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European social policy and social work: citizenship-based social work explores the transformation of European states into activating welfare states and their impact on social work. The ‘activating welfare state’ is based on a balanced mix of productivity, participation, cohesion and knowledge. It enables and endorses citizenship, civil society and the market within a steering and regulating framework, set by international, national, regional and local governments. Social work should adapt to this transformation process by repositioning itself, by redefining its concepts and strategies, and by reconsidering its methods and approaches. I define this redirection process within social work as ‘citizenship-based social work’. ‘Social work’ refers to a common field of social action, social theories and social work research. It is based on an international shared social work body of knowledge. ‘Citizenship’ or activating citizenship connects to the idea ‘to put citizens first’ (Stevens and Sullivan 2001). It is up to citizens as residents, as users, as political beings to define social problems and to co-operate in improving social contexts, in supporting vulnerable people and critical situations and to influence political decision-making processes. The main task of social professionals – like social workers, community workers, social care workers, social pedagogues, youth workers, social and creative therapists – is to enable and support people in critical situations to keep control of their own needs, problems and interventions. Social professionals’ primary task is to support the social environment – family, friends, communities, schools, workplace – in creating better social conditions and supporting vulnerable people and vulnerable neighbourhoods. Social professionals start from the context people are in, looking from there to who could contribute and improve it and, if needed, takes action to address relevant actors, to bring them together and to implement social actions and social support.