New Mobile Justice App: Because Freedom Can’t Protect Itself

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It is no secret that police brutality exists and is often targeted towards minority groups particularly African American and Latino citizens. Almost daily throughout the country, there are news reports depicting the inhumane nature of police interactions with people of color.  Also on social media, news feeds and twitter pages are filled with accounts about vicious attacks made by police on marginalized groups, and these attacks many times result in unnecessary death or trauma.

For people of color, police engagement instills a deep sense of fear and resentment towards those who are tasked with protecting and serving our communities. Historically, police departments have been used as legal enforcers for racial oppression. Most Caucasians see police officers simply working to maintain their safety while most people of color feel terrorized by them. Almost always, police are given a slap on the wrist for police brutality and excessive uses of force. Very rarely are they charged with their crimes, even when their actions result in unjustified homicide.

As I write, I remember two unwarranted deaths that had occurred while I lived in Pittsburgh.  Both victims were African American and unarmed- one was a teenager and the other was a mentally ill adult.  The teenager was shot and killed for walking home in his community, called the Hill District.  The other was tased to death in front of a gas station.

I also think about LaQuan McDonald, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and the countless number of victims that die yearly because of police brutality.  Let us give them a moment of silence to honor their memory and direct compassion towards their families.  During 2015 alone, police killed more than 100 unarmed African Americans, which means at least two unarmed African Americans are killed each week by police in the United States.

However, now there is hope to make an inhumane and unjust police system answer for brutality against minority groups. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri recently created a free mobile justice app that can be downloaded to any smart phone in order to hold the police system of Missouri accountable for its numerous attacks against marginalized groups.  Since the killing of Michael Brown, police brutality has exponentially grown in Missouri, which inspired the creation of this app to halt its prevalence.

This app, known as ACLU of Missouri Mobile Justice App 2, is free to anyone and offers many features that empower the community to act against police brutality.  The four main features of this app include:  1) Recording, 2) Witnessing, 3) Reporting, and 4) Educating about rights.  It allows app holders to record instances of brutal police encounters that are instantly emailed to ACLU of Missouri.  It also alerts other app users in the area of police brutality so that they can bear witness and offer testimony against police officers.

Additionally, it allows victims and witnesses of police brutality to accurately report inhumane and unlawful encounters with the police.  Lastly, this app educates its users about their rights as citizens, which includes the right to videotape police brutality despite what is said by police officers.  Thus, this app provides a mechanism to stop police brutality through visibility and accountability.

ACLU of Missouri cautions the usage of this app since police officers are armed and dangerous.  They suggest that users announce to police that they are reaching for their phone, while also reminding officers that recording is a civil liberty.  Ultimately if your life is in danger, app creators suggest that you put down the phone.  However, once the recording is initiated, it automatically alerts others and is sent to ACLU of Missouri’s email.

This app is a first and necessary step in ending police brutality against minority groups in the United States.  Other states can now model the creation their own mobile justice app in order to hold police accountable throughout the country.  More importantly, this app allows citizens across the United States to become educated about the cruel nature of police interactions in order to activate change within their communities.

This app empowers us citizens to prevent the unnecessary killing of unarmed minority citizens.  #BlackLivesMatter just as much as white lives.  Hispanic lives matter, Muslim lives, Asian lives, and Native American Lives too, but we cannot have justice until people of color lives matter just as much as white lives. Our police can no longer serve to protect solely its white members while targeting and killing minority groups.

Filming police brutality? Of course there’s an app for that

Posted by NowThis on Friday, May 1, 2015

 

Music Therapy and Its Healing Potential

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Music therapy has proven to be highly efficient as a therapeutic intervention in medical and personal settings, and it is a growing field of practitioners. People wear headphones and listen to music to cope, dream, escape, and/or just have a wonderful time. Think about your favorite song and the feelings it evokes. Do you want to sing along? Dance? Hold up a lighter and sway from side to side?

These are only a few of the simplest ways to describe in which music helps us heal and express a range of emotions. There have been numerous studies on the effects of music on people with cognitive impairments that show how something as simple as handing someone an MP3 player with certain music can really make a different. Vibroacoustic therapy is a form of music therapy that uses patented equipment and software that was developed by Olav Skille in 1968.

Vibroacoustic therapy relies on using sound waves applied to the body in order to produce relating physical and mental effects. In present times, vibroacoustic therapy can be administered through lying or sitting on a surface that is embedded with speakers that conducts the vibrations while listening to music of a certain frequency. This arrangement allows for the client to really feel the music while listening.

The key to this type of therapy is making it a live, interactive experience that is not only audibly stimulating but also kinesthetically stimulating. Vibroacoustic therapy has been used to treat Alzheimer ’s disease, premature babies, children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, chronic physical pain, and other visible and invisible illnesses.

Recently, music producer Timbaland did an interview with Hot 97 in order to discuss his feelings on the future of the music industry and introduce his new artists. While at the studio, he was wearing a Subpac. The Subpac is a product that can either be worn as a backpack or placed on a chair. Producers, DJs, and others affiliated with the music industry use the Subpac as a way to “feel” the music similar to how you feel the beat in a car with a serious bass system in the trunk. I was intrigued because I wondered if there was a place for the Subpac in therapeutic usage.

As of right now, I’m not personally aware of portable music therapy devices similar to the Subpac, but why not create an adaptable portable version of a Vibroacoustic therapy device for the masses? For instance, Subpac has joined forces with Muse:

The Muse Seek Project fosters inclusion and aims to open up the world of music to Deaf children across the Dominican Republic and the world. Through Participatory Action Research methods, Maria Batlle, founder of The Muse Seek Project helps children in the Deaf community experience music. Read More

I can see the potential for the Subpac exploring its adaptability for music therapy, especially since it can easily be worn like a backpack or draped on a chair like a massager. The Subpac is available to the public and can be purchased online. It was great to see Timbaland support such a project in order to bring it to light for not just music artists and DJs, but also for everyday people who could truly benefit from being able to heal and groove on the go.

Talking with “The Social Workers” Radio Show

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On February 2, 2016, I had the pleasure of going back to my social work Alma Mater, and I made an appearance on their radio show called “The Social Workers” which can also be found on Twitter at @SocialWorkersFM .

Hosted by Dr. Eric Hardiman and Alyssa Lotmore, The Social Workers highlight local and national happenings in social work. The Social Workers Radio Show was started about 5 years ago and the current hosts have been there for about two years.

Through social media, I have found that Social Workers can have a “voice” in many ways. This radio show is one of the more interesting ways to literally project our Voice out onto the airwaves. The co-hosts teach a course about being a “Media Savvy Social Worker”, where they learn basic interviewing skills and ways to engage with the public. This has such value and was great to be a part of this experience.

image1I got to talk with them about social media and various ways it is relevant to social work, mental health, healthcare, and suicide prevention. Below you can view our conversation. Also, I want to provide some of the links to the resources mentioned and some things that I wish I had included.

My Favorite blog post – The Language of Borderline Personality (My second favorite blog post is Virtual High Five and The Power of Social Media – got a high five via Twitter by Dr. David Jobes, suicide prevention leader)

How to Participate in Live Twitter Chat: Tips For Social Workers by Dr. Laurel Hitchcock

Here are some of the tweet chats I mentioned and their blogs

Suicide Prevention On Social Media  (#spsm)

Macro Social Work (#macrosw)

Healthcare Leadership (#hcldr)

Healthcare Social Media (#hcsm)  @HealthSocMed

In the end, they asked me what is the value of social media. I talked about some of the resources learned from professionals. What I failed to mention is connecting with people who receive mental health and health care services. Their tweets and blogs have been a large part of my professional development.  If you venture on social media be prepared to learn from recipients and patient advocates who have a strong presence on social media.

Also, another wonderful place to hangout is the Social Work and Technology Group on Google plus. Articles, videos, and the latest evidence are shared on how social work can utilize technology and social media.

Empowering Youth Leaders for Activism and Action

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For those of you who may not know, February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). When we think of intimate partner violence, we tend to look at it as a common issue for adults. However, intimate partner violence affects the lives of our youth far more often than we think. According to LoveIsRespect.org, “one in three teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse by someone they are in a relationship with before they become adults.”

It is imperative for social workers and service providers to work collaboratively in providing support and resources to our youth in an effort to help them become empowered adults. As this month comes to an end, the National Resource Center for Domestic Violence has orchestrated a global discussion on “Empowered Youth in the Margins: Activism to Action”.

