Cultivating an Equitable and Anti-Racist Workplace

2020 was filled with unprecedented events in all facets of life, and, as many have noted across the globe, the year became a landmark for the call to action against racism.

From the incident in Central Park, where a white woman called the police on a black bird watcher, to the murder of George Floyd by police officers, and when the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor in her home were not indicted for their involvement in her murder, it is clear that racism is still very prevalent and pervasive. It reaches far and wide, including at home and in the workplace, where power dynamics and structural racism can be multiplied. 

Through his talk, “Social Work’s Role in Black Lives Matter,” Wayne Reid discussed racism’s reach into social workers’ professional lives. In the workplace, there are certain barriers that people of color face that white people do not. To address these barriers and inequities, equality, diversity, and inclusion advisory groups are often created. Too often, the burden of creating these groups and addressing racism in the workplace falls solely on people of color, when it is a fight that requires everyone’s involvement, especially those in positions of power. This is part of the push for people to go beyond being non-racist and to become anti-racist– actively fighting against racism and advocating for changes against racist policies and practices. It is an active, ongoing process, not only in one’s personal life but in professional environments as well.

Creating an Anti-Racist Workplace

Wayne works for the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), which currently has a goal to create a universal anti-racist framework that is applicable to all aspects of the social work field. This includes creating an anti-racist workplace, and Wayne and the BASW have an idea for how that would look. As Wayne described, an anti-racist workplace would have a very specific anti-racist mission statement, making sure to interview people of color, to integrate an anti-racism mentality into policies and procedures, to provide adequate anti-racism training to all staff, and to conduct annual pay reviews for employees of color to ensure they are being paid fairly relative to their white colleagues. With these steps, workplaces would have to take active steps to ensure they were discussing race within the workplace and enforcing anti-racist policies.

On top of these ideas for an anti-racist workplace, including mandatory professional development courses aimed at educating people on how to be anti-racist, anti-discriminatory, and anti-oppressive would be beneficial. There are already experts in the world of anti-racism who have done the groundwork, and their expertise can be utilized to help implement anti-racist practices within workplaces. For example, Stanford University has created an “Anti-Racism Toolkit” for managers to better equip themselves to address racism in the workplace and move towards a more inclusive environment, and the W.K Kellogg Foundation has created a Racial Equity Resource Guide full of training methods and workshops to provide structure for anti-racist professional development.

Leadership Inequality

Wayne also discussed the importance of leadership programs for people of color within their workplaces. In the US, black people only make up 3.2% of senior leadership roles, and only 0.8% of Fortune 500 CEO positions. Employers need to sufficiently invest in leadership training programs and provide the resources to ensure the success of people of color within them. Leadership programs for people of color would help address the lack of people of color in leadership positions within the social work field and beyond. For social work specifically, in conjunction with these leadership programs, employers should create programs allowing social workers of color to mentor senior staff members as well, providing insight for them regarding the challenges people of color face in the workplace. That said, while the benefits of this type of program are important, boundary setting and confidentiality are just as vital and would need to be well thought out prior to implementation.

Addressing Education

In order to assist in diversifying leadership, higher education must also be addressed. Despite the increase in people of color attending college, there is still a large imbalance in representation compared to the general US population.

For the social work field, it is important to address the accessibility of social work education programs. Because they are often expensive and have numerous requirements for entry, entry into the field is inaccessible for many. They also need to include a more deliberately anti-racist curriculum, which can be guided by people of color through their lived experiences, as well as experts in the field. The field of social work has long been dominated by white women, and that imbalance has impacted the curriculum that we use today.

Moving Forward

As long as people continue to ignore racism and the effects it continues to have, nothing will change. Wayne and the BASW’s work to integrate anti-racist education and policies into the workplace and social work schools is crucial to the future of social work and the progress of anti-racist work. Social work needs to play a large role in the changing of policies and practices to ensure that the future is more equitable for all.

Why Psychologists Are Marching Against Austerity

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As a profession, British psychologists have traditionally been slow to rush to the forefront when it comes to societal, political or social injustices. This is in spite of available information and data – the British Psychological Society, which represents psychologists in the UK, has a list of articles related to Government and Politics alone.

