Social Work Day at the United Nations

Social Work Day at the UN 2007 Photo Credit: Monmouth University

In September 2015, 193 world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. If these Goals are completed, it would mean an end to extreme poverty, inequality, and climate change by 2030. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Agenda is a plan of action for people, the planet, and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom.

The Agenda recognizes that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. All countries and all stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnership, will implement this plan.

It resolves to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet. The agenda is determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets demonstrate the scale and ambition of this new universal Agenda. They seek to build on the Millennium Development Goals and complete what they did not achieve.

They seek to realize the human rights of all and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social, and environmental. The Goals and targets will stimulate action over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet, and social workers plan to be an important part of this transformation.

The International Federation of Social Workers and the International Association of School of Social Work are pleased to announce the 34th Annual Social Work Day at the United Nations is scheduled for Monday, April 17, 2017, from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Monmouth University School of Social Work will begin registration on March 20, 2017.

Social Work Day at the UN is a gathering place for people around the world who are working to make a difference. For 34 years students, practitioners, and educators have been convening at the UN to learn more about the United Nations, global goals, innovative projects, and issues related to increasing outcomes for women, children, and families around the world.

Where are the Social Workers, and Why Are They Missing from the Global Conversation?

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Human rights, economic inequality, access to clean water, and improving educational outcomes are consistent narratives mentioned in the media on a daily basis. Where are the social workers, and why are we missing from the national conversation?

Media outlets are constantly reporting on the challenges and barriers facing teachers, nurses, and law enforcement. However, the social work community appears to be invisible. There is no doubt in my mind that Social Workers are the restorative power and profession of hope, but this power must be manifested into united action. The current structure of our profession promotes fragmentation and isolation of social workers with different focuses into smaller groups.

Social Workers are the single factor that permeates through every spectrum affecting the human condition. Social workers are in hospitals, schools, social service agencies, care facilities, prisons, and police departments. Although we may not use the title, social workers can be found holding positions in the government, private sector, nonprofits, and even in Congress.

I believe that removing barriers preventing intra-communication, collaboration, and sharing of ideas and resources within our profession is the single most important factor in solving issues facing our communities as well as uniting our profession. With the austerity cuts to public agencies, we must be even more innovative in pooling our resources and responding by not being invisible anymore.

Uniting Social Workers with different areas of focus would be the most powerful force needed to address the important issues facing society today. Our different focuses are not our weaknesses, but our strongest attributes collectively. But, we must first elevate our profession’s presence on the global stage.

We must double our public relation efforts in showing our contributions around the world and in our local communities. As social work month starts on March 1st, it’s the best opportunity for us to elevate our profession in the global conversations on poverty, inequality, and human rights.

World Social Work Day 2016

On March 15, 2016, please help @SWHelpercom make the #socialwork trend world-wide on March 15, 2016, on our most important global day of the year. I am asking everyone to tweet out your thoughts, social work resources, research, articles, or just say Hello World using the hashtag #SocialWork all day long. You can utilize Hootsuite or TweetDeck to schedule tweets throughout the day if you are extremely busy.

Social Work allies and organizations who have social workers working within them, join us on this day by tweeting out articles, resources, information, and research to share with our profession.

Children’s rights/advocacy groups and family advocacy groups, we want to hear from you too. Share your thoughts, articles, information, and/or resources social workers should be familiar with.

Let’s see if we make Twitter History on this upcoming World Social Work Day!

Global Social Work Agenda and Social Development

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Recently, I had chance to watch “The Inequality Movie” narrated by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich where it outlines how the United States has one of the poorest distribution of wealth in the world. This was a great movie highlighting the need for change on the legislative and policy levels. Although the film focuses on inequality in the United States, it is no surprise this is an issue faced by many societies around the globe. In response to the inequality around the world, Social work has developed it’s first global response to the issues of inequality and the distribution of wealth.

F1.mediumIn the last four years, three lead organizations facilitated conversations on each developed continent to address the cause and solutions for those most effected by inequality. Through the leadership of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW) and International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), social workers from around the wold are attempting to problem solve and develop actionable measures to address inequality.

The Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development: First Report -promoting social and economic equalities at first appearance seems like a humongous effort, but it demonstrates the ability of the profession to works towards collective impact in coordination of efforts to improve outcomes for those we serve.

The report examines the unique conditions of each continent and how social workers presented their solutions. Policy changes and macro interventions were at the heart of this report.

Africa

Social Workers in this forum called upon the UN to develop regulations to curb this process. They also noted that there was a huge disconnect between social policy and those most affected by it.  Solutions need to be more locally driven.

Asia Pacific

Social work is getting more organized in this region focused on disaster relief, more direct engagement with consumer groups, and respect for indigenous peoples.