If you are interested in learning more about teen dating violence, you can join the live twitter chat happening tonight on twitter using the hashtag #youthleaders. For more information on the organizations participating in the chat and how to engage in a live twitter chat, view the information below:

Host Organization

This chat will highlight  youth-led social justice efforts at the intersections of oppression and violence. Youth leaders from statewide and community-based social justice  initiatives will share their experiences and perspectives. Join us to learn  and share how empowered youth on the margins are advancing our movement!

Participating Organizations

Break the Cycle inspires and supports young people to build healthy relationships and create a culture without abuse. Our dynamic and diverse team believes that all young people deserve to live in a world where they can thrive. Our values and work centers young people and their lived realities, leadership, vision, and hopes for the future.

GLASS is a safe space for youth 13-25 where YOU can chill, meet other LGBTQQ youth and access some of our many services.

Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network aims to mobilize Latinas and Latino communities to end domestic violence.

The Family & Youth Services Bureau supports organizations & communities that work to , & .

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works to create a society free of discrimination based on gender identity, HIV status & sexual orientation.

Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Working to prevent and eliminate domestic violence, until the violence ends.

National Youth Violence Prevention Week is April 4-8. Start planning your activities now!

The Network/La Red is a survivor-led, social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in LGBQ/T, BDSM and polyamorous communities.

Social Work Helper is a progressive online news magazine dedicated to elevating news, information, and sometimes entertainment relating to social work, social issues, and social good.

How to Participate in Tonight’s Twitter Chat

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Foster Care Youth: Using Technology to Provide Support

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Many social workers, other helping professionals, and foster care alumni have recognized the value in utilizing technology to support foster care youth. However, there is a gap in the scholarly research and development of technology solutions in this area.

In October of 2015, the Pritzer Foster Care Initiative sponsored a conference regarding “Web and Mobile app Solutions for Transition Age Youth.” at the conference, it was suggested that technology innovations for the foster care population should be amassed and made available via a single access point. At a similar event, the “Children’s Rights Summit” in December of 2015, they also discussed the myriad ways technology could be used to overcome legal barriers for foster care youth, families, and professionals.

The push for mobile applications, websites, and video games to engage and empower foster care youth is driven by the poor outcomes associated with “aging out”. Scholars define aging out, which occurs between 18 to 21 years old, as the process by which foster youth surpass the maximum age for foster care. Youth who leave foster care are presumed to join the ranks of: the homeless, undereducated, unemployed, incarcerated, substance abusers, those with unwanted pregnancies, and victims of poor credit and identity theft. 

According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analyse and Reporting, the number of youth who aged out of foster care during 2013 was 238,280. The racial/ethnic breakdown of these youth was: white 45% or 106,487; black 24% or 56,053; Hispanic 20% or 48,661; and Bi-racial or multiracial 6% or 13,889.

National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) captures data in the following areas for foster care youth aged 17: financial, education, relationships with adults, homelessness, high-risk behaviors, and health insurance access. The data revealed that 28% of those youth were either: employed full or part-time, received job training, social security, educational assistance, or other social supports.

Additionally, 93% of the youth reported participation in educational programming, 93% denoted having a healthy relationship with at least one adult, 16 % reported being homeless at some point, 27% replied having a referral for substance abuse counseling, 35% indicated being incarcerated at some time, 7% reported an unplanned pregnancy or fatherhood, and 81% reported having Medicare coverage.

These figures do not evoke a brilliant future for those departing foster care. For this reason, social workers have become innovators by melding technology and research into mobile applications, websites, and video games that meet the needs of foster care youth. Some of the promising technology available are as follows:

  • Bay Area Legal Aid partners with the Youth Law Center and the Public Interest Law Project to provide trainings in foster care benefits and advocates for foster care youth.
  • Beyond ‘Aging Out’: An MMOG for Foster Care Youth is a gaming platform and support network for foster care youth.
  • Foster Care to Success (FC2S) has influenced public policy, volunteer initiatives, and programs for older foster youth.
  • Foster Club is an online resource providing peer support and information for current and former foster youth.
  • Focus on Foster Families is a mobile app providing video interviews with foster youth and caregivers sharing experiences, and expert legal, education, and child welfare advice.
  • iFoster is an online community offering resources, technology, tutoring, eyeglasses, job opportunities, and a digital locker for foster youth to secure personal information.
  • Kids Help Phone is a Canadian-based website providing 24/7 counselling and information services for children and youth.
  • KnowB4UGo is a mobile application connecting foster youth with people, places and programs that support the aging out process.
  • National Foster Care & Adoption Directory Mobile App (NFCAD) provides search information, including location and key contacts, for organizations, groups, agencies, and experts across the child welfare profession
  • Ratemyfosterhome.com is a mobile app designed to garner information about foster homes and foster care experiences in real-time.
  • TeenParent.net is a website offering information, resources, and a blog to support foster youth who are expecting or parenting and their caregivers.
  • Think of Us is an online platform to support foster youth, foster/adoptive parents, and social services.
  • Pathos game is a puzzle and fantasy video game created by FixedUpdate. As the main character, Pan, explores new worlds and makes new friends, players experience some of the emotions of children in the foster care system. FixedUpdate hopes that Pan’s adventures will connect with people inside and outside of the foster care system. The game, Pathos, will be available on the iTunes Store and Google Play Store in 2016.
  • Persistence Plus engages and motivates college students through a mobile platform that uses transformative behavioral interventions.
  • Sortli is a mobile application that provides information, step-by-step guides and support. Sortli gives you 7 paths toward independence to include identity, relationships, a place to live, health, finances, education and employment, and living skills.
  • Ventura County Foster Healthlink (FHL) is a new website and mobile application that provides foster parents and caregivers with health information about children in their care. The goal is for information to be shared electronically among the care team to better meet the needs of the children.

These are only a fraction of the technologies available to assist foster youth. Many people in the public and private sector are unaware that social work professionals are leading the way in the research and design of high tech for foster youth.

Social worker Ruby Guillen of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has developed the following apps: (1) an app to report and prevent child sex trafficking, (2) an anti-bullying app, (3) a foster care placement app, and (4) an app for risk assessment of neglect and child abuse. Guillen was inspired by her passion for technology and her experience as a social worker. Guillen and her colleagues developed these apps at two hackathons sponsored by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Although, the apps are not readily available, they foreshadow trends for the future social work practice.

Jay Miller, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Kentucky, understands the gaps in support that exist in the child welfare system. Dr. Miller has asked for backing to create and assess a mobile app to support foster care youth in transition. This research is being conducted in the Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky area.

He states that, “a foster kid will turn 18 and there’s some kind of expectation that they’ll be able to function in a way that other kids who are never in foster care don’t have the capacity to function or make big decisions at 18. We expect foster kids to do that.” He further adds that, “With child welfare in general and with foster care specifically, the problems that plague these systems they are community problems. It’s not just a someone problem. It’s an everyone problem” Miller suggests an ideological change in people’s perceptions about foster care. “We need to look at it as a service for people in need. It is a solution. Dr. Miller’s work will continue to bring the barriers to success for foster youth to the forefront. 

Innovative technology solutions have been developed to address systemic issues in the foster care system and to sustain foster care youth in general. These mobile apps, websites, and video games meet immediate needs allowing foster care youth to focus on future goals. There are a plethora of resources accessible to equip foster care youth in their transition into young adulthood.

By shifting the focus from data that exposes the many apertures of the current system to programs that produce confident and successful young adults, our outlook becomes much broader. Developing thoughtful products and tangible services for foster care youth can produce more positive outcomes.

How to Build Your Social Media Network

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You want to engage on social media, but you are not sure how to connect with people who share your interest? This can be a major challenge for someone without natural influence gained from being in the public such as a celebrity, politician, or even a professor.

In the past when you needed to get out information or create awareness on issues, you had to go through larger businesses, organizations, associations or public relations firm for assistance in hopes they will share with their network. Today, technology and social media makes it possible for you to bypass the gatekeepers and connect directly with the people.

However, it’s much easier to connect with higher profile individuals when you have an established network of your own. One of the best ways to start building your social media networks is by joining an active online group of individuals who share your interests. Engaging in social media challenges is another way to help increase your online followings.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Anneke Kraker who is a co-founder of the Global Social Media Challenge along with Hans Versteegh. They are currently hosting a social media challenge in an effort to connect social workers around the globe using the hashtag #GSOMEC

SWH: Tell us about the Global Social Media Challenge and how it came about.

