The Difference Between Micro, Macro and Mezzo Social Work

Sponsored by Aurora University

The social work profession is multifaceted, and the good news is these skilled practitioners are in high demand across all areas of practice. For instance, medical social workers have a projected growth rate of 20 percent by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is about three times the average rate of all occupations and the highest for any social work specialty.

Another way to look at the profession is to consider it from the three divisions or types of social work: micro, macro, and mezzo social work. These terms help categorize virtually any type of social work that these human services workers perform.

Types of Social Work

The following sections explore micro, macro, and mezzo social work. Information on the work these types of social work cover and what education is needed to enter these areas is considered.

Micro Social Work

Micro social work is one-on-one counseling with clients. These social workers help individuals with social, emotional, or health-related struggles. This work could include helping a person who is homeless find a place to live or helping a veteran transition to civilian life.

Jobs that are considered micro social work include:

  • City social services caseworker
  • Crime victim advocate
  • Family therapist
  • School counselor
  • Substance abuse counselor

Most jobs that involve micro social work require education at the master’s level because those jobs are considered clinical work.

Macro Social Work

Macro social work involves working with whole communities. These communities can be defined by geopolitical boundaries, but often, they are not. They can be neighborhoods, religious communities, or political- or cause-driven groups. The macro social worker may make or shape policy, lobby for social change, or train others to do so.

Jobs that are considered macro social work include:

  • Community organizer
  • Lobbyist
  • Professor of social policy
  • Program developer
  • Researcher

There are jobs in macro social work that can be acquired with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree, but others, like a professor or most lobbyist positions, require education beyond the bachelor’s level.

Mezzo Social Work

Mezzo social work involves working with a group of people. Sometimes this group is as small and intimate as employees who need conflict resolution and mediation services. Sometimes it is a group of strangers in a support group who share a life experience, like a recent death, problem, or addiction.

Jobs that are considered mezzo social work include:

  • Business social worker
  • Community service manager
  • Group therapist
  • Parenthood educator
  • Support group counselor

As with macro social work, whether you can obtain a job with a BSW depends on the employer and the population with which you work. Some therapist positions, for example, are clinical positions and require a license, which necessitates a master’s degree and experience in the field. Other positions, such as a community service manager, typically require a BSW.

Interconnectedness in the Types of Social Work

It’s important to understand how social workers can provide assistance across all three types of social work. Here’s a simple example to demonstrate this idea.

A medical social worker who works specifically with babies receiving neonatal care begins meeting with a new mother. After her baby experiences some complications, the mother is stressed and begins receiving therapeutic sessions with the social worker. Because this takes place in a one-on-one environment, that type of assistance would refer to micro social work. The social worker is providing individualized help, as well as therapy.

The scope of practice would extend to mezzo social work if the professional begins assisting the family. For instance, perhaps the father could be struggling with parenthood and supporting his wife. Another scenario may be that another child in the family is having difficulties adjusting to a lot of time in the hospital. In either of these cases, the social worker may meet with the entire family and provide help, such as short therapy sessions or information on services that will help the family adjust. The family is often the smallest unit for mezzo social work.

Although it may not be as common in a situation like this, macro social work could be relevant. An example would be if the social worker helps advocate in the community or the state in some way. Perhaps the baby’s medical issues are quite rare, and support is lacking for families. Or, perhaps the family is struggling to help the other child at school, and the social worker can work with the district on supporting children in these types of situations. There are several ways in which the social worker may reach out to the community or beyond for helping clients. If change needs to happen on a greater scale, then the professional will engage in macro social work.

The example shows the interconnectedness of the different forms of social work. In this process, the medical social worker performs micro (the mother), mezzo (the family), and macro (the community/state) social work.

The Future of the Social Work Profession

There is an expected job growth of 16 percent by 2026 for the social work field, according to the BLS. An aging U.S. population and the booming health care industry are two of the factors that are likely to contribute to the growth. Like most job fields, this percentage varies by specialty. Employment of child, family, and school social workers, for example, is projected to increase 14 percent by 2026, and employment of mental health and substance abuse social workers is projected to grow 19 percent. Both are growing faster than the average for all occupations, which is only 7 percent.