Dr. Libby Watson of the University of East London wrote, “Rather than sitting in ivory towers or locked in clinic rooms, we as a profession need to get out – reach out to communities in need; talk to the people with the ‘power’”. In Keith Tuffin’s Understanding Critical Social Psychology, he notes that political ‘neutrality’ has led to a lack of reflection on where psychological research and practice sit within society – notably, what ideas and values underlie certain research topics.

There has been a call to go ‘beyond the therapy room’ and for psychologists to ‘speak out’ about things that matter. ‘Things that matter’ to psychologists might include the overuse of deadly anti-psychotic drugs in dementia, the personal and social implications of psychiatric diagnoses, gender disparity in ‘attempted’ and ‘completed’ suicides (the article’s terminology), and race differentials in treatment for ‘schizophrenia’. More recently, however, the United Kingdom’s austerity measures have mattered. They have mattered a lot. The key question is – why does austerity matter to psychologists?

Arguably, psychologists’ “speaking out” action has started with petitions. There were some intra-professional actions, for example psychologists have joined initiatives to provide free psychotherapy to the poor. However, now psychologists have started to march, and they marched 100 miles from Leicester to London.

The Walk the Talk 2015 campaign was set up by psychologists who wanted to walk alongside those affected by austerity – most notably, the benefits system, food poverty, and homelessness. They state that the UK is the second most unequal country in the world; over 25% of British children live in poverty and the use of food banks has quintupled since 2010. “Social inequalities have been shown to have a detrimental impact on mental health and well-being, as well as physical health and academic achievement, across the lifespan”.

What of these claims? Take the first point, the UK benefits system. Sanctions drove one gentleman to set his car alight, with him inside. Another man hanged himself due to his disability benefits being cut and the coroner ruled the benefits cuts as an unequivocal cause. Stephanie Bottrill wrote in her suicide note, after being subject to the ‘bedroom tax’, “The only people to blame are the government”. Calum’s list, a memorial for those who have ended their lives due to cuts, put the number at 60+. And the deaths don’t end there.

Between 2011 and 2014, 90 people per month died after their Employment and Support Allowance was stopped and approaching half of these had appealed the decision; this does not support causal effect, but proportions of deaths were higher than the general population. Indeed, research from the World Health Organisation suggests that the life expectancy of people with disabilities in 2010 should be 68.6 (compared to 79.9 for people without disability) – how many ‘working age adults’ whose benefits were stopped have reached close to 68.6 years old? Research by UK mental health charity The Samaritans found that poorer men are 10 times more likely to end their lives than richer men; ideas of money and power being salient in cultures with toxic societal ideals of masculinity.

Few people would disagree that food poverty is detrimental to wellbeing. We have this understanding in all areas of Western life, from a well-known chocolate bar suggesting “You’re not you when you’re hungry”, to psychologists talking about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Maslow & Lewis, 1987). The hierarchy of needs suggests that a human needs a foundation of being well-fed and physically safe and secure to pursue other goals that facilitate wellbeing. However, it may be reductionist to suggest that food is only at the bottom of the ‘needs’ pyramid.

More broadly, food is an important ritual – friends meet for coffee, birthdays are celebrated with meals in restaurants, gifts are often edible or drinkable, people may invite close ones to their house for dinner. Food poverty can exacerbate social isolation, as one is unable to partake in such seemingly ordinary social rituals. The group Psychologists Against Austerity have specifically noted the social shame of having to attend food banks. Malnutrition affects a child’s cognitive development. A lack of breakfast has little effect on a well-nourished child, but affects malnourished children.

Homelessness, which no doubt exposes people to food poverty, paints a bleak picture of people’s psychological wellbeing, according to the American Psychological Association. Crucially, there are a number of interlinking factors that leads to lack of housing having an impact on mental wellbeing. Feeling low or ‘depressed’ is characterised by loss, powerless and guilt (not necessarily all at once, or by all theorists), problems with anxiety or anger are related to threat, substance abuse can be related to ‘numbing’ difficulties.

