To appreciate the context and the basic concept of social work, one has to look into its professional history (Segal, Gerdes, & Steiner 2005). The aim of social work is to help individuals fit better into their environment and change the environment so that it works better for them. To support this dual basic concept, Segal, Gerdes, and Steiner (2005) locate the history of social work in the history of social welfare in America. They particularly link social work history to the Charity Organization Societies founded in 1877 with the aim of discovering the causes of poverty among individuals, eliminate the causes, and eliminate poverty from society. Poverty was then seen as a character defect of an individual. This perspective is half true, as evidence of social sciences shows that there are multiple external forces and structures that account for the poverty of individuals.
The next movement that emerged as if to complement the first wave of social work was called the Settlement Movement which began in 1887 (Segal, Gerdes, & Steiner 2005). The settlement movement operated on the assumption that an individual’s well-being was directly linked to his / her external surroundings; therefore, to help an individual involved changing the environment wherein that individual lives. Such include advocating for better neighborhood services, public health programs, and employment conditions. These two movements’ efforts of solving poverty of individuals by helping the individuals fit better into their environment and changing that environment serve as today’s basic concept of social work in all its various forms and services.
The context of social work is a place that requires professionals to direct their service on the needs and empowerment of people who experience some forms of vulnerability, oppression, and living in poverty.