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    Twitter Chat Tackles Questions about Social Work and Politics

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    How actively involved should social workers be in the political arena? This was one of the themes that set the agenda for Thursday night’s Twitter chat hosted by the Network for Social Work Management using the hashtag #MacroSW. The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy was asked to take the lead in this latest chat and we focused on our work on the Hill with the Congressional Social Work Caucus.

    The other key question during the Twitter chat is the focus of a media campaign around Social Work on the Hill Day featuring the hashtag #YSocialWork. What motivates young people to pursue careers in social work? Social work jobs are often labor intensive and emotionally stressful. Our work is often undervalued—both in compensation and in public opinion.

    Before we delve into the details about the Twitter activity, I want to clear the air about this being a macro social work event. While there has always been tension in social work about the amount of emphasis given to direct services and macro social work practice, there has never been an argument about whether one area of practice is more important than the other.

    Those of us who would like to see an expanded emphasis on macro social work practice do not want it to occur at the expense of direct service practice. In fact, we acknowledge the need for more direct services social workers in the coming decades. Yet, at the same time, we recognize the need for more social workers as administrators, community organizers and participating at various levels of policy.

    There is a need to expand the number of social workers in the United States. However that expansion should include social workers seeking careers in politics and policy as well as traditional roles managing human services organizations. After decades of the ascendency of conservative ideology that has focused on individual achievement, laissez-faire economics, and the destruction of socialism, social workers have become the guardians of the American Dream as an ideal that should be available for all Americans regardless of ethnicity, class or gender. That means being actively involved in the political systems that generate the policies, laws, and regulations that determine access to opportunity and achievement.

    Having said that, Thursday’s Twitter was fascinating as social workers of all ages, from every corner of the country—micro and macro—participated in a stimulating exchange about our personal experiences with social work and shared ideas about where the profession needs to go in the future. Many had not heard about the Congressional Social Work Caucus founded by Congressman Edolphus Towns in 2010.

    Having been made aware that such a caucus exists, the next question was: so what? How does the profession and social workers benefit by having a Social Work Caucus? Hopefully, these questions may stimulate ideas that will influence what the Social Work Caucus does in the coming years. Few were familiar with the Social Work Reinvestment Act, so making them aware was worth doing the chat.

    The #YSocialWork campaign is the brainchild of MSW student Shauntia White at the National Catholic School of Social Service at the National Catholic University of America. Social media maven Deona Hooper, founder and editor-in-chief of Social Work Helper, is leading the effort to launch a campaign leading up to Social Work Day on the Hill. The beauty of this collaboration is Ms. White, who is studying to become a clinical social worker, has organized what many would label a “macro” event—a forum on the Social Work Reinvestment Act—that is being sponsored largely by the Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work.

    One comment made during the Twitter chat credited the virtual event with turning the mindset of “I’m just a lone social worker,” into one of “I’m a powerful social change agent.” Although we were connecting in a virtual space many participants remarked about the energy and enthusiasm they were sensing from the Twitter comments. I will end with a comment by blogger Sean Erreger who wondered what it would be like if the Twitter chat participants were all in the same room. Ending with: “Powerful stuff happening here.”

    Dr. Charles E. Lewis, Jr. is President the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy. He has served as deputy chief of staff and communications director for former Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns and was the staff coordinator for the Congressional Social Work Caucus.

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