Europe

The primary problem is drastic cuts in programs since the economic crisis in 2011.  The group gathered evidence of how these programs being cut increased suicide, joblessness, and homeless rates. They have placed emphasis on health inequalities to treat these issues are more of a public health problem.

Latin America Caribbean

Politics in this region have often quieted more macro-efforts  however their  voice is getting louder. The focus has been on more community organization and involve clients in more decision making.

North America

The CSWE (Council on Social Work Education, USA), NASW (National association of social workers, USA) and Canadian Association of Social Workers developed several guidance documents to deal with issues of inequality and poverty.

Conclusion

As a result of these conversations the theme became “Asserting Your Voice“.  The Global Social Work agenda about Promoting Social and Economic equality will be based on the following values and actions:

•• The cornerstone of a thriving economy is a stable, well-resourced and educated community.

•• People are happier and wellbeing is better for all in more equitable societies.

•• When people have a collective voice, they are more able to advocate for their rights and participate in decision-making processes resulting in better wellbeing.

Social Work clearly have a lot to offer the world. The theme of inequality is at the heart of our practice. Problem solving inequality seemed like a grandiose project, but the global social work community broke it down into manageable steps.  I hope this inspires you to let your voice and the voice of the individuals you serve be heard.

Reference

Wilkinson, R. and Pickett, K. (2009) The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone. Harmondsworth: Penguin

Money: What Rich Social Workers Do To Make More

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Ask any random social worker on the street what the number one complaint in social work is and they’ll say it’s the money (or, rather, the lack thereof).

This is not a new complaint and not likely one to go away in the next several years. Social work has long been associated with volunteerism and poverty and it seems that the more good we try to do, the harder it is to make a living doing it.

And if it wasn’t hard enough for those of us who work in the field, it’s even worse for many of our clients. Ironically because of often limited resources those of us who are trained to do more just aren’t financially empowered to do so.

But why is that? Why aren’t more social workers making more money? Better yet, what are rich social workers doing that the rest of us are not?

Suzy, Steadman + Brené

A while back I wrote about three amazingly wealthy social workers and outlined how they had built their enormous wealth.

Besides all being linked to Oprah in some way (which never hurts), they all share the common variable in that they each created unique products or services that they then sell to those who want and can afford them. In turn they’re able to not only take better care of themselves, but they also  create more time to do more of the things they love.

Not only is this a good strategy to create wealth, but it allows you to serve many more people than you could one-on-one.

That’s Not Social Work, Is It?

The universally accepted definition of social work is that:

Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work.  Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing. – International Federation of Social Work 2014

Basically, we help people grow and cooperate with their environment to reach their maximum potential.

Traditionally, the methods to do this have been through providing services such as community programs, case conferences, home visits, counseling sessions, advocacy meetings, policy developments, administrative delegations and personal burnout (just kidding about that last part…kind of). And rightly so. In order for social work to work there must be practitioners on the ground to help clients meet their goals. Without them social work would cease to exist as we know it.

Now in the business world, these services are actually called products and services and they’re no different from the products and services that rich social workers create, except that in the traditional social service work-world social workers don’t create the product, they are the product.

I call that getting swindled and pimped. ~ (Macklemore’s words, not mine.)

Case Study

Now stay with me. We’re going to look more closely at Brené Brown: a tri-degreed social worker (I just made that word up and I like it), a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, and a rich social worker. Brené offers a great opportunity to take a closer look at the idea of how a social worker might create wealth through offering his or her own products and services while still working within a social work system.

I got a chance to hear Mrs. Brown speak at the National Association of Social Worker’s Conference in 2014. She was every bit the engaging presenter that you’d expect her to be. As mentioned in  the above-referenced article, Brené has managed to expand her social work efforts to the masses and in the process she’s become very, very rich.

So how did she do it? She created products.

Not only has Brené published several books  for the commercial market (not just for academics) – two of which are New York Times’ #1 Best Sellers – but she has a blog, has authored several CD’s, she’s created online classes, and she speaks at various events. So even though she has a salaried position as a university research professor, she still finds time to create products and offer high-priced services.

In short, Brené is a product creation machine. And you know what she does with those products, don’t you? She sells them and creates for herself multiple pay days per year.

Go’head Brené!

Brené Brown on Empathy

Motivation For Creation

So why would a social worker go “off the grid” and create multiple products and services, and what does this mean for you?

Well, one reason obviously is to have a way to make more money, but if your only motivation for creation is to make more money I guarantee you’re doing it wrong.

As social workers we often hear about the magical, mystical legend called “self-care.” Sadly, far too many of us continue to ignore its routine practice until we find ourselves so far down the rabbit hole of burnout that the only choice we have left is to cut our losses and run.