The First Global Social Media Challenge is a fun challenge for social workers to learn more about the impact of social media on the profession. Social Workers who participate receive for 11 days a small challenge in their inbox plus lots of social media tips. Our goal is to grow our networks and increase our impact. In June 2015 I organized the first Challenge in Dutch. It was a huge success with 600 Dutch Social Workers participating. I do this together with Hans Versteegh a social media expert for Social Workers. I almost forgot: the challenge is for free!

SWH: How will this challenge benefit social workers and help them to become more social media savvy?

This challenge helps because we’re in this together. Many Social Workers are looking for ways to benefit from social media. In this challenge we share tips, insights and good practices. Doing this together makes it fun and easy.

SWH: What do you believe are some of the biggest barriers preventing social workers from engaging on social media?

It’s time consuming. It challenges you to find new boundaries. Privacy is also an issue. And some Social Workers struggle with the narcissistic element: you use social media to make connections and in order to do that you have to show yourself. The challenge of day 2 is about selfies!

SWH: What tips can you provide to help them overcome those barriers and to enhance their professional brand?

Hans and I love making fun but we are also very serious about Social Media. We literally challenge Social Workers to overcome those barriers. With tips we make it easy. For example: to overcome the time issue we provide a simple solution on scheduling your updates.

SWH: How is the challenge going so far, and how can people get started even if they missed the first day?

The challenge is going perfect! We have almost 400 participants and people can still join us. They can catch up the challenges they missed because we provide an overview of all past challenges. People can subscribe here: https://annekekrakers.leadpages.co/globalsomec/

https://twitter.com/CFL_Adoptions/status/698134959144488960

9 Mobile Apps for Social Workers

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Add digital skills to the many skill sets we wear as social workers. Our clients are carrying around devices that can serve as a secondary tool to support practice and our primary connections. Many practitioners feel that technology is taking away from the human interaction. However, technology can actually enhance our practice and empower our clients while scaling our efforts.

For instance, we can reach people in rural areas we weren’t able to reach before, empower clients to monitor their moods outside of sessions and have real time data to discuss in session, make connections with children on the autism spectrum that is difficult for a human to make, assess suicidal ideations, alert authorities/contact of domestic violence situations in real time, and the list goes on.  We must not fear technology as it is here to stay.  In fact, they are now moving into the world of the Internet of Things (IOT) such as wearable technology.

The social work practice will not progress by chance, we will have to embrace and educate ourselves on technology in order to most effectively advocate for our clients and the profession.

  • “Most social workers have no access to data in the field, even though worldwide global mobile access is above 87%.” Northwoods Business Brief
  • “Smartphone owners use an average of 24 apps per month but spend more than 80 percent of their [in app] time on just five apps.” Forrester Data
  • “To date, 85.5 percent of the world subscribes to mobile phone services…” Technology for good: Innovative use of technology by charities

Mobile apps are a wonderful tool, however they are just that: a tool.  They should not replace the relationship but rather enhance and augment the work you are doing.

1.     PTSD Coach – “The PTSD Coach app can help you learn about and manage symptoms that often occur after trauma. Features include:

  • Reliable information on PTSD and treatments that work
  • Tools for screening and tracking your symptoms
  • Convenient, easy-to-use tools to help you handle stress symptoms
  • Direct links to support and help
  • Always with you when you need it

Providing you with facts and self-help skills based on research.” (iTunes, Google Play)

Tags: Veterans, Mental Health

2.     Northwoods Compass CoPilot – “It’s the ideal solution for mobile social workers at child and adult protective services agencies, and other workers who visit clients in their homes or other locations. Social workers in the field use Compass CoPilot to access all case and client information, forms, and documents, just as they would in the office. It’s the only social services software to ensure that social workers are never without the files and information they need while they’re on the road. During client visits, social workers can use Compass CoPilot to record interviews, take photos, document, and notate their findings — all while they are in the field. Being able to accomplish all of this with a tablet makes the information gathering less intrusive, which helps put clients at ease and allows for better interactions. Our innovative social service software syncs the new information with the agency’s Compass® system back at the office.” (iTunes)

Tags: Child Welfare, Case Mangement

3.     Classdojo – “Easily encourage students on participation, perseverance, or something else? Customize ClassDojo to work for your classroom.  See a timeline of students’ progress, share a beautiful timeline of all the wonderful things your students do. Students love how positive classrooms are and it saves teachers valuable class time, too.” (iTunes, Google Play)

Tags: School Social Work, Autism

4.     TF-CBT Triangle of Life – “new [free] mobile game app helps children who have experienced trauma by letting them use their tablets or smartphones to practice life skills they have learned in the therapist’s office. With the tagline “Change how you think; change your life,” the TF-CBT Triangle of Life game is designed to help children age 8-12 better understand their thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and move toward a better quality of life. During this game, the player takes the role of the lion in a jungle story, guiding other animals toward more positive experiences and relationships.” (iTunes,Google Play)

Tags: Mental Health, Trauma, CBT, Therapist

5.     Aspire News – “A domestic violence app is disguised as a normal icon and even has a decoy home page, so you’ll be safe if your abuser takes your phone. The most important feature of the Aspire News app is called the GO Button, which you can activate the moment you are in danger. Once activated, the GO Button will send a pre-typed or pre-recorded message to multiple trusted, preselected contacts, or even 911, saying that you are in trouble. Additionally, once the app is activated, your phone will begin recording audio of everything that is going on in the room, which can be used as evidence for any legal proceedings that may stem from the incident. Robin emphasizes that it’s important to always have your location services activated, as many of the app’s features require it. For example, the app can be used to locate the shelters and resources closest to you.” (iTunes, Google Play)

Tags: Domestic Violence

6.     The Savvy Social Worker – “Trying to stay abreast of developments in social work and human services practice? Few practitioners have the time to identify all the key sources of information on the web. This app, developed by the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, will help you stay current with new developments in social work practice, especially evidence-based practices and best practices. We bring information about key practice resources and practice research findings to you all in one place, in an e-news reader format. You select the information providers (channels) that you would like to monitor, and we do the rest. Included in our list are key sources such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Cochrane Collaboration, the Campbell Collaboration, ad Information for Practice.” (Google Play)

Tags: Social Work, Resources

7.     Suicide Safety – “Suicide Safe, SAMHSA’s new suicide prevention app for mobile devices and optimized for tablets, helps providers integrate suicide prevention strategies into their practice and address suicide risk among their patients. Suicide Safe is a free app based on SAMHSA’s Suicide Assessment Five-Step Evaluation and Triage (SAFE-T) card.” (iTunes, Google Play)

Tags: Therapist, Suicide, Social Work

8.     The DBT Diary Card – “DBT Diary Card is the only DBT iPhone app designed and created by a licensed and DBT intensively trained psychologist.” (iTunes)

Tags: Therapist, Social Work, DBT

9.     Dialysis Finder – Dialysis Finder App quickly identifies your location and lets you choose the nearest Dialysis Clinic as well as get other information about the location. A convenient way to find a US Dialysis Clinic near you. (iTunes)

Pinterest for Social Workers

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Pinterest for dreamers

If you’re a dreamer who loves to visualize all beautiful things in life and beyond, you must take a look on Pinterest. You can find pics of Paradisedream houses, the most gorgeous hidden place on earth, stars and planets, or the ultimate creamy crispy creme brûlée you can imagine. It’s all there. The search function is easy and works perfect so why wait to see some dreams can come true!

For this reason and I guess I’m not the only one, I started my account on Pinterest. It’s fun, relaxing and time flies by on a rainy sunday morning. But after a few weeks, I got fed up with so much to dream about and spent less and less time on Pinterest.

Pinterest for keepers

But Pinterest evolved, and I discovered Pinterest was not only about the lovely pictures. It could be about the information behind the picture. The pin can be linked to a whole webpage with information you want to pin down. Pinterest became a tool to keep a file of interesting webpages. That’s cool! You can use it as an visual archive. This is an example of a teacher collecting ideas for the classroom.

Pinterest for entrepreneurs

Next time I really got into Pinterest, it was when I got an assignment from my branding coach to make a brand board. I enjoyed working on it and got all my inspiration from thousands of inspiring pictures. First I choose my brand words and then used these words in the search function. I made a beautiful board with more than 100 pins. This was so useful! If you’re in business and looking for your brand (website, logo, colors, fonts) Pinterest is a great resource.

