Community practice as street-level bureaucracy: community views and discretionary patterns

Tamar Shwartz-Ziv, Roni Strier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social work research has increasingly focused on the role of social work in shaping policies on behalf of disadvantaged individuals, families, and communities. However, scarce research has examined the contribution of social work community practitioners to policy development and practice. This qualitative study addresses this gap in the literature, exploring public community practitioners’ discretion patterns within Israeli Jewish-Arab mixed cities. Based on street-level bureaucracy perspective theory, the findings reveal that ambiguous formal policy allows participants an extensive discretionary space to initiate policies, informed by three perceptions of the urban community: as a shared space of cultural encounters; as a challenged site of structural unequal power relations; and as a contested arena of ethnic clashes. Consequently, three main patterns of discretion were identified: promoting cultural competence, addressing inequalities through service development for excluded populations, and mitigating ethnic conflicts by developing opportunities for dialogue. The study offers a conceptualisation to understand public community practitioners’ use of discretion and discusses their ability to critically address political issues in contested community settings.

Translated title of the contributionעבודה קהילתית כבירוקרטיה ברמת הרחוב: ייצוגים של קהילה ודפוסי שיקול דעת
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1031-1044
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Work
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Street-level bureaucracy
  • contested cities
  • discretion
  • political conflict
  • social work community practice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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