Social work management

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Social work management is the management of organisations or enterprises in the social economy and non-profit sector, e.g., public service providers, charities, youth welfare offices, associations, etc.[1] Social work management has been traditionally pursued by social workers, social pedagogues, pedagogues, psychologists without additional management skills and knowledge or legal practitioners and business economists – often without reference to the social economy.

Most scholars and practitioners agree that social work managers need to have a high degree of leadership skills to make considered managerial decisions, to empower social workers, to develop staff within and collaborate with partners outside the social and human service organisation.[2] Social work management as a field of social work education and practice was established in many universities in Europe and North America since the 1980s.[3] Established qualifications in higher education first included diplomas in social economy. It originally focused on person-centred leadership, motivation and strategic issues. It combines management with social pedagogical, psychological, and sociological knowledge and skills.


In today's understanding, social management includes all management functions that are necessary for the management of social and/or non-profit organizations. This includes finance and accounting of social organizations, development of mission statements and concepts, city and social marketing, public relations, organizational development, human resource management, project management, quality management and other sub-disciplines of management and business administration.

In contrast to management in other industries, branches and areas of the economy (e.g. sports management or media and education management), social work management takes into account characteristics especially of organizations in the social sector: the provision of person-centered social services, the peculiarities of non-profit organizations and, in particular, labour and welfare services, the close integration into the social law as well as the character of the services as merit goods. With the increasing spread of private providers, social work management is also referred to as the management of enterprises in the social economy. Against this background, social work management can also be understood as a so-called specialised form of business administration for social enterprises or companies.

Some authors also understand social work management as the management with special consideration of people and human relationships in the sense of human resources management. However, this understanding does not apply to all social services organizations. A systemic approach to social work management takes also into account the emotions, different meanings and various relationships. When providing social services, the focus lies on the professional development of empathic and trusting relationships with the recipients of these service.


  1. ^ Austin, Michael J. (2018-12-01). "Social Work Management Practice, 1917–2017: A History to Inform the Future". Social Service Review. 92 (4): 548–616. doi:10.1086/701278. ISSN 0037-7961. S2CID 149612302.
  2. ^ "Competencies". The Network for Social Work Management. 2015-09-17. Retrieved 2021-07-18.
  3. ^ Patti, Rino J. (2013-06-11). "Management: Overview". Encyclopedia of Social Work. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199975839.013.589. ISBN 978-0-19-997583-9. Retrieved 2021-07-17.