Here are some more useful tips on Pinterest for your business >>>

Pinterest for Social Workers

Not so long ago, I couldn’t sleep when I remembered how time flies when you’re on Pinterest. I opened my iPad and found out I had some new followers. And guess what ….. They were Social Workers! I took a look at their pinboards and discovered a whole new world on Pinterest. I found so many inspiring pins tagged with social work, and I loved it!

That’s when I decided to make my own pinboard named Social Work and collect these beautiful pins. Some with great and useful information, some with humor, some with inspiring quotes and some with some grumpy stuff.  I also produce my own graphics on Social Work with Word Swag, and I keep them on this board.

Pinterest for Social Souls

Pinterest is just what it is a platform to collect and share pins. However, Pinterest is not very social as in connecting with people. You can follow each other and like pins, but that’s it. At this moment I’m focusing on building my community of Social Workers “Social Souls” (you’re welcome!). The world of social media can be very overwhelming. Be careful and choose what you need and use it as you wish.

Social Workers: The Untapped Hub of Entrepreneurs

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In what many might consider the most unlikeliest of places to look for entrepreneurs, social work is actually a hub of entrepreneurial thought leaders.  Residing in this place of ideas for change with little to no funding, social workers are constantly grinding out creative ways to progress human and societal conditions.

Being kind and doing good are now viewed as intelligent and necessary traits to have in the professional world.  However, let’s remember social workers were kind even when it implicitly was taken as ignorant and the reason they were doing good was because of compassion, empathy, resilience, commitment, and determination, so essentially they are trailblazers and natural entrepreneurs.

Social workers have been “doing good” before doing good was cool.

Below is a list of 5 entrepreneurial skills that social workers embody in their everyday work.

Ability to Raise Money

Many social workers work within the nonprofit sector or within the public sector, both of which see little working capital and funding cuts.  Due to this consistent lack of cash flow social workers are constantly figuring out how to come up with funding for their clients, communities and programs.  Due to social workers being committed and determined they are brainstorming different ways to raise capital just like an entrepreneurial venture would do.

Many sectors like to think of social workers as not being financially savvy however in a world where one has to figure out how to best advocate for their clients and communities with the least amount of money, they have learned how to get very creative with fundraising.

Branding/Marketing

Much of what lies behind social work theory is psychology.  Additionally, much of what lies beneath effective and efficient branding and marketing is psychology as well.  Thus, when social workers are attempting to brand or market their program or organization they have a leg up as they can easily analyze what their audience might want by knowing the different psychological theories that already exist. Additionally, social workers are generally speaking, natural empaths.

Yes, some have to work harder at empathy but social workers don’t go into their profession by monetary motivation, they generally go into social work because they are empathetic and compassionate individuals wanting to solve worldly problems.  The ability to empathize with your audience gives you an advantage when branding and marketing because you can easily put yourself into your audience’s shoes to figure out what they need and want.

Self-Care & Resilience

If you research anything about social work, you will most likely stumble upon self-care and compassion fatigue such as Mindfulness, Self-Care, and Wellness in Social Work: Effects of Contemplative Training, Caring for Ourselves: A Therapist’s Guide to Personal and Professional Well-Being.  Once again, social workers were developing and taking trainings and discussing the importance of self-care before all the mindfulness coloring books, meditation helmets and such started appearing in popular culture.  Social workers realize how incredibly important it is to take care of yourself so you can be a more effective professional and person in all areas of life.

Additionally, resilience is something that social workers have to recognize, assess and teach within many of their client populations such as mentally ill, abused and neglected and impoverished. Due to consistently working with the most disadvantaged in our societies and seeing and teaching that resilience, it has become an innate trait for any professional social workers to embrace.

Social workers experience many failures with clients, programs and organizations but it’s that compassion, grit and resilience that keeps them doing their job everyday waiting to change even 1 person or 1 community. The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries addresses many entrepreneurial obstacles and how to overcome them, one of them being failing fast and failing often to get to success.

Building Cohesive Teams

One thing that many social workers have to develop or at least review is called a strengths and needs assessment for individuals and/or communities they are serving.  Many decades ago social workers started realizing that only identifying and treating needs of persons and/or communities wasn’t treating the issue as a whole and in the most viable way. By identifying the strengths of the person, organization or community you can then more effectually address the issues.  Many entrepreneurial articles (Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Inc.) talk about the need for building effective teams as one of the most important steps in a successful venture.

Due to that being a skill set already learned by social workers, as well as some of their background training in psychology and their ability to empathize as spoken about earlier, social workers can build some of the most empowered and potent teams out there.

They realize the importance of different learning styles and how to communicate your message.

Ability to Sell

Last but certainly not least is the ability to sell.  Most everyone would think that sales could not be further from social work.  However, if you have ever read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie you will quickly realize that empathy and sympathy are 2 of the most effective traits to have in order to be successful in dealing with people. Additionally, having that grit, determination and resilience are other characteristics that social workers have that help them pick themselves up and keep forging on after a failed “sale”. Many social workers may not even have thought of themselves in sales before, however they actually have to “sell” themselves to their clients quite a bit.

In social services you have many untrusting people due to things such as life experiences or mental illness.  Social workers usually use the terminology “gaining people’s trust” however it is a matter of semantics because the social worker is essentially “selling” themselves or services to someone.  You have to make them believe that you are trustworthy, dependable and honest in order for clients and/or organizations to open up to you. Gaining people’s trust is one of the traits social workers have that help them “sell” their service and or product just like in entrepreneurial ventures.

So next time you are out looking for a founder, co-founder, partner or for investors looking to invest in social impact products or services; don’t look past the social worker.

Gone are the days of social workers “just” being a bleeding heart or “just” being kind…like kind implies ignorance?

Many entrepreneurial ventures that are solely motivated by money will fizzle out because they don’t have many of the other necessary skills that make a venture succeed.  Social workers naturally have these skills in them by virtue of the profession, so take a look and see what social workers have and are still accomplishing these days that could help your entrepreneurial venture out.

How Crowdfunding Can Be an Effective Alternative for Medical Hardships

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Crowdfunding has turned into a reputable resource for people who succumb to tough times and are looking for an alternative method of support. However, it inadvertently has also turned into one of the few places where people from all walks of life can come together for a common goal.

Most crowdfunding sites enable users to connect with supporters by providing updates and uploading photos. This feature offers a platform for family and friends to leave thoughtful messages and words of encouragement, creating an entire community of support.

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Michael Genest

A campaign can typically be created by the individual needing assistance, or by a family member, friend, or member of the community. While restoring hope to those it benefits, crowdfunding shows people that no amount is too small and making a difference in someone’s life is sometimes just a click away.

For example, Michael Genest has an incredibly positive personality with a “failure is not an option” attitude, even under unfortunate circumstances. Late last year, Michael was diagnosed with a very rare neurological condition known as Bickerstaff’s Brainstem Encephalitis.

The medical center in which he checked into to was completely unaware of the disorder. Michael was on total life support measures for lung, kidney, food and all bodily functions and could not speak and or easily move.

With his inability to work, the immense amount of out-of-pocket medical bills and two daughters in college, Michael’s family turned to Plumfund to crowdfund his medical hardshipAfter only two months, the campaign has already raised more than half of its $15,000 goal and the updates provided by Michael’s wife, Jordan, state that he is in good spirits and was moved to the top rehabilitation hospital in Texas. The support and kind words Michael’s from friends and family are incredible and inspiring.

However, Michael and his family are not alone. Unfortunately, there has been a dramatic increase in people turning to crowdfunding as an alternative method of raising funds for hardships, especially medical.

Thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to connect with friends, family, coworkers or anyone in your network. Therefore, it also becomes easy to share your crowdfunding campaign and reach more people than traditional fundraising.

Users can collect any amount of donations from anyone anywhere in the world. Location is a limit with traditional fundraising, but with crowdfunding being web-based, it allows people the accessibility of sending and receiving funds at the click of a button. By incorporating technology, crowdfunding makes fundraising simple and more efficient to help ease the stress that comes along with any hardship. 

The Sixth Annual Social Good Summit Will Inspire World Action

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Since 2010, the Social Good Summit has grown substantially aided by the increasing popularity of social media and technology. Mashable in partnership with the United Nations General Assembly decided to bring people together global leaders to discuss how to utilize technology to eradicate poverty. People over the globe are becoming empowered to share their voices in an effort to be heard, and the Social Good Summit has committed to listening to those diverse voices.

