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.

Top 5 Reasons Social Work is Failing

Airing live on CSPAN, Dr. Steve Perry gave a searing speech on the “The Role of A Social Worker” at the Clark Atlanta University Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the founder and principal of a Connecticut school which only accepts first generation, low-income, and minority students.

Dr. Perry received his Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Pennsylvania and has since become a leading expert in education, a motivational speaker, accomplished author, and a reality tv host.

Dr. Perry was adamant that social workers are the key to solving societal problems because we are the first responders for social issues.

However, he also pointed out that social workers are not unionized, tend to be politically inactive, and do not engage in social conversations in the public sphere.

Dr. Perry asserts that our jobs are the first to be cut because we are silent, and taxpayer dollars are being diverted to education budgets for programs social workers should be implementing.

I have listened to Dr. Perry’s speech twice already, and there were many pearls of wisdom that he dropped on the ears of those in attendance and viewing the broadcast. For the most part, I agreed with 95 percent of what Dr. Perry said which is a very high percentage for me.

Now, I am going to share with you my top 5 reasons why I believe social work is failing:

1. Title Protection

First, it made me beam with joy when Dr. Perry referred to himself as a social worker despite his celebrity status. Most individuals with social work degrees who work in social work settings often refer to themselves as researchers, professors, therapists, or psychoanalysts. The people most vocal about title protection and licensure don’t actually call themselves social workers as if the title is relegated only to frontline staff.

I feel that over time title protection has been convoluted to mean licensed social worker and not a worker with a social work degree. I go in more detail on my thoughts regarding licensure in a prior article entitled, “Licensed Social Workers Don’t Mean More Qualified”. In my opinion, current policies and advocacy by professional associations and social work organizations have fractured the social work community into its current state.

We hail Jane Addams as the founder and pioneer of social work when in fact a story like Jane Addams’ would not be possible today. Jane Addams did not have a social work degree nor did she need a license to advocate, help people organize, or connect them with community resources. As a matter of fact, in today’s society Jane Addams would probably major in gender studies, political science, public policy, business or law.

Social work degree programs have begun dissociating themselves with “casework” connecting community members to resources, and they actually steer students away from these types of jobs. If we are going to pursue title protection, we also need to create second degree and accelerated programs to pull experienced professionals and other degree holders into the social work profession instead of excluding them.

2. Macro vs Micro

For the past couple of decades, social work has slowly moved towards and is now currently skewed toward being a clinical degree while marketing itself as a mental health profession. Over time, the profession has done a poor job in recruiting and connecting with individuals who are interested in working with the poor, politics, grassroots organizing, and other social justice issues.

Individuals who once flocked to social work to do community and social justice work are now seeking out other disciplines instead. Many social workers who want to be politically active and social justice focused are forced to do so under the banner of a women’s organization or other social justice nonprofit due to lack of our own. Students who decided to seek a macro social work degree often feel alienated and unsupported both in school and later with lack of employment opportunities.

3. Professionals Associations Represent Themselves and Not Us

Social Work organizations and associations have been pushing licensing for the past couple of decades which happens to also correlate with the same time frame they tripled the amount of unpaid internship hours required to complete your social work degree.

Recently, the Australian Association of Social Workers conducted a study which found university social work students were skipping meals and could not pay for basic necessities in order to pay for educational materials. American social work students who receive no stipends or any type of assistance are being forced to quit paying jobs in order to work unpaid internships, and they have no one fighting for them. In fact, most social work leaders argue that if you can’t shoulder the hardship this is not the profession for you. Many social workers struggle with supporting the fight for $15 dollars per hour for minimum wage jobs because they have master’s degrees making less than $15 dollars per hour.

You can’t talk to a social worker about anything without hearing the word “licensing”. From the time you start orientation, licensing is being forced feed to you as the solution that will solve all of social work’s problems. You are told licensing is going lead to better pay, better professionalism, better outcomes for clients, and better recognition to name a few. Minimum education and training standards are important, but requiring a medical model for all areas of practice in social work is not the answer. Social Work Licensing advocates often compare social work licensing with that of nurses, doctor, or lawyers.

In my opinion, social work licensing gives social workers all the liability and responsibilities without any of the rights. In states where licensing is required, social work licensing advocates did not advocate for employers to assume the cost of the additional training. The cost of continuing education credits have been passed on to the employee who is already in a low paying job, and the employer may opt to pay for them if they choose.