People with a BSW are especially qualified for positions in mezzo or macro social work. With courses like Social Work with Groups and Social Work with Communities and Organizations, the online BSW program from Aurora University Online can provide you with concrete skills that will help you support the community with which you want to work. Graduates with a BSW degree are eligible to take the examination for the State Social Work license.

Clinical social workers must have an MSW and two years of post-master’s experience in the field. AU Online offers Chicagoland’s only CSWE-accredited online MSW graduate program, which includes four optional specializations: Faith-Based Social Work, Forensics, Health Care, and Leadership Administration. You may also pursue the dual MSW/MBA or MSW/MPA degree program.

Urgent, Important, Essential: A System for Dividing Tasks

Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle is one of those nuggets I picked up years ago — probably at some time management course that followed another gem, the 80/20 rule also known as the Pareto Principle — buried somewhere in the 20% of information worth retaining.

Busy BusinessmanEisenhower divided tasks into four categories:

  1. Important and urgent [I’ll call this IU].
  2. Important but not urgent [InU].
  3. Not important but urgent [nIU].
  4. Not important and not urgent [nInU].

The principle creates a framework with which to prioritise activities and also what to do with them. Simply put:

1.  If something is IU: It’s a crisis or pressing problem. It needs to be done first and, preferably, by you unless you can delegate it. The idea is to manage these things quickly, and this category can also be known as the quadrant of necessity.

Examples:

  • Medical emergencies
  • Deadline-driven projects
  • Last minute precautions

2.  InU: These tasks are ones that require planning so they don’t become urgent. They are activities on which to focus, because they pertain to strategy and values. They create opportunity and need critical thinking. They live in the realm of the macro and in the quadrant of quality and personal leadership.

Examples:

  • Innovation and preparation
  • Exercise and relaxation
  • Relationship building

3.  nIU: Based in the quadrant of deception, these are things to avoid. They are illusory and not your responsibility. They are activities in which to minimise your investment.

Examples:

  • Interruptions
  • Some calls, meetings, (e)mail and reports
  • Many so-called pressing matters

nInU: Activities to limit or eliminate, lest they become nIU. Though they are relegated to the quadrant of waste, some serve to minimise stress and provide entertainment.

Examples:

  • Trivia and busywork
  • Some messages and email, particularly junk mail
  • Internet and social media (surfing not strategic use)

I ended up using Eisenhower’s model to help me isolate what my value-add is as a consultant, which is obviously in the Important not Urgent (InU) area. Not only are these things the most valuable for my clients, they are crucial for my business, professional and personal well-being.

Not being on-site means I can’t respond to anything IU for my clients, though there are things in this area I need to attend to in my business. Similarly, my proximity and charge out rate makes nIU activities bad value for money for my client, and I avoid them in my own business. nInU things I can’t charge for, but I do indulge in them occasionally in my own time for their stress minimising and entertainment value.

By coincidence I’m also in the middle of reading “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. The book is about “applying a more selective criteria for what is essential. [T]he pursuit of less allows us to regain control of our own choices so we can channel our time, energy and effort into making the highest possible contribution toward the goals and activities that matter.” It’s easy to see the essentialist benefit of focusing on what is important but not urgent.

In a world of hyper-connection and increasing pressure to do more and more, it’s easy to let the non-essential and seemingly urgent hijack the essential and important. “Is this urgent?” “Is this important?” and “Is this essential?” are three useful questions to keep in mind when choosing what to do next.

References:

What Else Can I Do With My MSW?

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They say unemployment is on the decline, but I can tell you as a recent graduate with a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from a top rated school that it isn’t low enough! Many from my cohort are still unemployed, and many who expected to be employees by their second year practicum were disappointed!