The Social Good Summit is a two day conference discussing the impact of technology and media on current social good initiatives. Starting today on September 27th, days after the United Nations ratification of its Global Goals, the goals aim to eradicate poverty, inequality, increase access to education and protect the environment.

It is hoped that these goals will create sustained growth of the bottom 40% of the population to empower and promote their general welfare. These goals will guide policy and funding, and the purpose of the Social Good Summit is discuss the coordination of these goals globally. With now over 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24, it is clear why the UN has a youth focus to work towards the eradication of poverty by 2030.

The venue for this year’s Social Good Summit is 92nd Street Y which is a world class cultural and community centre that encourages people to connect through culture, the arts, entertainment and conversation. This year’s speakers include Kathy Calvin and Pete Cashmore, the CEO’s of the United Nations Foundation and Mashable respectively, as well as Sienna Miller, Charlize Theron and Savannah Guthrie. Using the hashtag #2030Now, social media and live streaming will definitely allow everyone to get involved!

In 2014, over 170 countries were connected through video and social media, with 65 countries and counting for 2015 it is thought this year could be even bigger. Jamaica, Turkmenistan and Guatemala have signed up and for the first time ever will be involved in the Social Good Summit. Global meet-ups will play a huge part in the Social Good Summit and allow people around the globe to take part and discuss how communities are using the digital tools to build a brighter future.

Also in 2014, #2030 trended at number one globally, breaking down any language barriers between the 45 different languages involved! The Social Good Summit is surrounded by a week of related events which provide encouragement to take action and identify innovations that can create the world we want. Two days of jam-packed sessions, including ‘The Tipping Point for Human Rights’, ‘Sustainable Cities’ and regular global meet-up check-ins, to keep everyone involved.

The voices of global citizens will be a necessary force for change, and the Social Good Summit has taken on the role of helping to facilitate conversations with UN officials, pop culture icons, activists and entrepreneurs around the world who want to create this change. Be a part of the Social Good Summit in helping to create the kind of world we all want to make a reality. Watch the summit via live stream at https://livestream.com/Mashable.

The Employment Paradox with Technology

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I attended a workshop on accessible employment recently and was reminded, as I’ve written about before, what a fraught topic employment is these days — for anyone, let alone those with access needs.

As welfare states come crashing down around the (western) world, the demand for employment and requirement to be employed increase. New Zealand’s welfare lexicon has changed from “beneficiary” to the default “jobseeker”.

Meanwhile industry and technology improves, meaning more machines, computers and robots do more and more jobs for us. I mean, that has been the whole idea of industrial and technological revolutions, hasn’t it? To decrease the need for humans to do stuff.

But, it’s like the world hasn’t quite caught up with itself. There are fewer things to do, but more pressure than ever for us to be gainfully employed. It’s all a bit Stupid, with a capital S, as Bernard Keane and Helen Razer might ubiquitously insist.

UK Research exploring “the future of work and how jobs, and the skills needed in the workplace, will change by 2030”, gives the following key messages:

  1. Technological growth and expansion: As digitalisation grows, we can expect a significant impact on employment and skills in the decades ahead, at all levels and in all sectors.
  2. Interconnectivity and collaboration: Work in the future will be more interconnected and network oriented.
  3. Convergence of innovation: We can expect more and more innovations to take place at the borders of disciplines and sectors.
  4. Increased individual responsibility: International competition and technological development is likely to continue to increase the flexibility that employers demand from their employees.
  5. The shrinking middle: The shrinking middle will challenge the workforce. The high-skilled minority (characterised by their creativity, analytical and problem solving capabilities and communication skills) will have strong bargaining power in the labour market, whilst the low-skilled will bear the brunt of the drive for flexibility and cost reduction, resulting in growing inequality.
  6. The four-generational (4G) workplace: The future workplace will be multi-generational, with four generations working side-by-side. Traditional notions of hierarchy and seniority will become less important.

(Key findings, The future of work: jobs and skills in 2030, UK Commission for Employment and Skills, p24-25)

If the world’s idea of employment were an ostrich, its entirety is well buried in sand, not just its head. We’re hardly thinking about these things — and we are far from conversing about them. Things like:

  • What happens when up-to-the-moment digital literacy is a pre-requisite for employment, given its exponential speed of development?
  • What factors influence who has access to interconnectivity and network orientation?
  • How are we encouraging innovations between disciplines and sectors?
  • What does increased employee responsibility look like?
  • If the high-skilled minority out-bargains the low-skilled majority, what becomes of “jobseekers”, who are out-bid before their seeking begins? After all, to seek successfully, one must also be sought.
  • How is the education system preparing school leavers to manage and lead people of their parents’ and grandparents’ ages? And how are employers preparing for this somersault?

These questions are fascinating to me, but I’m fairly sure they terrify many. But we’ve got to start using them to lead our conversations about employment in the future.

Quite simply the question, “How do more people become employed?” is not an adequate level of inquiry anymore. To meet the huge diversity, complexity and change that is ‘careering’ towards us in the next 15 years, we need to be asking, “What is employment becoming?” and “Who are the employees and employers of the future?”

But, most importantly, we need to grapple with this one: “What will become the valued, dignified alternatives to employment?” Because there will be more and more people, with and without access needs, seeking them out.

Why Organizations Should Discontinue Newsletters

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Obviously, if you do not have a website at this point in your organization’s history, we should talk about that first. More often, I encounter organizational clients who are not sure how to best utilize the resources they have which especially when it comes to their website and how to increase their visibility on the web. My first presentation is to let them know that they have been focusing on the wrong resources especially as it relates to distributing information to their readers using newsletters.

Rather than lamenting the lack of capital and financial capability, I scaffold and help them construct a translation process to change content into capital. One easy example of content that is not being used to its potential as a translatable commodity is the traditional newsletter. Allow me to use this old-school social media platform as a case in point.

Rather than the traditional print and distribution model, I suggest that your organization switch to a blog powered by a content management system (CMS). CMS is typically described as a way to organize and produce content on the web. Its less-hyped function is as a traffic magnet. Its power in this area depends on the CMS you choose AND the most important and abundant resource you have: Content. Your monthly newsletter is an important source of content. You may be wasting this resource confining it to 20th century methods of dissemination. The switch I propose will result in at least 3 key capabilities that aid the translation of this content into capital: Search, Sharing, and Marketing.

Gain: Search Capability
Archiving is an obvious feature in the digital space. Many organizational newsletter producers save a copy for download in PDF format from their websites. What is lacking in this is the ability of web users to query or stumble upon each individual article through search engines. Foregoing this wastes valuable potential connection points with your target audience.

A blog provides the enhanced ability to search or stumble based on actual content, organizational tags, categories, and concepts. The author of the piece may be a draw, not to mention the author’s own incentive to popularize the article. The references may be a draw. It is a common practice to mingle current events in your articles. People searching to learn more about a particular event will find your blog (or digital newsletter if you prefer).

Gain: Share Capability
Another important feature of a blog is the ability to add social media sharing tools automatically to each article. You can also add plug-ins that make logical and word-based relationships between your articles. This supports the linking and threading of content shared to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

An effective CMS like WordPress can allow your content to be seamlessly and easily viewed on multiple screens and multiple platforms to increase engagement. This means that those who like and share an article or picture share it to viewers who can join the experience on whatever device they choose. The addition of social media links means that any device becomes another distribution point. Your reach becomes exponential, not only because of its digital nature but also because of its convenience.

Gain: Marketing Capability
Consistent posts and new content on your site is a key to Google rankings. 500 words a day could increase your visibility and may make yours an attractive location for advertisers, partners, and your target audience. To accomplish this consistency, a CMS can be pre-loaded with articles that post each day. You already have a newsletter with multiple articles. Post them on a schedule. If you have themed or topic-based sections, set the Political posts to occur on a specific day and the Culture posts to occur on another day in the same pattern each week. Train your readers to expect a certain theme or topic on certain days.

If you are an association, this increases your ability to tell your story, promote events, and disseminate resources. If you are an educational institution, CMS allows you to continue educating, informing, and connecting your students while they study and your alumni after they graduate. If you are an enterprising individual, your “authority” and “klout” as an author may be bolstered solidifying your expertise.

For Readers Who Like Print
The beauty of CMS and plugins that are available is that you are able to present the content in different ways. Readers who are only interested in print can be supported to print an aggregated version themselves. Alternatively, the content creator can use plugins or code a “newsletter” creator that mimics the .pdf download option. In addition, individual articles can both be presented with multimedia bells and whistles AND printable stripped of graphics and menus. Moving to a blog from a traditional newsletter provides the most flexibility for traditional readers, new readers, and those yet to stumble upon your great content.

