What is Social Role Valorisation (SRV)?

Social Role Valorisation (SRV) comes up in a discussion every now and then and it still puzzles me why this is not central to many human services organisations. Although developed in the late 80s the principles are still very important and I feel are a gold standard for human service delivery.

I first came across the term SRV early in my career when employed as a production manager in a new electronics business called Qualitec. It was established through a joint venture with Macquarie University, Sydney University and the University of Oregon USA. Funded to demonstrate that people with disability, with high support needs, could not only work and earn wages in a business but also work within a high-tech industry like electronics manufacturing. SRV was a keystone of the project aiming to break down long-held stereotypes and discrimination. I also had the great privilege of meeting Dr Wolf Wolfensberger, PhD (1934-2011) who developed the theory of SRV, when he visited Qualitec.

So what is Social Role Valorisation?

Dr Wolf Wolfensberger defined SRV as: “The application of what science can tell us about the enablement, establishment, enhancement, maintenance, and/or defence of valued social roles for people”

To help people gain a valued social role, one task is to change the way the community sees that person. Being devalued is not something inherent in the person; it is the view that the community has, and it can be changed.  The community’s view of a person can be changed by applying some simple guidelines.

Expectations. Most people live up or down to the expectations others have of them. People who care about people at risk of being devalued must have high expectations.

Growth. Regardless of the disadvantage, all people can learn, change and grow. To do this often means taking risks.

Imitation. Imitation is a powerful way to learn. People at risk of being devalued need good role models and need to be able to identify closely with them.

Extra Effort. People who care about people at risk of being devalued must bend over backwards to make up for the past hurt.

Community Life. People best learn to do anything by doing it in the place where it really happens and with the people who usually do it. For prejudices against people who are being devalued to fade, the broader community needs to have positive experiences with those people.

Good Images. Images of people at risk of being devalued must be positive. Especially avoiding images that do not match the person’s age and images that show people grouped together and set apart from the broader community.

Why are people devalued?

Social Role Valorisation concepts are important tools to both understand why people and communities devalue others and offer practical ways to reverse these.

Less Value.  Unfortunately people with a disability, the aged, people of other cultures, countries or beliefs are often seen as being different in a negative way; consequently thought of as having less value. They become devalued people. We often deny this because it happens unconsciously, but it is real. We need to move this into the conscious, deal with it and strive to change these ideas within ourselves and others.

Low Status. A devalued person is likely to be considered by other people as having a low status. Again this happens unconsciously.

Fewer Opportunities. As a result of low status, devalued people are more likely to be denied opportunities and gain respected roles. They may even be rejected or persecuted.

Consequently helping a person at risk of being devalued find and keep a valued role is the most important goal of SRV and for anyone who cares about changing this.

Training in SRV can be obtained by attending a PASSING workshop. PASSING is an instrument for evaluating the quality of any human service according to how well it implements Social Role Valorization theory. For more information about the theory of Social Role Valorisation (SRV), educational resources and training visit socialrolevalorization.com