Principles of Community Organisation


Working with communities is a mezzo level practice within social work and in order to provide the best experience, the social worker need to follow certain guiding principles. Several authors have formulated principles for working in a community set up. Here we will discuss the principles of community work as given by M. G. Ross.

Discontent with existing conditions in the community must initiate and/or nourish development of the association

Here association refers to any agency or organisation working for the progress and development of the community. This principle states that if there is a discontent among members of a community regarding any situation (services, basic amenities, livelihood options, etc.) Then the social worker needs to identify the discontent and initiate the formation of an organisation with participation of the community members to improve the existing conditions. 

Discontent must be focussed and channelled into organisation, planning, and action in respect to specific problems

Once the social worker identifies the discontent within a community, he/she should work with the community members to focus on specific issues, the desired results and an action plan to achieve those results. The members should also participate in an organised way towards the actions taken. The inherent capacities and wisdom of the community should be channeled towards focused actions.

Discontent which initiates or sustains community organisation must be widely shared in the community

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The community worker should recognise whether the discontent related to a situation is widely spread in the community or only a small percentage of community members are affected or dissatisfied. If the matter of discontent is not shared among the majority of the community members then participation in an organised way would not be sustainable and people will lose interest in taking any action.

The association must involve leaders (both formal and informal) identified with, and accepted by, major sub-groups in the community

Every community has some leaders, be it religious, political or any other who has a strong influence over the community members. Since they are an integral part of the community, the organisation should involve these leaders in the decision making as well as taking action. They are trusted members of sub-groups in the community and their involvement acts as a bridge between the organisation and the community.

The association must have goals and methods and procedures of high acceptability

The participation of community members ensures that the program implementing procedures are acceptable to the community members. If the goals and the methods adopted by the organisation are not acceptable to members of the community, it may lead to failure of the program. Therefore, the agency or the organization must ensure that the goals and procedures are highly acceptable to the community.

The programmes of the association should include some activities with an emotional content

It is very important for an organisation to build credibility in the community so that the programs are acceptable. In this process, the organisation should have certain components in their program which develop emotional bonding between the organization and the community. The organisation should also develop a trustworthy relationship with various sub-groups within the community. This helps in the sustainability of the interventions provided.


To promote girls education in a community, the organisation may design ‘nukkad natak’ or puppet shows to spread the message. 

The association should seek to utilise the latent goodwill which exists in the community

The organisation is supposed to work for the welfare of the community and in doing so builds a relationship of trust and respect. In order to achieve this, it should identify the latent goodwill which exists within the community and utilize it for the welfare of the whole community. Many times the members themselves are not aware how to utilize it therefore the community worker has to facilitate this. 

The association must develop active and effective lines of communication both within the association and between the association and the community

Strong communication is crucial for healthy functioning of any organised set up. Therefore, the organisation working in the community should have a system of communication that promotes transparency. There should also be clear communication about the goals and procedures between the organisation and the community to promote goodwill and trust among the community members.

The association should seek to support and strengthen groups which it brings together in cooperative work

While working in the community the community worker should develop programs and activities for the capacity building of the members and the groups who come together to work on a common mission. Strong group members who work in collaboration with each other plays a vital role in the development of the community as a whole.

The association should develop a pace of work in line with existing conditions in the community 

During the initial phase of the intervention the organisation should gauge the situation in terms of types of intervention to be provided. Certain situations like disaster relief needs immediate action whereas livelihood generation for the community can be a well planned procedure involving inputs of various stakeholders. 


Intervention for WASH (especially Behavioural Change Communication) in the Indian villages needs time and works at a much slower pace but intervention for flood relief works at a faster pace.

The association should seek to develop effective leaders

The aim of community work is to empower the community so that they do not require external help. To  achieve this goal the organization should build the capacities of the community members and develop leaders who can independently advocate for their rights and take actions for their development.

The association must develop strength, stability and prestige in the community

The functioning of the organisation should be such that it is widely recognized by the community members. The programs should be sustainable in nature which strengthen the community. The agency should also build a strong base for itself for effective program implementation.


These principles are guidelines for community workers to provide effective services in the community setting. Other principles given by different scholars also revolve around these guiding factors.

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