The University of Southern California, my Alma Mater, spent a great deal of time asserting that your MSW was more than just a degree for therapy and could be used as training for multiple work force sectors. By receiving your MSW, you learned skills needed to go into consulting, human resources, and any number of nonprofit sectors. In addition, combing these skills with other talents will create a variety of new and interesting opportunities

Though I remain unemployed, I am still using my MSW, and the skills I have gained are being used in way I would never of expected. Here are a few ways I am using my MSW that might surprise you and more importantly might give you ideas on new ways to use yours!

Documentary Interviewer:

Every single MSW had to take classes on how to interview clients and most have done many interviews themselves. These skills lend themselves directly to interviewing people for documentaries. You can interview patients at a hospice, creating personal histories of these peoples lives so that their families have something to remember them by!

Consulting:

What is a needs assessment? A systematic process for determining and addressing needs, or “gaps” between current conditions and desired conditions or “wants”.  Doesn’t that sound like a skill that might be useful in the work place. Working as a consultant allows you to put those strong assessment skills into practice in combination with your other skills to better understand what your client needs rather than what they might want.

Not only will you have the necessary skills and abilities, but you will already have experience working directly with difficult populations. A hyped up lawyer in a suit is nothing compared to staring down someone who is suffering a psychotic episode, and sometimes you still have to deal with a hyped up law in a suit when you go to court. Most people have little idea that a MSW has a backbone made of steel!

Data analyst:

Though it may require that you have some experience with statistics, a MSW’s eye for detail is important. In addition, social workers have a strong knack for understand both Qualitative and Quantitative statistic after reading over the tides of research papers during your program.

Many of you who have “Macro”  specific MSW degrees concentrated your course work with data collection and program evaluation which are both skills data analysts use on a regular basis.

One challenge that social workers face is convincing others that their degree is for more than just a clinical position, I know because I face that challenge in showing others my skills translate. Unfortunately, to do this, we have to pick up other skills and certifications along the way.

If you are using your MSW in interesting ways, let us at Social Worker Helper know in the comments below.

Intro to Social Work: Understanding Macro, Mezzo, and Micro Levels of Analysis

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Barriers to a Healthy Lifestyle: From Individuals to Public Policy via JOE

The debate about micro versus macro concentrations within the social work profession continues to rage on. For me, it was not that much of a debate until I began engaging with social workers around the world via social media. Since then, it has changed my lens of how I view the world into more of a macro thinker.

Up until the last year, I was happily living in my own microbubble.  The trend or message from others on social media is that Macro Social work has lost its appeal or the profession is being skewed into a clinical/micro focus. There also continues to be a lot of discourse about social workers’ roles on a larger stage. When students take Intro to Social Work, are we fully explaining the interconnectivity between micro, mezzo, and macro levels of analysis in social work?

Has our role been stymied by this Micro and Macro separation? In my opinion, the strength of social work is its versatility, but the profession can’t seem to get out of its own way. Rather than widen the debate, we need to strengthen the two concepts, and Social work programs need to focus on “the space between”. Mezzo social work also referred to as “meso” in other disciplines, is often left out of the conversation. Micro, Mezzo/Meso, and Macro are levels of analysis that are the cornerstones of ecological systems theory and practice. The application and understanding of these levels are not only germane to social work, but they are integral in the analysis of business, finance, politics, science, and more.

According to Social Work Degree Guide website,  it has this to say about mezzo-level social work:

Instead of working with an individual or a familial group to promote individual change, you will work with groups to focus on promoting cultural or institutional change. Because social workers practicing mezzo work face unique challenges, they generally will have experience in both micro and macro work and use this experience in tandem. You will need to be experienced with both interpersonal relations and community involvement when you choose this level of work. Read More

In a recent Twitter chat about Sustaining innovation in macro social work, the importance of macro social work came up. Most importantly, Carly Levy responded to the chat stating that “Our desire to be recognized as licensed clinicians dominates social work culture and distorts macro social work purpose”. As a direct clinical provider with a growing appreciation for Macro work, this perfectly illustrates the impasse social work is facing. Rather than clinical social work distorting macro social work, we need to examine ways clinical social workers can enhance the macro process as well as ways macro theory can enhance clinical practice.