What Do You Stand4: Interview with Andy Hill Founder of Social Good Startup Stand4

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Stand4 helps you make your mark on the world. They’ve made it extremely easy, through their app, to support whatever causes you want, whenever you want, and however you want. Whether it be through donations in which they don’t take a percentage, to petitions that can be signed with a swipe of your finger, to (my personal favorite) sponsoring stands that actually donate for you every time you perform a challenge. Any time you do easy things like drinking a beer or checking-in, they’ll donate to whatever cause you care about. Simple as that.

What’s really exciting is their ability to track and show your impact. So if you drew a 4 on the App to give a child a cup of clean water, they’ll actually send in-the-moment project updates of the filters being made, filters being delivered, and the exact school you gave water to. It’s legit. Here is my interview with Andy Hill founder of the social good startup Stand4.

Stand4 is a social impact app that empowers people to change the world without donating a dime. 

Let’s first talk about how this idea came about and when was the ah-ha moment, when you said ok I want to really launch this?

screen1136x1136Andy: About 9 months ago, my partners and I started studying the social and economic philosophies on why people give and what we found very interesting is that when an individual gives, they’re doing it because giving carries with it a sense of fulfillment; a sentiment, unlike any other, that is fostered in the belief that their contributions lead to a better, more desirable world. But we, as individual givers, never get to see our impact on the world, whether it be with a single event or as a collective sum. And therefore our fulfillment is minimized by an outdated charitable system.

At Stand4 we were founded in a belief that the way we change the world hasn’t changed in 150 years. We believed (and still do) that there are causes and stories that resonate with each of us, and we are intrinsically motivated to help. So Stand4 set out to create a new system. One where we could support what we care about further than our wallets would allow and even more importantly, then be able to see the exact impact our support helped accomplish.

Can you explain how users can make a real impact without actually having to donate money?

Andy: Stand4 actively partners with corporate sponsors who set aside a pool of funds for donation through our app. Our users choose where this money is allocated by ‘taking stands’ for their favorite causes. Every time a stand is taken, a monetary donation is made. This empowers people to make a significant impact in the world, without worrying about their wallet. Everything that comes as a result of their stand is collected and showcased on their profile, giving them the ability to immediately see all the lives they’ve touched, problems they’ve helped solve, and overall impact they’ve made on the world. Nowhere does this exist today.

How many organizations can users choose from when wanting to take a stand? Is an organization teamed with a particular stand?

Andy: Stand4 has initially partnered with some of the world’s most innovative non-profits including Kiva, Invisible Children, The Adventure Project, and Watsi. We’ve also partnered with several smaller non-profits we believe are making a big difference. In total, users can stand for 7 different organizations right now. We’re rapidly expanding tho and expect to bring on another 20 partners in the next month.

When we bring on a non-profit partner we work with them to determine what a particular stand will equal. Below are what each stand goes towards.

Kiva: 1 oz of food
Watsi: 1 medical treatment
Invisible Children: 1 come home message
The Adventure Project: .1% raise in income for a Kenyan farmer
May We Help: 1 part of a custom medical device
TruWater: 1 cup of clean water
Miami Children’s Initiative: 1 minute of education

Did you have a certain idea of what corporate sponsors you wanted to work with? How did the process go in terms of choosing sponsors you wanted to team up with?

Andy: Our corporate sponsors say a lot about what we as a company stand for – so it’s very important to us to partner with companies who share our innovative vision for change. Some of our beta sponsors include Pasta Chips (www.pastachips.com) and KIND Snacks (www.kindsnacks.com). We’re on-boarding more sponsors as we speak.

At the core level is the app intended to be a social network of like minded individuals collaborating for causes?

Andy: Stand4 is the social network for social impact. It’s a place where users can discover the causes they care about, support them in multiple ways, and see their entire footprint on the world in one place. Our app empowers users to showcase what it is they stand for in life and interact and collaborate with individuals who stand for similar causes.

ST4ND is currently available for download. You can download the app, sign in, and start making stands, but what type of features are available in the Stand4 app? 

You can now tag anyone if you want to comment on a Stand, comment on an interesting story you saw, or on fun challenges you saw friends take. Users can now challenge anyone to take a stand with you. Take a pic of a sunset post it and challenge you friend to take pic of the sunset wherever they are at. Once the challenge is completed your friends will have 24 hours to vote on the winner. When a challenge is completed it triggers a 2x donation to that particular stands cause for double the impact. Also, you can now search your entire home feed for specific stands, stories, or challenges. You can also search the Stand4 community to find other people on the app.

Explore all of the available Stands and uncover how effortless it is to impact the world. Make your mark by snapping pictures, answering fun questions, and a whole lot more – for every Stand you take, we donate.

Download the Stand4 app and start making an impact – iOS –  Android

We bring your entire charitable footprint to the digital world. Share the impact that you’re making with your friends and see the impact that they’re sharing with you. Watch your collective footprints pave the way to a better and brighter future.

Periscope: The Ultimate Tool to Become More Visible

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The new wonder in live streaming apps is called Periscope! You’ve probably heard of it. I don’t exaggerate if I call Periscope the ultimate tool to make yourself and your work visible. Periscope offers you an immediate access to your network to bring them live broadcasts. But let’s start at the beginning.

What is Periscope?

Periscope uses the camera on your phone to share in a livestream whatever you want. Your phone becomes a TV studio, and you’re the TV host or the reporter. You can even do your own talk shows. It’s magic! I love it!

Periscope is free and you can get it in your app store. You start making your account and your first broadcast can go live in no time. It works super easy.

Periscope is a product of Twitter. If you own a twitter account, your twitter followers will also be your audience, and Periscope will notify them when you start a broadcast.

Periscope looks like making a video, but there is one big difference. With video, you can edit your video, and do this over and over again. It makes me feel uncertain: will it be good enough or shall I take another shot? Do some more editing? But, Periscope is live and raw with no editing. There’s no time for feeling uncertain. Of course it’s scary to be live but just take a deep breath and go for it.

Periscope is interactive. You can chat with your audience, ask questions, and answer questions. Your audience can also chat with each other. This chat can make a broadcast a bit chaotic but that’s all part of the fun.

A replay of your broadcast is available on Periscope for 24 hours, but you can also use katch.me to archive your broadcasts and keep them available for as long as you wish.

Periscope is still so new that everybody is still experimenting. It’s a playground and you can jump in without being afraid to not knowing the rules. But why should you?

The ultimate tool to increase visibility

It’s a great tool to be visible, and that’s exactly what we need! Show our faces, tell our stories, provide your expertise, or show the results of our work. I’m using Periscope myself for a while now and I discover huge possibilities as a result. I’ve brainstormed a list for you:

  • Share your knowledge: about parenting, abuse, loneliness, health
  • Give a sneak peek at activities in the community center
  • Managers and lecturers in Social Work can share their vision on the profession
  • You can announce a contest
  • You can ask for some input on a project you’re working on
  • Share the weekly activity agenda with the neighborhood
  • Answer questions from clients in a Q&A
  • Broadcast series like a cooking series with recipes of your clients
  • Give a tutorial on how to fill in a difficult form
  • Give a yoga lesson

I’ve decided to do more Periscope broadcasts beside my blogs and webinars on a regularly basis. It will be a regular part of my marketing mix. I’m working with schedules and topics like: marketing tips, social work tech tips, stories, inspiration, share my failures, my insights on social work and much more. You can use a hashtag to announce your broadcasts and mine is #socialscope. Join me for some social work fun and inspiration.

Hearts     ❤     

One more thing: Facebook has likes, and Periscope has hearts. Who’s doesn’t like little colored hearts? If you watch a broadcast and you like what you see you can tap on your screen to share some hearts. So cute!

Now I’m curious about the possibilities you see to get visible with Periscope. Please share them here. And if you’re on Periscope, share your account and let’s connect. Mine is @annekekrakers. Hope to see you soon on Periscope!

Virtual Worlds: Are They Good or Bad for Children?

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Playing in online worlds is a growing phenomenon and children and young people are being exposed to many online games, social media apps and other community based platforms. Playing online appears to have many positive strength for children, from learning new social and communication skills that can have educational benefits for them in the future.