Add to this an uncertain, transitory lifestyle, condescending or abusive social environments, the increased risk of sexual assault and physical assault – not to mention traumatic events that might have led to homeslessness, or ongoing physical of mental health problems – and we have an utterly deplorable picture. Problems such as poor hygiene (hair, teeth, clothes, body…), sleeping lightly or sporadically, exposure to unsavoury weather conditions, and a lack of basics such as deodorant or shaving equipment have a huge part to play in our self-image and overall wellbeing.

So yes, it seems that psychologists do have a stake in the UK’s current austerity measures.

And psychologists are by no means the only group invested. The anti-austerity movement is growing across the county. Psychologists aren’t just walking with other mental health professionals. On October 4th 2015, Psychologists Against Austerity marched against austerity in Manchester, with tens of thousands of British people – from disabled people against austerity, an alliance of psychotherapists, anti-fracking groups, concerned parents, charity workers, student assemblies, human rights activists, junior doctors, university lecturers, anti-racism campaigners, politicians, trade unions, although not all of these groups got a mention in the media. Indeed, the media is reporting numbers up to 40,000 people fewer than the “100,000 and growing” number given to those who attended the march before it had even started moving.

Notable clinical psychologists David Smail wrote extensively about the effects of society on the individual – his “radical environmentalist theory of personal distress” rejects the idea that personal problems are inside an individual and their immediate environment, and advocates consideration of macro, political factors. The British Psychological Society is to hold a conference in his honour in November 2015, crucially stating “David proposed that to understand why we are unhappy, rather than insight, we must cultivate ‘outsight’ into the world around us. This perspective – which encourages personal modesty, appreciation of luck, compassion, and recognition of our common humanity – is today more relevant than ever”. More relevant than ever.

So – psychologists are marching because it’s necessary. They’re marching because it makes sense. They’re marching, crucially, because even an apolitical profession in an apolitical organsation is unable to stand by and keep quiet whilst austerity measures disempower, disable, and dismiss British citizens. Whilst people beg, and die begging. That’s not what national wellbeing looks like. That’s not what basic humanity looks like. And until things begin to change, psychologists will continue to march.

Morphic Resonance (Part 3): How We Alter It and Create Change

Finally, let me reveal my own morphic theory and a simple truth. Controversial biologist Rupert Sheldrake believes that traditions, customs and rituals are maintained throughout history and embedded in societal lore and cultures through a process of what he calls morphic resonance.  At the heart of this well-debated school of thought is the concept that energy is transferred within and between fields containing evolutionary memory that exist around us.

morphicSheldrake points out that, in order for rituals to have a “deliberate and conscious evocation of memory, right back to the first act…ritual acts must be performed with the correct movements, gestures, words, and music throughout the world.” Ok, enough of Sheldrake’s theory. It’s time for mine.

Society is habitual. It relies on repetition and routine to maintain stability and safety. Institutions such as education, marriage and family, business, the media, entertainment, religion – all depend on things happening the same – day in, day out; year in, year out; century in, century out; and so on.

Queers, disabled people, indigenous people, agnostics, atheists and pagans, independent thinkers and radicals threaten that stability and safety. We are unable to perpetuate the “deliberate and conscious evocation of memory, right back to the first act.” We refuse to “perform the correct movements, gestures, words, and music.” We change things “throughout the world.”

We alter the morphic resonance of society.

In 2004 Anglican Archbishop Whakahuihui Vercoe wanted a world without gays and, preaching that homosexuality is not a human accepted norm, tried desperately to restrict the evolution of society’s morphic resonance.

Shortly after the Archbishop had denied his prejudice I did a full moon ritual. We had to move around the backyard of a friend’s place, chanting about what we wanted to receive from the universe. Then we had to write something we wanted to be rid of on a piece of paper, burn it and eat the ashes.

Ok, we didn’t have to eat the ashes. I have a Libran ascendant and moon, so I never know whether to get into this spiritual shit or mock the crap out of it. My Capricorn sun means I use useful aspects of it.

Anyway, my point: I could not physically move around the space in the traditional way, because my capacity to co-ordinate that specific movement was impeded, or otherwise directed, by virtue that I used an unpowered wheelchair at that time.

I needed help writing and burning my riddance. But the ritual called for an undisclosed introspection.