To illustrate my point, the first therapy group I ran was about 4 years into my career. I had already been practicing family and individual work for quite some time. During this time of clinical growth in groups, the individual skills I learned dovetailed well with group work. Also, I was learning more about group work theory which enhanced my family work. Although working in groups enhanced my thinking about organizational change and the tone an organization sets, facilitating organizational change is where social work can excel. Taking clinical skills and growing them into macro skills can make for a powerful combination.

Individuals with Macro social work skills for systems analysis, community organizing, grant writing, and coalition building in policy-making positions will affect how we practice. Community Organizer, Mozart Guerrier, stressed in his TedxSyracuse talk the need for listening and consensus making. He says without listening to what people need, it will limit trust and change will not happen.

As social workers, we are often referred to as “change agents”. Change can happen through direct practice but also can be achieved through change at the organizational and community level. There is a huge space between what happens in an individual therapy session and what happens on Capitol Hill. We should attempt to get away from where change happens but how it happens.

No matter what our concentration is in graduate school, social workers all have a notion of how change happens. By making the micro distinction this distorts how change happens, and we have the tools and the talent to make change happen at many levels. It is where micro and macro meet that can cause a significant amount of change. Utilizing the macro, mezzo, and micro levels of analysis in all of our practice areas is the best holistic approach to helping our profession and our clients improve outcomes.

Geotagging Memories? A Brief Exploration of Social Work Implications

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Photo Courtesy Panoramio.com

Sometimes social workers ask me how they can connect Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or spatial analysis to their work. For macro social work, the connections are easy. We can visualize community assets, identify crime hotspots, look at the ways in which environmental hazards cluster in certain communities…the possibilities are endless. But, for clinical and micro focused social work, the connections are not as easy to draw. In this article, I want to open up this discussion in order to consider the ways place and space shape our memories and how they may hold broader implications for the use of spatially oriented technologies in social work practice.

When I reviewed an article suggested by Nancy Smyth, the dean at the School of Social Work at the University at Buffalo SUNY, I was drawn to the potential implications for social work. The article was on a recent study conducted by Michael Kahana and his colleagues at Penn State University where the participants used a game-based simulation in which they walked around a virtual town dropping off packages. The researchers then measured participants’ brain response when asked to recall where they had dropped off packages. They determined that neurons in the hippocampus act as a “brain GPS device” that stores and “geotags” memories. Put simply, their tests and brain images revealed that during the recall process, these memory geotags activate just before the participant recalls a memory.

Their interest is in the role of the hippocampus in cognition; I’m interested in some of the practical implications of these findings for social workers. Micro social workers might be able to use these types of findings to better understand how the macro environment and the notion of “place” can shape their clients’ well being. How do we work with a client who experiences a traumatic event in their home or community? If memories contain geotags, these place-based triggers could be an important area for intervention especially if they are places the client cannot avoid.

From a macro perspective, could community locations trigger collective trauma? In my work in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, I’ve observed how places can shape and inform collective memories. In the middle of the once thriving neighborhood business district lies a vacant building bearing the telltale shape of a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. Years ago, a teenager was shot and killed there while in the drive through with his mother. The restaurant closed but the building remains a scar on the landscape; a geotagged community trauma yet to be healed.

What other social work implications might the concept of memory geotags lend itself to?

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The Struggles of Being a Macro Student and How We Can All Be Supportive

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We all know that social work is a versatile field. There are many opportunities within the field to do a variety of things on a variety of levels. We all should know that all levels of work are necessary in order to successfully implement the mission of social work. Even though all levels of social work are necessary, many schools and social workers tend to put efforts in micro level initiatives. There is certainly a need for these initiatives, but focusing the majority and almost all resources on micro efforts can be a struggle for many macro students. Without proper support and resources, macro students can have a hard time during the time in a program.

