Making Sense of Power and Politics in Everyday Practice Through the 3Ps

Charfe, Lowis orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8018-4676 (2023) Making Sense of Power and Politics in Everyday Practice Through the 3Ps. In: The Oxford Handbook of Power, Politics and Social Work. Oxford University Press (OUP), New York.

[thumbnail of Author Accepted Manuscript] PDF (Author Accepted Manuscript) - Accepted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only


Official URL:


Introduction: A Desire to Help Others
Since the death of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020 increased the visibility and expansion of the Black Lives Matter movement, there has been greater discussion about how to be a ‘good ally’ and support disadvantaged groups and social movements in order to eradicate discrimination and oppression in the world around us (Eddo-Lodge 2020; Reid 2021). As social work educators working with students, graduates and experienced practitioners, we have noticed that many students apply to social work degrees with the desire to be part of wider positive social change and act as a ‘good ally’ to disadvantaged groups within society. This determination is echoed within the social work profession more widely, as most social workers are drawn to this profession out of a desire to ‘help’ people (Ruch et al 2010; Trevithick 2011) and feel that this is a vocation instead of just a job. Part of this vocational pull is about taking a stand and challenging social inequality whilst supporting disadvantaged groups to gain greater power.
Social justice has been at the heart of social work practice for the past few decades (Cunningham & Cunningham 2014) and forms one of the core aims contained in the Global Social Work Statement of Ethical Principles held by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW 2018). The statement sets out clearly that in the promotion of social justice, all social workers should challenge ‘discrimination and institutional oppression’, ‘respect diversity’, ‘build solidarity’, make sure people have equal access to the resources they need, and importantly challenge ‘unjust polices and practices’ (IFSW 2018). In the UK, the British Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics also highlights the importance of social justice and human rights. Section 2.2 of the code states that ‘Social workers have a responsibility to promote social justice, in relation to society generally, and in relation to the people with whom they work.’ (BASW 2021). As Krumer-Nevo (2016) states, ‘the ethics of solidarity translates into practice when social workers take a stance and behave as partners of their service users in their struggle’ (p1802).
To work in solidarity and as partners requires awareness and understanding of power dynamics and how they operate in relation to discrimination and oppression on structural, systemic and personal levels as well as the intersectionality of discrimination. Social work education and training plays an important role in assisting students and practitioners to understand the implications of these dynamics as well as how the ethical principles, the professional codes and standards for social work and human rights can become alive and central within their practice instead of remaining abstract concepts or tick box exercises that reinforce discriminatory practice and oppression (Charfe & Gardner 2020).
As we explore in this chapter, the Danish social pedagogical concept of the 3 Ps (Jappe 2010) – the Professional, Personal and Private Self – can help practitioners make sense of power and politics within a practice context that requires them to navigate systems which frequently challenge their values base. The 3 Ps invites critical reflection on questions such as: How might their personal attitudes towards power and politics benefit social workers in their professional capacity and enable them to work in an authentically anti-oppressive way? Do they hold views which do not enhance their ability to meaningfully support the people they work alongside and which should therefore be kept private? By offering an accessible yet nuanced framework, social work students and practitioners can explore answers to these and related questions together with others and recognize that these answers very much depend on contextual factors, meaning that they require professionals’ situated judgment.

Repository Staff Only: item control page