Lydia Plowman, Professor of Education and Technology at Edinburgh University, has commented children can learn through apps and games and how parents can obtain the benefits of technology. Plowman suggests that one of the key focuses in this learning is allowing children to explore through parental guidance, and part of this process is to allow children to make their own choices and decisions, Plowman refers to this as the ‘learning how to learn’.

What is a virtual world?

As discussed in previously, children and young people are spending a greater amount of time on social media platforms, online games, and online communities. However, for the purpose of this article it is important to have an understanding of what is meant by a ‘virtual world’.

Virtual worlds have a variety of different elements, for example:

  • It is an online computer animated 3D or 2D environment
  • A massively multiplayer online (MMO) experience
  • Interacts with others people in real life
  • Rules and guidance on how people effect the virtual world around them
  • Individual use ‘avatars’ or characters to represent themselves in the virtual world

To put it more simplistically, a virtual world is a platform where individuals can interact with each other, solve problems, explore and communicate with each other.

Here is a short list of virtual worlds you may be familiar with, please be aware there are many more:

  • Habbo Hotel
  • Moshi Monsters
  • Club Penguin
  • ourWorld
  • Fantage
  • Sims

In 2014, there were supposedly over 158 virtual worlds designed for young children, with the top three for primary-age being Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters and Habbo Hotel. It was found in AVG Digital Diaries in 2014, 6-9 years old who were surveyed found 46% spend their time playing an online virtual world.

Even though there are many online virtual worlds and massively multiplayer online games, parents and teachers feel allowing children into these environments can be dangerous, unsafe and damaging. Yet, throughout the course of this article we will be exploring some of the positive and negative aspects of online play.

The Positives

SW5As commented in the above, this new era of technology has allowed us to enter a new dimension of communication and learning, not just for children and young people, but also for adults.

This has been successfully achieved through the use of email, forums and social networks; but yet we can also connect in real time through Facebook messaging, texting and twitter tweets. We have a vase social community online and this can have profound implications for children’s social and emotional development not just online, but also offline.

The use of the immediate communication technology perhaps can support children and young people maintain friendships and family networks more effectively. In addition, parents will be able to gain deeper insight into their children’s lives through the use of this technology, (e.g. Facebook); in order to gain an understanding of their child’s lived experience. Face to face communication between young people and parents can pose challenges from time to time; therefore this technology can bridge the gap and loss in communication.

Dr. Jim Taylor comments digital communications can also enable young people who are shy engage in wider social environments and be able to find others with similar hobbies and interests within an online community, promoting young people to grow and be creative within this online environment. Johnson (2014) even suggested digital communication and online environments improves children and young people’s emotional connection and comments this teaches children to become more empathetic towards people rather than learning the traditional face to face methods.

The Negatives

As discussed previously, there is an array of positives to using online technologies to support children and young people’s social, emotional and educational development in a variety of different ways. However, this does not go without saying within their social communities children are certainly exposed to a wider range of people, material and risks.

The EU Kids online conducted a survey and found that many children have experienced some kind of cyberbullying, trolling and sexting. Furthermore, it was found 12% of 9-16 years olds were exposed to distressing images, (Livingstone et al, 2014, pg.6).

For instance, it has been suggested children who play violent video games and lead to more aggressive behaviour and this can have an impact on social interaction with others. Taylor (2013) however, does comment the research is unclear about the ‘direction of causality’. Meaning, it is inconclusive whether violent video games make children violent, or if naturally more violent children are attract to this genre of game. In addition, research has also suggested children who are exposed to digital networks to become more narcissistic, (Taylor 2013)

Mixed messages  

Throughout the course of this short blog, we have drawn upon some the positives and negatives of virtual worlds and some of the research that underpins this thinking. But what does this all mean? Well, it is clear virtual worlds are offering a rich source of new learning for children and young people that are certainly different from the traditional methods but has brought round positive outcomes for children and young people’s social, emotional, behavioural and educational wellbeing.

Nevertheless, it is important to highlight the problems and risks that technology and virtual worlds may bring. Parents, educators, social workers and other professionals have to clear understand of how children and young people are engaging in online social environments and how negative implications may emerge from them.

Where do you stand?

Even though this blog has been short, and there is certainly much more research and reading round this topic; I would like to take some reflection time to ask for your thoughts of the role of virtual social environments in the lives of children and young people.

It is certainly natural to not fear and the potential hazards that can be damaging; however is their room for positive learning and development to take place?

Further Reading, including research above.

Angela Barnes And Christine Laird – The Effects of Social Media on Children

The London School of Economics and Political Science – Risks of Safety on the internet

Young Children Consuming More Digital Media.

Are We Afraid of Developing Technology for the Elderly

I work for a hospice program providing palliative care which means we attend to the emotional and spiritual needs of terminally ill patients at an inpatient facility or at the patient’s home, and I see lots of people near the end of their life. Some of them are too lethargic to use an iPad, but many are not.

birdbeard-300x300Though all of my clients are dying, they are otherwise able to function normally for a person their age. Those who are not lethargic or in their last days often tell me how bored they are!

They speak about their inability to find anything that entertains them. So, I did a little research on the subject thinking “Well maybe a computer for older folks might help.” Turns out there are some, the options are not great, and I have yet to see one in an assisted living facility.

So why has Apple not attempted to make iPad adaptable to Seniors’ needs?

Personally, I want to be able to browse the internet when I am seventy, and I want to be able to keep up with the news when I have arthritis and can’t swipe properly. Below are some reasons why we don’t have it and why we are going to need it.

Generational Gap

The affordable personal computer came out in the 80’s which means those who grew up with computers are now just entering their early to mid 40’s. To everyone else, computers were new and confusing.  However, this doesn’t excuse the lack of technology for those who are older, but it does help to explain the lack of attention to this market.

Infantilization

In-fant-til-ize-a-tion: To treat or condescend as if still a young child

Would you let a baby play with your expensive iPhone? If the answer is yes, you have more money than I do. Most people are afraid their child will break their expensive toy. They are not wrong either most children will. We assume the same of older adults, that they will either break it out of frustration or will not be able to comprehend its use. Neither is true. There are many older adults who know how and enjoy using computers to entertain themselves

Denial

Likely the worst offender, we refuse to make these adaptations to technology because doing so would be admitting our own mortality. It would require acknowledgment that we will grow old and may eventually need these devices ourselves. Once we can admit we are growing older as a society more and more of these devices will be present.

That’s it for now, but I can’t wait for the Angry Bird’s senior edition to come out. In the comments below tell me about what you want on your computer when you are older!

CleverCare Watch Brings Peace of Mind

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A few weeks ago at the Home and Community Health Association conference, I met some of the team behind CleverCare, a new service that connects an Android smart watch to a web interface and a 24-hour call centre.

CleverCare is the brain-child of Maria Johnston. As the website explains, “developing the Clevercare system was driven from a personal need for Maria to make a positive difference in the everyday life or her parents. She then found that her family’s problems were experienced by many and now, through Clevercare making lives better with independence and peace of mind can be achieved for many.”

clevercareMedicalAlarmUPDATEDFEB2015-e1429159091562Designed for people with dementia, the Android watch runs a simple app and contains a GPS geolocator. The device is tracked via Google Maps in an online dashboard. Boundaries can be set to alert family, friends or support workers if someone wanders beyond a safe distance. Reminders can be pushed to the watch via the dashboard.

The watch will also alert a call center at the push of a button. The watch can receive phone calls from the call centre (in fact any phone), to establish the person’s need. If unanswered the call centre will contact a nominated person or send an ambulance to the GPS location.

As a user of a Bupa alarm, which is wired to your home, the CleverCare watch’s potential to be a safety net to a wider range of people was instantly obvious to me. I was soon talking to Maria and Shane, CleverCare’s sales rep, about the possibilities for younger people with unique function living independently, but anyone who may be vulnerable to risk and need assistance could utilize the device.

I notice that since the conference, CleverCare has widened its target audience to include children, people working alone, cyclists and more. At the end of the conference Maria and Shane offered me a watch to use. Already I am noticing the peace of mind my Bupa alarm gives me at home but, of course, with the watch, I have it wherever I am.

The dashboard is currently oriented to be ‘driven’ by the support/contact person, not the watch wearer, because of the focus on dementia support. A reorientation could put the watch wearer in the driving seat and, if more contact people were able to be added, a chain of contact, similar to my Bupa alarm, would make this technology truly revolutionary in terms of providing people a sense of safety and confidence.