Here are some of the examples of struggles I have come across and discovered for macro students. These struggles compliment and repeat some of the issues released in the Rothman Report , which you all should read if you have not had the chance.

  • Forced Micro Experiences: Everyone knows that every social work program has some forced micro component. There are some program implementing macro components in requirements, but it is predominantly micro. This probably has to do heavily with state licensure exams content and schools accommodating to their requirements. If a student knows they want to do macro work, why are they forced into micro opportunities? Yes, there are skills that all social workers need to know, but schools can certainly accommodate to the needs of macro students. Social work is what you make of it, and you can’t make much of the opportunities if you are forced into certain ones
  • Minimal Exploration Opportunities: While you are a student, you should be exploring the career fields you would like to pursue. Since social work students have a short amount of time to obtain their degree, it is hard to explore various macro opportunities if you spend half the time in a micro setting. Trying out new experiences if how we learn and how we develop our career aspirations. Without time to explore, schools are feeding us down a certain path.
  • Lack of opportunities with Social Work Programs: There are a numerous opportunities out there macro students and in some ways more flexibility, but social work program tend to focus their efforts on micro students based on the overwhelming amount of micro students and faculty. Micro classes are offered more often and micro opportunities are encouraged.
  • Quality of opportunities: With a micro focus, many schools focus their resources on those opportunities and the macro courses suffer. This causes many macro students to go outside the program to search for quality education and opportunities or not even enter the programs. I know my decision to enter my social work program was based on the macro education, and I dismissed many schools with poor macro concentrations.
  • Trouble with post-graduation employment: Since the quality of macro educations are many times sub-par, the students leaving the programs are then sub-par and may not be able to attain the macro job opportunities they desire and have to settle for a micro job. If a student has a primarily micro background, then they won’t be qualified for macro jobs without proper experience or if they obtained the job, they perform poorly. Macro students are losing positions to other professionals because their programs are preparing them better and allowing for flexibility.
  • Risk of Being Classified as an UNFIT Social Worker: This is an interesting point, but also sad at the same time. I will repeat myself again that not all social work is focused on clinical intervention, and if we only focus on clinical treatment, societal problems will not be addressed. Micro work is not for everyone. I certainly do not want to perform therapy, and I should not feel incompetent as a social worker because of it. I have heard of incidences of macro students being kicked out of their programs because they do not want to perform therapy or asked to do micro work and their field supervisors claim they are unfit social workers. There is even a person in my school that tells students to withdraw from the program if they do not want to do therapy in their field placements which is ridiculous. I don’t have to be a good therapist to be a good social worker.
  • The Constant Questioning of Goals/Intentions: Every student gets asked “What do you want to do with your degree?” This is a reasonable question to engage in conversation and learn about the individual, but for macro students it can be a challenging subject. Many experienced social workers constantly suggest ideas and have an expectation of social workers that they force on current students. Macro social work sometimes does not cross their radar as “real” social work. Also, a micro focused curriculum and field experience forces does not help students pursue macro social work. If macro students are constantly being told what they want to do is not social work and being forced into opportunities they do not want to do, then why should they purse a social work degree?
  • The Struggle to Stay Motivated: As we all know, social change takes a long time and a lot of effort. If macro students who desire to pursue social change are surrounded by people who do not want to contribute or are too burned out from their clients, then macro students can struggle with staying motivated to want to implement change. Instead of giving support, micro social workers can limit macro students’ perceptions of social workers and diminish their motivation.

