Orienting social work to incorporate place-based principles: A practical guide to the use of place in social work practice

G. Allen Ratliff, Genevieve Graaf, Mimi Choy-Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Summary : Social work has long history with practice in diverse places. Indigenous social work traditions have long been grounded in place and land. There has been little attention to the role of place in Western and Northern social work practices. Place-based theories attend to the fundamental role of place in social work practice and provide principles that social workers can use to recognize place in their practice. There has been little practical guidance on how social workers can apply these principles to identify and modify place-based levers for improving practice and outcomes within Western contexts. To address these gaps and advance the use of place in practice, principles of place-based power dynamics are described here in relation to the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of the key areas of social work practice: assessment, intervention, and evaluation. Findings : Place-based principles of form, function, location, time, threshold, and relations, provide a framework that social workers can incorporate into social work practices at all levels and throughout social work practice phases. Application : Social workers can use these principles to examine how social work practice can better assess, intervene, and evaluate the role of place in the social environment and in the daily lives of the participants and populations they serve. Incorporating place-based principles can illuminate malleable place-based levers to fit the needs of service users. Attending to place in social work practice can also heighten practitioners’ awareness of power and decision-making to identify and intervene at the root causes of social problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)692-720
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Social Work
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2023

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© The Author(s) 2023.


  • conceptual issues
  • environment
  • power
  • social service
  • Social work
  • social work practice


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