Here are a few things that licensing actually does:

  • Who can pass the licensure exam without having to pay for test prep materials or a workshop in which your professional association happens to sell to you at a “discount” if you are a member.
  • People are taking the licensure exam sometimes at $500 each time for four to five times. Where is this money going?
  • Once you pass the licensure exam, you are going to need liability insurance in which they also happen to sell.
  • To keep your social work license, you will have to maintain a certain amount of continuing education unit (CEU) hours yearly. They just happen to own and provide the majority of these CEU online companies and workshops for you as well.
  • Then, you have to pay renewal fees yearly and fines to your state board of licensure which goes to sustain their jobs.

Licensing is currently in all 50 states and US territories, and it seems to benefit the people who created the policies more than it does the social worker and the communities we serve. Licensure makes money, and social justice issues just aren’t income generators. For social workers who are already struggling, how does all the above fees and costs affect their career mobility in one of the lowest paid professions with one of the highest student loan income/debt ratios? Without a union for social workers, who will advocate on our behalf and for our clients to get the resources we need to serve them?

4. Lack of Diversity in Social Work Leadership and Academia 

Through Social Work Helper, I have had the opportunity to be a part of conversations with various factions of social work leadership over the past couple of years. Often times, I was the only person a part of the conversation that didn’t have a doctorate or at least in the process of earning one.  Additionally, I noticed that very few were minority voices if any other than me who were a part of these conversations. At first, I was intimidated because they had more education and  higher positions than me.

However, the more I listened and paid attention, I realized they are not better than me rather they had access to more opportunities than me. The ignorance and insensitivity displayed towards communities of color and the plight of social workers who are struggling in this profession was unbelievable.

Diversity in leadership brings different perspectives and point of views to be added to the conversation. Why didn’t more social work organizations and schools of social work support last night’s speech by Dr. Perry hosted at a Historically Black College? How often is the topic of social work front and center in a televised public forum?

According Social Work Synergy,

“At times this will mean sharing power and leadership in deeper ways, and taking proactive steps to undo oppression and racism. The use of community organizing principles and skills are essential” (p.19) to this effort. Read Full Article

5. Lack of Support and Silence

Social work organizations and associations are forever holding conferences that the majority of social workers can’t afford to attend. Many social workers don’t have the luxury of having their university foot the bill for them to attend every social work conference each year. This very dynamic adds to the failures listed in 1 thru 4. In addition, it highlights another point made by Dr. Perry when he stated, “Social Workers will talk to each other, but they won’t engage in the public sphere”.

I have contacted both the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE) and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) asking them to waive certain expenses, so I can cover their conferences in order to engage social workers via social media who can’t afford to attend. I can get press access to a White House event, but not to a social work conference. It’s like a country club that you can’t be a part of unless you can afford it.

Watch for free on CSPAN: The Role of Social Workers

 

Things I Wish I Was told in Graduate School

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I wish I was told in Graduate school and even in undergrad to some extent the real meaning of getting a college degree. I was told it meant opportunity, a big salary, not working in food service and autonomy. While much of that is true to some extent, I have learned there is larger picture as well. I am just speaking from my experience, and I hope this falls in line with the general consensus.

Obtaining a Graduate Degree in Social Work or in Counseling is NOT for… the money, fame or status. People who get into the career are in it as a way to help others, not to become the next Dr. Phil or therapist to the stars. With that being said, a person can do those things, but this is generally not the goal for most therapy minded or macro system minded individuals. My reasons for getting a Masters of Social Work was around the concept of social justice and being in the community.  As was the case with many in my graduating class, I did not expect to make very much money.

I wish I was told that money is the way companies start defining your worth. Are you a clinician who is worth $40,000 or do these companies value you above or below that industry standard? What are you willing to accept and what is the cost/benefit analysis of this process? The workplace has more to offer than just the sticker price and the same goes for college.

While in Graduate school I was able to explore, and talk to others and bounce ideas off of really fantastic community members, professors, mentors, and supervisors. Graduate school was about making contacts, building a network, and starting from zero to work my way up.

I wish I was reminded that the people in the room with me will be my co-workers, bosses, and referral sources for the future. 10 years in the future the people you graduate with will be the movers and shakers of your area.

Internships and practicum taught me how to advocate and market clients’ skills. I was taught to look deep into the experiences of others to build them up, inspire hope and promote long standing change.

I wish I was Informed that those advocacy skills are universal- I have the ability to use them to uplift and inspire myself as well as the ability and right to make people listen.