There are ways that each one of us can help continue to promote macro social work and encourage students to pursue this tract. Here are some ways EVERYONE can help:

  • Never limit your definition of social work: Social work is what people make it, and as long as it is promoting social justice and ameliorate society, then it should count as social work. Never tell someone their work does not matter nor it’s not social work because you don’t think it is.
  • Ask to Help rather than give Advice: This is an issue in many fields, especially social work. Experienced social workers and fellow peers should be asking students how they can help them, rather than giving unsolicited advice. Of course, advice that is welcomed is very useful, but don’t just assume a student wants or needs to hear your perspective on social work. It can be more harmful than helpful.
  • Start Connecting: I wrote in a previous article that all social workers need to be networking! If we keep connecting people with each other, than people can find support and resources in ways they could not have on their own.
  • Unite together: I know this may seem cheesy, but many students think doing stuff on your own is easier and shows strength, but asking for help sometimes is necessary. Getting together with fellow students or asking alumni for support could be really beneficial. If students are having problems, people should offer to help or at least provide support as much as they can. A unified front is stronger than several smaller individual ones.
  • Encourage instead of Discourage: Discouragement is definitely a struggle for many macro students, and it is important to support them in their exploration process. Remember, all levels of social workers are needed, and we need to ensure all are supported through their education process.
  • Challenge and Help Change: If you think your program does not do a good job supporting macro social work students, speak up and ask for the reasons. Sometimes it’s intentional, and sometimes it is not. If things about be better, try to offer solutions or create a task force that could help. Change doesn’t happen without a challenge first.

Serving Our Veterans: Micro vs Macro (Part 3 of 4)

Part one of this series analyzed the impact of the Bonus Army, and part two looked at the survival of the Private vs. Public argument when providing services to those who fight our nation’s wars. In this third installment, I will be analyzing micro vs macro an even greater tension that has persisted from the Depression to present day, and it still continues to influence our effectiveness at serving our veterans.

Bronfenbrenn-system-bigSocial work as a field is constantly living within the Micro vs. Macro tension, as were the Bonus Army veterans also known as the Bonus Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.). At the most basic micro level, social workers aim to assist individuals in need. At the macro level, social workers aim to change policy and environmental conditions that support social change and afford individuals some level of security and autonomy. All along the way, we can observe tension among individuals and agencies, who place a higher priority on one or the other.

In the Anacostia Flats during the summer of 1932, there were certainly veterans of the B.E.F. who were there for their own personal motives, operating from a micro perspective. There were also veterans among them, who were motivated by a macro perspective, hoping to effect change for the entire veteran population. Life in Anacostia for these WWI veterans during the Bonus March had its own Micro vs. Macro tensions as a result.

During the same time veterans of the B.E.F. were impacting macro level change; the field of social work was taking a similar approach. Throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s social workers advocated for changes at the macro level, often taking the form of community organizing. Even the field of social work itself was founded in macro level approaches. Through Jane Addams’ Hull House and the settlement house concept of the late 1800’s, social work gained its foot hold as a profession by working with groups and communities, advocating for policy change, and even Addams herself was a political leader.  After a few decades however, the field of social work began to shift more toward micro level perspectives.

As time progressed and our society continued to challenge the status quo at the macro level, social workers by and large became distracted at the micro level. This change was largely fueled by an increase in Freudian ideology, which brought social workers out of the community and into their offices as individual counselors and case workers. With social work changing its focus to the micro level practice of diagnosing and counseling individual clients, the field had much less workers on the macro scale advocating for public services and had very little stake in the changing political climate of the 1960’s and 1970’s as a result. Only within the past decade or two has social work begun to step back into the macro level as a viable agent. So we observe this Micro vs. Macro tension shifting among social work over time.

As Bertha Reynolds (1935) pointed out, “social case work rather finds its function in dealing with difficulties in the relationship between individuals or groups and their physical or social environment”. Her observation, which was made during the same period as the events of the Bonus Army, was true before these events and is still true to this day. The tension between Micro vs. Macro is likely to continue to persist.

What can we learn from this? If these tensions will persist indefinitely, what’s the point? I would argue that by acknowledging the existence of these tensions, we are more apt to finding better solutions that will help us be more effective at serving our veterans for the long haul. So what are the implications of these tensions in how the U.S. government addresses it’s military veterans now? What can we do better? Stay tuned for the final segment of this series to find out.

References:

Addams, J. (1893). The objective value of a social settlement. Philanthropy and social progress (pp. 27-40). New York: Thomas Y. Cromwell.