That’s sad and should not be (yes, I used the “s” word).

But the act of creation has it’s own kind of magic in it too. Studies show (here’s one) that when you take the time to focus your energy in a way that is creatively stimulating  in order to bring a new thing into existence  it can have tremendous benefits on your mental, emotional, and even physical health.

But I’m sure you knew that already.

The Missing Piece

What you probably didn’t know is that most social workers have no idea how to create a product or service that they might sell to someone and generally, unless we’re talking private practice, it’s a wildly foreign idea.

In the upcoming weeks I’ll share with you the process of what it takes to use your creativity and package it into a sellable product or service, but in the meantime why not schedule some time to reconnect with your inner creative? Write, paint, sing, read, connect, ski, cook, draw, climb, dance; pretty much do anything that pulls out the creative side of you and try to see if you can assess your level of prowess compared with someone else not as skilled. Those gaps may provide the very clues you need to identify  where your opportunity for product development may lie.

But for now, answer this question:

How would my life change if I were able to create and package my expertise and passion that others could then purchase to improve their lives?

The more clearly you can describe this, the better.

Finally, if you you know someone that could benefit from this, please pass it on!

Not an Average Day in the Office: Social Workers from the US to Madrid Come to UK Workplaces for a Day of Unique Learning

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Social workers from across the world will be turning up at workplaces in the UK for a series of seminars on the final day of the International Federation of Social Workers’ (IFSW) European Conference and Social Services Expo in September.

The event hosted by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) aims to give practitioners a chance to learn about an area of practice in a real-life setting while also building links with colleagues in other countries to further their learning and development.

Ruth Stark, President of IFSW, said: “There will be presentations, workshops, meeting people who use services and colleagues from across the globe. These will look at new ways of working but also establish ongoing networks which will be supported by BASW and IFSW for future exchange and mutual learning.

“We do not want just a one-off talking shop. We are investing in new ways to stimulate the thinking that will be needed in the years to come of how we can co-construct with the people we work with to find better ways of achieving the outcomes that enable people to lead better lives.”

The seminars will include work with Roma families. A number of local authorities and NGOs recognise that with the discrimination experienced by families in parts of Europe, many have been moving north to escape.

“Listening to families tell of their experiences of housing, health and school systems that discriminate on the grounds of ethnicity, and bullying and intimidation from those in authority, speak to the feelings of exclusion that many of us joined social work to combat,” said Ms Stark.

“But in reality, how do we work with people who have been displaced from their homeland and find themselves in countries where they can live together inclusively?”

There are also new issues of language, culture and religion for generations that are subsequently born in a new country. Different generations have different languages that could cause tension among families. How are social workers equipped to deal with it?

Ms Stark added, “Sharing knowledge not only within our own teams but from across Europe and beyond will enable us to understand these cross-border issues more intelligently and therefore improve the quality of our work.”

The seminars will include how social workers in France or Sweden work with mental health issues – what laws cover deprivation of liberty and how social workers are involved in protecting human rights. And do the people who use the services experience the same frustrations as those in the UK?

In the Nordic countries, the criminal justice systems are held up as more progressive than those in the UK, but there are still horrific crimes of violence. A joint presentation from Scotland and Sweden will show how partnership working can help boost knowledge in key areas and how reduction of violence programmes in many countries are learning from each other.

In child protection, the seminars will cover how countries in the post-soviet era are developing models of intervention. Are they evolving new methods that would help in this complex area of work? Some countries treat child abuse investigation as solely the remit of law enforcement agencies like the police, while in the UK it is a joint responsibility between police and social work.

Other subject areas include children in public care – how are countries across the world responding to growing calls from victims of institutional abuse for social justice? Some have given compensation and some have held public inquiries but none have really tackled the behaviour of those with power and control who commit offences against children.

Good practice in public care will be the focus of a seminar organised by the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS) and the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration. This will take in the principles of the Kilbrandon Report – needs not deeds – which underpin the children’s hearings system that has been operating in Scotland since 1970.

A seminar in Renfrewshire will focus on some of the work in the Netherlands and Denmark to create dementia-friendly living environments, enabling people to have a more “normalised” life in their later years. This could revolutionise how joint health and social care budgets are used more effectively.

South Lanarkshire will host a seminar on social work education. The authority has a renowned reputation for the quality of its student social workers – some winning Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW) awards – and is keen to share its knowledge of good quality training. Its particular problem is a large geographical area where it has to “grow its own” – a challenge faced by many parts of Europe from Finland and Sweden to Spain, Greece and Portugal.

Ruth Stark said, “These seminars will lead to international networks that will continue to support social workers’ learning and development. There is much to learn from our European colleagues – come and join us!”

IFSW

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