So, I couldn’t live up to some of the “requirements” of the “theory” of the ritual. I wasn’t able to re-create the “deliberate and conscious evocation of memory, right back to the first act.” Did that make the ritual any less meaningful for me or for others in the group?

No, of course not. We knew the intent was to make fools of ourselves and invoke renewal and change. Vercoe and others like him need to understand this simple truth: It is the intent of societal traditions, rituals and norms that holds value, not the means by which we exercise that intent. It is ridiculous to get so caught up in detail. Until humanity grasps this, we queers, freaks and radicals must dutifully fulfil our purpose.

We must continue to evolve humanity’s morphic resonance.

For more on Rupert Sheldrake and morphic resonance, visit his website.

Image: www.fineartamerica.com

Morphic Resonance (Part 2): Political Ego, Rainbow Flags and Mexican Waves

Last time, I introduced Rupert Sheldrake and his theory of morphic resonance. To recap, Sheldrake believes that all living things are made up of and surrounded by energy fields that create, in essence, an evolutionary history or memory for different species of plants, animals and, indeed, human beings. The transfer of energy within and between these fields, which Sheldrake terms morphic resonance, can be used to explain everything from how an acorn “knows how to” create an oak tree, to how a human being develops from a single cell into the form we recognise as a person.

Sheldrake believes social and cultural behaviour to be influenced – if not controlled – by morphic fields and morphic resonance. He uses the analogy of a hive of bees or nest of termites, which are “like a giant organism, and the insects inside it are like cells in a super organism…The hive or nest functions and responds as a unified whole”, even though made up of thousands of individual insects.

imagesAn American researcher, Wayne Potts, showed that the rate of movement between dunlins (small wading birds) in a flock-banking manoeuvre (and that’s not depositing a cheque or withdrawing cash) – which he termed the “manoeuvre wave” – was 60 to 80 milliseconds faster than their ability to respond individually to stimuli. It was “much faster than could be explained by any simple system of visual cuing and response to stimuli,” says Sheldrake. Is the Mexican wave possible just because people are watching to see when it’s their turn, or is each person responding as one small part of a group movement?

You’ve only got to be part of a crowded nightclub dance floor to feel that sense of being part of a collective movement that is somehow bigger than your particular dance moves.

Collective behaviour, such as rioting or lynching mobs and football teams, has been studied by social psychologists, as well as social phenomenon like fashions, fads, rumours, crazes and even jokes, which spread rapidly across large numbers of people and nations. Sheldrake proposes that these are ways that people are co-ordinated in local, national and international morphic fields.

The gay identification with rainbows, the tendency for people to patronise those they perceive as disabled and the egotistical antics of politicians – could these all be evidence of this?

Even our language – in organic metaphors like the body politic, head of state and the long arm of the law – attests to the notion that we think of ourselves as a single organism.

But most interesting is the way traditions, customs, rituals – and even basic behaviour we understand as manners – are maintained throughout history, embedded in societal lore and cultures. Sheldrake observes that the key to this behavioural endurance is conservatism and the necessity for things to be done ‘the right way’. This is where I believe people who identify as queer, disabled – or, in some other way, alternative to societal or cultural norms – have a huge role in ensuring human evolution.

More about that next time.

For more on Rupert Sheldrake and morphic resonance, visit his website.

Image: www.faena.com

Morphic Resonance (Part 1): Our Collective Memory

The theory of morphic resonance was developed by biologist Rupert Sheldrake and is a concept of collective memory, similar to Jung’s collective unconscious. In a nutshell, morphic resonance challenges, amongst other things, the traditional view of evolution.

Sheldrake and others before him suggest that laws of nature are more like habits. As such laws have changed throughout the course of time. If the universe has habits, then the whole of life, says Sheldrake,”[involves] inherent unconscious memory; habits, the instincts of animals, the way in which embryos develop, all [reflect] a basic principle of inherent memory within life.”

Tafel_06Sheldrake believes that this “inherent memory within life” exists in energy fields, or morphogenetic (form-shaping) fields around and within organisms. He believes that these fields contain the information that enables, for example, an acorn to grow into an oak tree.