Andrews, J. & Reisch, M. (1997). Social work and anti- communism: A historical analysis of the McCarthy era. Journal of Progressive Human Services, 8, 29-49.

Fisher, R. & Karger, H.J. (1997). Macro practice: Putting social change and public life back into social work practice. In Social work and community in a private world: Getting out in public (pp. 117-147). New York: Longman.

Perlman, H.H.(1957). Freud’s contribution to social welfare. Social Service Review, 31, 2, 192-202

Reynolds, B.C. (1935). Whom do social workers serve? Social Work Today, 2, 6, 5-8.

Seigfried, C.H. (2009). The courage of one’s convictions or the convictions of one’s courage: Jane Addams’ principled compromises. In M. Fischer, D. Nackenoff, & W. Chmielewski (Eds.). Jane Addams and the practice of democracy. University of Illinois Press.

Waters, W.W. & White, W.C. (1933). B.E.F.: the whole story of the bonus army. Mass violence in America. (1969). New York, NY: Arno Press & The New York Times.

As Consultant: What the Social Worker Already Knows (2nd in Series)

Social work professional education includes in its core curriculum some important constructs that are also vital to the social worker as consultant. In addition to reinforcing the mantra of individual change and social change, the constructs provide us with a vocabulary for discussing human behavior in the social environment.  Perhaps the most foundational of these is General Systems Theory. This theory organizes humans into individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities or IFGOC for short. Next, is Ecological Systems Perspective.

This perspective places IFGOC in an environment that we can describe. These lead logically to Sociocybernetics. This construct emphasizes behavior as the determinant of outcomes. The social worker as consultant will do well to use mastery of these toward the development of competence in Operational Research–a discipline useful in predicting outcomes.

Systems Simplified

Even if you are a social worker, systems talk can get abstract. But, that is the point, to map the complexity. Here it is as simply as drawing. General Systems Theory started by drawing circles on a sheet of paper. Ecological systems perspective drew lines connecting the circles. Sociocybernetics suggested that the connection lines were made intentionally, not by mistake. Operational research has the idea that we can predict what and how connection lines will be made.

General Systems Theory was advanced by Bertalanffy. The theory allows us to talk about the interactions between IFGOC. For the social worker as consultant, focus on the concept of holism. Each system is not simply defined by the sum of its parts. The interactions between the component parts form something different from the simple sum of parts. The social workers as consultant must master manipulation of this holism effect to define the expected outcome and manage the components to achieve that outcome.

Ecological systems perspective is credited to Bronfenbrenner. The theory allows us to talk about the relationships in and among systems. This includes the idea of individual complexity. This perspective introduces the fact that systems can be nested and interdependent. We can speak of the systems we focus on as the micro systems. They are nested within larger mezzo systems.

These are nested within still larger macro systems. Bronfenbrenner also introduced exo systems to describe those systems that are not nested with our system of focus. Systems can also be energy enhancing and energy-draining. The social worker as consultant is a functional intervention with awareness of multiple systems levels. The social worker as consultant does not see these ecological systems levels as dividing practice areas. He/she sees them as a reminder to review the potential and unintended consequences of a proposed intervention at multiple systems levels.

Sociocybernetics allows us to talk about the social contracts that provide priority to the interactions and complexity to the relationships in which humans participate. The social worker as consultant utilizes sociocybernetics to map the complexity that results when individuals relate in families, participate in groups, form organizations, and build communities. This mapping can take the form of a diagram of nested and individual circles connected by lines that denote strength of relationship, direction, and energy. Social workers typically refer to these diagrams as ecomaps.

Operational Research: The Next Step

General systems theory, ecological systems perspective, and sociocybernetics form the basic skills that the social worker as consultant will have mastered already after having completed a social work education. The social worker as consultant can combine these constructs to aid in comprehending operational research. Operational research employs systems knowledge to predict the behavior of individuals in specific environments. He/she makes predictions by specifically noting the inputs, interventions of the system, its outputs, and the feedback produced from systems operation.

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