Self-Assessment: Power and Privilege

Getting Started

Self-awareness and commitment to ongoing personal reflection are important components of all levels of social work practice. Specifically, you will find it helpful to understand the extent to which you occupy power in society by virtue of your race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, age, familial status, and other demographic factors. For example, if you are a male who belongs to the dominant culture, your experiences of power and privilege are likely very different from those of a woman of color.

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Awareness of the power and privilege you hold is not only important for self-reflection. It also affects the extent to which you can develop reciprocal and cooperative power with the organizations and communities you will serve as a macro social worker. Your group memberships may not always feel powerful to you, but they most certainly will affect how the organizations and communities that you serve perceive you. Throughout the course, you are encouraged to think about how your power and privilege may affect your work.

In this activity, you will identify the social groups that you belong to and reflect on how they may affect your perceived power and privilege. You are encouraged to reconsider these factors as you develop your knowledge of working with organizations and communities.

Upon successful completion of this assignment, you will be able to:

  • Develop reflection and self-regulation to manage the intersection of personal and professional values. (PO 1)
  • Explore injustice and oppression within the social environment at local and global levels. (PO 3)


  • Article: Understanding Power and Powerlessness: Towards a Framework for Emancipatory Practice in Social Work
  • File: Self-Assessment: Power and Privilege.pdf

Background Information

This workshop activity is an opportunity to reflect on how your own personal experiences can impact the extent to which you have power, privilege, and powerlessness. As you learned in your supplemental reading, cooperative power is difficult in a society that gives privilege to the dominant culture. Still, it is what we should strive for as social workers. By considering power, privilege, and powerlessness, social workers can better achieve power together rather than power occupied only by particular groups.


  1. Review the rubric to make sure you understand the criteria for earning your grade.
  2. Read the article “Understanding Power and Powerlessness: Towards a Framework for Emancipatory Practice in Social Work.”
    1. If you are not already logged into the IWU OCLS, you will be prompted to enter your login and password to access the article.
  3. Download the Self-Assessment: Power and Privilege.pdf file. On the worksheet, complete the following:
    1. What social groups do you belong to, and how do those groups occupy a position of power and privilege?
    2. Describe any social group membership(s) that could represent powerlessness for you.
    3. How could your social groups impact how you engage communities around social action?