Working in mental health for the past 3 years and being close friends with the NASW Code of Ethics have put me face to face with the Client’s Bill of Rights. The Right to dignity and respect as a person, the right to be involved in their treatment, the right to privacy, and the right to change providers to name a few.  Knowing and advocating for these rights have made me a better and more trustworthy clinician. 

I wish someone would have pointed out that these rights are rights all people have.  If a person in one’s personal life or in one’s work life do not respect the rights you have as a person, you have the right to change the provider of that friendship/job/ ect.

Being a therapist, friend, a daughter, a sister, and a person in their twenties is exhausting. A person’s twenties are all about transitions and discovering your path and most importantly creating a community of people who love and support you. The hardest part is redefining yourself after graduation. Some people may have been like me and had the definitions of student/ social worker for the past few years, realizing that there is little time for friendships and socializing while entrenched in the college system.

Balance is something new clinicians need to find. Balance is one of the hardest things particularly with the system we are a part of.  Are you a social worker/person or a person/Social worker? Which cap do you put on first or are you still trying to find the social worker within or have you found that person, meaning are you still able to be a part of a two-way conversation and a two-way relationship rather than the person who solves everyone else’s problems?

Graduate school and post-grad life is difficult and challenging, but so is life in general. The final thing I wish I was told in grad school is that patience is a virtue.  However, patiently waiting for something to change and for the system to improve for your job to get better robs you of the power you have as a person, but it robs you as an educated person with networks and support.

Dig deep and learn who the person and the social worker inside you are, and define yourself. Define your career and do not let another person, company, or corporation steal that from you. Vision your future, and the ideal career path and realize that it will not happen tomorrow, or even 10 months from now, but slowly start chipping away at what you want and erode the barriers in your path.

If Social Workers are Intrinsic to Humanity, Why Should We Strive to Make the Profession Redundant?

As social workers, your use of ‘self’ is the most fundamental tool in your kit bag. This is why particularly when our profession faces huge challenges, we must be reflexive.  Globally, we are living through unprecedented times. A failure of the capitalist framework which scaffolds our lives has reduced the resources that we and our service users rely on. Our first instinct is to demand more from the hierarchical structures which govern us, voice our concerns and hope to be heard. We do this because that is the system that we are conditioned to, and it’s the way society works.

We question the system and critique it for being out of touch. Why do the powers that be choose what aspects of our concerns to highlight and minimise what we consider to be core issues? How can a system intended to empower people and improve lives, leave people feeling decimated?

These questions can be applied to our personal selves, our profession and on behalf of the individuals and families we support. But to answer them requires time to think about whether the individual answers for our personal self, our profession, and our service users harmonise or create conflict. There are no easy answers. In some cases as an individual and a social worker you may consider that both you and your service users will benefit from you having a reduced caseload to enable you to dedicate more time.

This is an important issue and the answer is one where you might consider the result is increased harmony which is deserving of more funding. But do all areas of public service require greater provision, more doctors, nurses, teachers, soldiers and police? Hey, she forgot to mention social workers! Sadly this omission was deliberate to make the point that an increase in the number of social workers is rarely voiced as a national issue.

Despite a lack of national prevalence, social workers are crucial to our country’s success.  This is because social workers stand committed to wanting to make a positive difference, to support and empower our service users to live safe and fulfilling lives. However, although social workers can be the human face of a bureaucratic policy, on occasions we also represent an impersonal faceless system.

Listen or read any criticism of the social work profession by service users and it is underpinned by a sense of dehumanisation. Somehow amidst carefully designed systems and well intentioned policies the interventions of social workers leave some people feeling despair, fear and hatred. This was never the intended outcome of the social work profession, whose ultimate goal is one of redundancy, of not being required by a well functioning society.

You may think this utopia is unrealistic and will never be achieved. I fully understand that position. It is natural to feel overwhelmed simply trying to survive the daily challenges that our personal and professional lives bring. We are only human, how can we meet the needs of humanity? When in truth the question should be: We are human, how can we not meet the needs of humanity?

This may feel like a heavy burden for social workers to carry, but I believe it is part of our DNA, an aspect of our self. Our personal lives led us to this profession and professional training supports our knowledge base and skills. We are taught to analyse and reflect on the needs of service users and our decision making processes as individual social workers.  We need to extend that reflexivity to our profession to be honest enough to own our mistakes and apply ourselves to fundamental change. We can only change ourselves not others, so let’s agree what we can do and not focus upon what others prevent us from doing.  We owe it to ourselves and humankind.

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