The watch CleverCare uses at the moment is not the most attractive accessory but, again, it is designed for simplicity of use by older people and those with unique cognitive function. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I get my Apple Watch!

Which brings me to what I see could be the ultimate opportunity – the development of a standalone CleverCare app. Whether on a smart watch, phone, tablet or even desktop device, an app could bring this safety technology to anyone, anywhere.

If you see the benefit of CleverCare for yourself or someone else, do contact them directly or let me know so I can pass the interest on to Maria and her team. There is a cost but I understand it can be funded by the likes of ACC or Individualised Funding. And of course, the bigger CleverCare’s market, I’m sure the more cost effective it can become.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwQcPc580bQ

Paper Social Work In A Digital World

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It has been debated for years whether or not incentivizing the behavior of a person is a suitable practice to get him to do something or not.  Some behaviorists argue that incentives mean nothing – if a person wants to do something he’s going to do it whether or not he gets a reward.  Organizations are different.

HITECH Brings About a Digital World

Agencies, especially ones who operate under governmental budget constraints, must be
offered a reason to do something beyond: “You should.”  In 2009, the federal government enacted the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH).  This act was part of the nation-wide stimulus package known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

HITECH’s purpose is to promote the adoption of health information technology in medical care.  The act works by incentivizing organizations to implement electronic healthcare records management systems.  Providers, such as doctors, cannot receive full payments just for adopting and electronic health records (EHR) system.  They must also show “meaningful use” of these systems.

Meaningful use means that these providers must show that adoption of an EHR has significantly improved the quality of care for their patients.  There are 25 metrics a provider must meet in order to be qualified as meeting the meaningful use standard.  These include demographic recordation, clinical summaries for office visits, and even smoking habits for any patient over the age of 13.

However, HITECH only offers incentives for adoption of EHR to select segments of the healthcare industry.  HITECH and the meaningful use incentives neglect to encourage behavioral health providers to convert to EHRs.

Incentives to Digitize Skip Some Segments

Under HITECH, the only behavioral healthcare providers eligible for incentives are psychiatrists and a handful of nurse practitioners.  However, this hasn’t stopped many behavioral healthcare providers from wanting to adopt EHRs or even doing so and wrestling with EHRs which are not set up for the type of care they provide.

Behavioral Health surveyed its readers earlier this year, and it reported that 79.5 percent of them reported using an EHR, but the costs of implementing an EHR are high, especially for smaller firms.  Incentives such as those provided through meaningful use and HITECH could mitigate many issues faced at the micro level of much of behavioral care, especially social work.

Paper Abounds in One Idaho Social Work Office

For Laura and her coworkers at a local behavioral services agency in Idaho, the cost of doing a paper business in a digital world are high.  Laura and her colleagues spend hours developing plans on paper for each client under their purview.

One client file, an Individual Support Plan, can take up to 10 hours, for which Laura is reimbursed only six hours by the state, and consists of:

  1. authorization (TSC/PD agreements, participant rights)
  2. the ISP itself and any addendums
  3. CSRs – written documentation of each job a TSC/PD completes for the participant (such as a visit)
  4. medical assessments
  5. assessment by the TSC/PD
  6. evaluations – developmental evaluations and the implementation plans
  7. information releases
  8. miscellaneous items – guardian documentation, budget appeals, etc.

These files must contain two years of information.  “We have an overflow file for each participant because that much information does not fit in their file,” says Laura.  On top of maintaining a current two-year file on each participant, Laura and her teams are required to maintain at least a seven-year archive for each participant as long as she is with the agency.  Only seven years after a participant has left the care of Laura’s agency can the file be shredded.

If the state agency to which Laura is contracted wishes to see this file, it must be faxed.  When asked why this was the preferred mode of transmittal, Laura responded: “I have heard it is safer regarding HIPAA to fax.”

Security of transmission is an issue for any healthcare provider when considering implementation of an EHR.  Is an EHR truly more secure than a fax machine?  Security among EHRs is a hotly debated issue.  Near the end of 2013, a Virginia health services provider had to inform nearly 1000 patients that their data had been breached continuously for four years by an employee of the organization.  Data breaches such as this are the most common kind –they usually occur because of error or improper training, not malice.

What EHR Can Do for Behavioral Healthcare

However, these types of security issues are rarer today, as EHRs are moving to much more secure lines, and even migrating to the Cloud.  Thus, not promoting their adoption is hamstringing behavioral healthcare workers such as Laura, who must spent hours at the fax machine sending files to their government principal.  In order to better organize the information she produces for her participants, Laura also spends hours creating her own secured digital files.  She houses these on a secure server which only she can access.

Laura uses this type of technology, since her agency cannot afford an EHR, because she has had computers crash, losing information.  The outside server also allows her to mitigate compliance errors, one of the main reasons healthcare and IT organizations have long pushed for EHR implementation.  EHR implementation has the potential to eliminate human error, thus improving compliance in all aspects of healthcare.

Asked to evaluate a handful of EHRs created specifically for behavioral healthcare, Laura was excited to find features specific to targeted behaviors in one.  A second has created solutions specifically for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  “This makes my heart sing!” declared Laura.  “I couldn’t even imagine how nice it would be to have everything tracked in one place.  It would save time plus be able to see if services are being provided according to the plan.”

Until EHR adoption is incentivized in behavior and mental healthcare, Laura and colleagues will be left to their own devices.  Small-scale private agencies like the one for which she works bill their work to Medicaid and their contracting state agency, which also bills Medicaid.  These agencies don’t have the capital to implement EHRs without assistance from HITECH and the federal government.

How Social Work Can Benefit From Technology

Social Workers Toolkit

The world thrives on technology. We drool over the newest 3D televisions when they are announced, and pray to be the first person in line when that revolutionary new iPhone is released. Despite our desires for technology related to entertainment and fun, we thrive on technology for the conveniences it provides as well. Within the social work field, technology adds benefits to working professionals in numerous ways.

A Platform for Organization and Research
Who doesn’t love the feeling of being truly organized? It’s a breath of fresh air always knowing where you can find that specific contact info, or the prized website you found weeks ago with so many valuable resources. It’s easy to forget or to misplace physical documents, so the advantages of being technologically inclined are as convenient as they are efficient.

Another convenience that modern technology has brought to social workers is the research potential. Google Scholar and similar databases offer relevant information for research purposes, written by credible scholarly authors. The layout for these types of websites is extremely user-friendly. Accessing this information on tablets or even smartphones is simple.

But don’t be weary of new technology, despite your own level of understanding.

How should you feel about integrating these new ideas into your day to day work?

Daniel Ortiz Reti puts it into perspective perfectly in his Social Work Helper article from last year:

“Its time for you to learn! Social Workers should be tech savvy, if not experts. The time and cost it can save means more clients helped with less work for us. We work in a profession that is perpetually underfunded and over worked, and isn’t it time we come up with some solutions?”

In short, yes, it has been time for a tech minded overhaul for a while now. It’s all about utilizing the resources you have and developing a tech savvy mindset. You don’t have to understand complicated computer programs. Simply utilize technology.

The Application of Mobile Advantages
Smartphones have become tremendously popular in the world the last decade. It is estimated that one billion smartphones will be sold next year. The potential for mobile application is something that is always growing. It’s astounding that by 2016, the number of active smartphones is expected to outnumber humans on Earth!

With such a vastly huge number of smartphone users, the logical step for most career fields is to integrate smartphone apps into daily functions. Social workers want mobile technology because it’s useful as a means of always having information at your disposal.

Below are a few very useful smartphone apps that benefit those involved in all walks of social work. Pay special attention to the first example! :)

SocialWorkerApps

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Benefits of Social Media
Social media campaigns help establish a presence for online counseling/social work endeavors. Social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter were once completely optional, but are proving to be more and more essential.

Are you fairly new to jumping on board the social network bandwagon? Don’t fret, it’s as easy as modeling your ideas after something successful. Look at the Facebook page for Social Work Helper for example. Almost 90,000 people like the page, and the posts are regular and engaging.

Provide the viewers of your social network campaign with useful and interesting content. Avoid spammy and random posts. Be genuine; that will pave your road to a successful social presence. Technology aids social work in numerous ways. Through research, mobile applications, and social networking, social work efforts can skyrocket. Convenience and practicality will resound you, and you’ll never look back!

Images courtesy of Technology is Revolutionizing The Social Work Field by Case Western University

*Editor’s Note: The Social Work Helper app is currently not available for downloads. However, the app will be upgraded and back in the app markets soon.

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