their livelihood.

Tools and techniques of networking

Social networks

In social work the term ‘network’ or ‘social network’ is used to denote an interconnection or web of like minded voluntary organisations (VO)/community based organisations (CBO)/non-government organisations (NGO) to address common goals by working in a coordinated and effective manner. As the government is encouraging development through the voluntary sector a mushrooming of NGOs has taken place, therefore it becomes necessary that these come together to strengthen themselves for addressing the issues effectively.  These social networks addresses macro issues affecting the masses. Social network abide by commonly agreed upon code of conduct while carrying out various activities. These social networks are highly useful for social work because they provide organised platforms for mobilization of required resources and formation of healthy public opinion and promotion of well-being of people, especially the weaker and vulnerable sections of society, help in promoting socio-economic development and assist in speedy eradication of social evils which impede human development and effective functioning of people (S. Surendra, 2010).

For instance, the recent Wada Na Todo Abhiyan and People’s Budget Initiative are two social networks carrying out advocacy activities with the government. These networks have a headquarter which maintains contact with all its partners, facilitate training and capacity building exercises as well as knowledge sharing, through regular meets.  The aim is to strengthen the partner NGOs so that the cause can be voiced effectively.

Social networking sites

With the advancement in information technology the communication pattern of people have gone a rapid change. Distance and nation boundary are no more any barrier to communication. Internet has provided an efficient means for communication. It has also provided a platform for people connecting from different parts of the globe. One such example is the various social networking sites which has paved the way for like minded people to communicate individually as well as in groups. For e.g., Facebook, twitter etc. These sites have become very popular lately as a means to connect to people. Social networking sites are very informative and make people aware about various events which are going on in the world at large. Social networking sites enable individuals to communicate with a large number of people. Like minded people can form an online group to voice their concern. Various organisations, universities host their LinkedIn or Google official group page, Facebook page, twitter feed and its own YouTube link, so as to connect with large number of people.  In order to disseminate information to people at large scale, instantly, they post the information to different group pages. The people who are members of that group receive the information instantly at one go. Similarly it can be used effectively as a tool for networking by the social workers for rendering help to individuals, groups or voice the concern of a larger population. At present it has become an effective means to start online campaigns for social issues, raise awareness for a particular cause, motivating people to come together to fight for the rights of the under-privileged or whose human rights have been violated etc.

Networking of schools of social work

Schools of social work can play an effective role in networking with different stakeholders of the society to mobilize human and material resources. They can collaborate with different non-government organizations, government agencies as well as international organizations working in the area of social development. Various programs, activities and schemes can be carried out as extension activities by these schools. Besides this, various schools of social work can network with each other to exchange expertise for the professional development of the students and faculty.

Networking and its relationship with other methods of social work

Lately, the thrust has been on the generalist practice of social work in the Indian context. Networking is closely associated with other methods of social work. Let us understand each method in detail.

Case work involves dealing with problems of individuals. During case work many a times the social worker has to make referral services. Networking with different individuals, group and organizations can make the service delivery more efficient.

Group work involves intervention of problems at group level. A group is formed of members facing same problem and the group worker facilitates the group in solving their problems. Various such groups with common interest and goals come together for support and information sharing through networking.

Community organization involves intervention of problems at the community level by involving the members of the community in the process of intervention. Networking is important to deal with different groups in the community, to identify key persons or to bring together the resources of the community and facilitate the utilization of the resources and identify new or outside resources.

Social welfare administration is another method of social work. In order to fulfil the objectives of agency, networking can be used to implement certain programmes. Networking plays an important role to raise funds from the community and grants can be received from the government.

Social action involves a large number of people to fight for a particular cause. A leader who takes a lead in the process of social action brings together all the likeminded people and this process involves an effective networking.

Social work research is the systematic investigation of the problems confronted by the social workers in the field of social work. Networking plays an important role during the investigation of the problem. Networking helps an individual to seek information from variety of sources that could be useful while drawing conclusions. Networking among scholars and institutions allow those in professional’s communities to share existing knowledge about the development and enhance their education and research skills. This can also bridge some of the knowledge gaps between the nations.


Social work is primarily a helping process which involves a set of values, principles, methods, tools and techniques. Networking has emerged as one of the methods in social work that helps individuals exchange of information, share experiences, mobilise resources for the needy and so on through cooperation and coordination. This exchange of ideas or information could be possible through direct or indirect means. Through networking, new solutions and new techniques can quickly be developed.


Acosta Gabriela (2013). 5 Career Tips: Networking in the Social Work Profession. Retrieved from

Pincus, A. and Minahan, A. (1973). Social Work Practice: Model and Method. Ithaca, Illionois: Peacock Publishers.

Singh Surendra (2010. Introduction to Social Work Concepts-I, In G. Thomas (Ed.), Introduction to Social Work, BSWE-001, Vol. 1, New Delhi: IGNOU.

7 thoughts on “Networking in Social Work”

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