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2.3: Using a Sociological Perspective

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    Organizations hire sociological practitioners to design new programs or evaluate existing ones. As a practitioner, you will need to use a sociological imagination to analyze a program’s social condition or situation, its parts, and possible solutions. You will be responsible for examining the condition from the perspective of others including organizational administrators, staff, clients, and community affected to assist you in designing or evaluating the program. To accomplish this task, you must be able to complete an objective evaluation or needs assessment and communicate your findings to those involved.

    To apply a sociological perspective you will need to examine the social arrangement of the condition or situation from a macro, meso, and micro level of analysis. To begin, identify the structure and make-up of the organization and systems involved in or around the issue that the program is working to address. Next, assess the social groups involved in the organization or system. Understand what input and impact these groups have on persons both involved within and served by the program. Finally, investigate the relationships and interactions among the organization, groups, and individuals involved in the program and condition it is addressing.

    To construct a fishbone diagram, complete the following steps:

    1. Identify the social condition or situation.
    2. Brainstorm potential variables (categories or factors) influencing the condition including policies, resources, culture, etc.
    3. Start a fishbone diagram with an arrow leading to the condition and variables branched off.
    4. Write the categories or factors of the variables identified in item 3. Include the categories or factors above and below the arrow pointing to the condition. Be sure to connect the variable to specific names. For example:


    1. Interpret the results and identify the primary issues influencing the current condition or situation. Consider how the theoretical paradigms can help you make sense of what is happening.
    2. Write a summary of your findings by presenting the condition or situation, then explain the factors influencing the problem.
    3. Plan the steps for implementing a solution or resolving the problem.

    A useful way to understand a program or organization’s needs is to chart the social condition or situation using a fishbone diagram. This tool constructs a visual representation of the social impact on a condition and identifies the primary issues affecting the problem. Results assist in developing a written summary of the factors influencing the condition and used to plan the next steps in solving or resolving any issues.

    The mayor is working with city council leaders to improve waste management services to local residents in the area. The city is considering a private-public partnership to provide waste removal and recycling services to the community. Use your sociological imagination to identify the pros and cons of the city embarking on this partnership with a private, for-profit company. The partnership will require an annual contract with a fee for services. How will this type of partnership impact local residents? Consider the impact five (5) years from now.

    1. Use a fishbone diagram to structure the issue.
    2. Apply the six (6) theoretical paradigms in sociology to identify variables that may influence the issue.
    3. Write a summary of your analysis.

    This page titled 2.3: Using a Sociological Perspective is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Vera Kennedy.

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