Al-Krenawi & Graham (Graham & Al-Krenawi 2013, p. 5) highlighted the importance of considering cultural aspects when practicing Social Work with Arab clients. Where, one must “realize that unlike Western clients, many interventions with Arab clients are to be especially couched in the context of the family, community, or tribal background. Another important issue to consider is the different approaches to gender relations amongst Arab clients.” Therefore, there is an urgent need to localise Social Work in the Arab region and to develop suitable methods for its implementation.

Several debates have emerged about internationalization and localisation of Social Work. Those question if Social Work is even capable of establishing universal theories and approaches that can fit into any context. There is an ongoing discussion whether globalisation only fosters western imperialism, or if it actually can enhance Social Work practices (Gray 2005, p. 231). Such discussions about globalization have highlighted the relevance of local patterns again, as localisation is often seen as globalization’s antithesis (Ife 2000, p. 3).

As a concept, localisation of Social Work practice is closely related to indigenisation, which was introduced firstly during 1972, at the annual conference of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW). It was considered that the era of indigenisation was entered, basing on the needs and resources of the regarding society. Furthermore, it was agreed that the schools of Social Work must take the lead in this regard, because those institutions have to adapt to such new circumstances (Graham & Bradshaw 2007, p.94).

Indigenisation means to tailor Social Work methods to local contexts and is therefore one possible way of localising Social Work. This means,  that local factors must influence theories and methods that underlie practical approaches (Gray 2005, p. 232).  

“However, the words »indigenized« or »indigenization« are not to be confused with adaptations associated with Indigenous peoples, for some authors apply the term »indigenize« to Social Work with non-Indigenous communities, while others use it exclusively to describe Social Work with Indigenous peoples. For these reasons, many authors prefer the term »localization« (Graham & Bradshaw 2007, p. 93).”  

Thus, some understand localisation of Social Work quite similar to indigenisation, without using the potentially misleading term, as  “the pattern of social work education, practice, research, and/or social service delivery that is adopted or adapted from one culture to another due to differing social or religious attitudes that affect the definition of social problems and their solutions” (Walton & Abo-El-Nasr, quoted in Graham & Bradshaw 2007, p. 93).  

According to our perception, this addresses only one of actually two elements of the more inclusive concept of localisation. The second is the one of authentication as a further strategy for the localisation of Social Work. While indigenisation rather concentrates on an adaptation of Western imports to local contexts, authentication means to identify local needs, data, and resources to develop a local model out of this. It can be argued, that authentication focuses even more on local needs as models are established by exclusively analysing local needs and resources, while indigenisation respectively adaptation also refer to imported theories and methods (Rehklau & Lutz 2009, p. 44).  

While localisation is both, adaptation of developed concepts from abroad to the local context as well as authentic development of concepts out of the local context, neither one of these approaches generally prevails over the other. As Social Work is an application oriented science, the criteria for evaluating its activities always have to be which approach fits best to meet the goals mentioned in the global definition to promote social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people.  

In order to properly carry out this evaluation, knowledge and competences of both approaches – adaptation and authentication – are urgently needed. Hence, localisation should never be considered as a retreat to a purely local discussion and conceptualisation. Instead, an even increased international if not global discourse is needed. This is what LOSWAC tries to initiate specifically for the Arab region.  

Please find further information on this topic in our Basic Paper - Localisation of Social Work in Arab Countries.


  • Graham, John & Al-Krenawi, Alean (2013): ‘International Social Work and Social Welfare. Middle East and North Africa’. Available from: DOI:10.1093/acrefore/9780199975839.013.569 [07 July 2019].  
  • Graham, John & Bradshaw, Cathryn (2007): ‘Localisation of social work practice, education and research. A content analysis’. In: Social development issues, Vol. 29 (2) pp. 92–111. Available from: www.researchgate.net/publication/224943973 [07 July 2019].  
  • Gray, Mel (2005): ‘Dilemmas of international social work. Paradoxical processes in indigenization, universalism and imperialism’. In: International Journal of Social Welfare Vol. 14 (3), pp. 231–238. Available from: www.researchgate.net/publication/227605565 [07 July 2019].  
  • Hendriks, Peter & Kloppenburg, Raymond (2016): ‘Internationalization of Bachelor’s programmes in Social Work in Europe’. In: Journal of Social Intervention: Theory and Practice, Vol. 25 (1), pp. 28–46. Available from: DOI: 10.18352/jsi.476 [07 July 2019].  
  • Ife, Jim (2000): ‘Local and Global Practice. relocating social work as a human rights profession in the new global order’. IFSW/IASSW Blennial Conference, Montreal. Available from: www.citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=, [07 July 2019].  
  • Rehklau, Christine & Lutz, Ronald (2009): ‘Partnerschaft oder Kolonisation? Thesen zum Verhältnis des Nordens zur Sozialarbeit des Südens’. In: Wagner, Leonie & Lutz, Ronald (Hrsg.) ‘Internationale Perspektiven Sozialer Arbeit, Dimensionen – Themen – Organisationen’. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Please find further references to the topic in our respective reference paper.