He argues that the acorn contains the material (DNA) for an oak tree, but not the “knowledge” of how to form the tree, in the same way that a pile of bricks can’t build themselves into a house. You need a plan and a builder.

He points to the remarkable ability of organisms to repair damage as evidence of this holistic property of morphogenetic, or morphic, fields, for example, the way an oak tree fragment can grow into another oak tree. He goes on to propose that “each species has its own fields, and within each organism [including human beings] there are fields within fields.” These fields contain information about the form of the whole body, as well as limbs, organs, tissues, cells and so on.

Sheldrake’s hypothesis is that “these fields…have a kind of built-in memory derived from previous forms of a similar kind.” He believes that there is a connection between similar fields over time and that “the field’s structure has a cumulative memory, based on what has happened to the species in the past.” This is the process of morphic resonance.

Are you still with me? Good, because this is where it gets interesting…

Sheldrake reckons that organisms can and do inherit the characteristics and behaviours of others similar to them, without being directly descended from them, through morphic resonance. He cites the phenomenon of the simultaneous occurrence of bluetits drinking the cream off the top of delivered milk in Europe in the 1920s as evidence.

This phenomenon began in Southampton UK, then happened in other places 50 and 100 miles away, finally spreading as far as the Netherlands. It was presumed that the behaviour spread by imitation, but apparently bluetits don’t fly more than four or five miles. Even more interesting is that, after around ten years during which time milk was not delivered because of the first World War, the phenomenon reoccurred, suggesting that a morphically resonant connection existed despite a gap of several generations of bluetits.

So, where am I going with this?

Well, Sheldrake proposes that this morphic resonance exists at a human, societal level within and among social groups, accounting for social norms, traditions and rituals.

Next time, I’ll explain this further and propose my own related theory about how people in minority groups change society.

Meanwhile, for more on Rupert Sheldrake and morphic resonance, visit his website.

Image: www.sheldrake.org

Happy World Social Work Day 2014: A Profession To Be Proud Of

Celebrating Social Work may seem like a pointless exercise, or even more cynically, a desperate attempt to save Social Work’s failing reputation. However, what celebrations like this provide is a real opportunity to improve what is already a genuinely important profession. Today, social media is flooded with discussions about Social Work and talks are being held internationally about what we do and why we do it.

globeIt is important to remember, however, that Social Work is not about the Social Worker; it is about those we serve. Whilst Social Workers may currently be receiving a very negative press in Britain due to a number of high profile child deaths, we must not lose hope that we can make the necessary changes to create a Social Work that our Service Users and the public are proud of.

We must also remember that Social Work is so much more than Child Protection. Social Workers practise in schools, elderly homes, prisons, mental health settings and in charities, to name but a few places. Wherever there are people in need, there will most likely be a Social Worker trying to reach them.

We need to use social media and news platforms, like today, as a means of highlighting how our Service Users need Social Work as a profession to change and improve. We need to ascertain the wishes and feelings of those we help and support and encourage them to join in the discussion. Only through honest and open dialogue can we develop into a truly effective profession and one that is powerful in creating social change.

Social media is a fantastic arena in terms of gathering anybody and everybody’s opinions on a matter. It is not enough, to simply retweet or favourite only the positive remarks about our profession. We must acknowledge criticism where it is constructive and not become defensive when another’s experience of Social Work does not match our own.

Social Work is not perfect and all Social Workers know this. However, when we put those who we seek to help at the centre of what we do, we are on the right track to making world-wide positive change. After all, it is the people we work with who make what we do worthwhile.

Dan is a young man I have worked with since he was fourteen and I was nineteen. He’s now coming up to twenty and as I have watched him develop into an adult, he too has watched me develop from student Social Worker to qualified professional. We have both watched each other grow up and consequently have a great professional relationship with frequent honest talks about his offending behaviour.

The last time I saw him, we were sitting in a Court prison cell together, as he awaited trial for a potential fourth custodial sentence. Dan had been so insistent that he would not find himself in this position again and I had been clear that the thought of seeing him sent to prison for a fourth time was getting too much for me to deal with. The last time I watched the Judge sentence him to ten months, I burst into tears in the Court.

Dan, did not think I would turn up to the Court cell that day. He thought like everyone else, his parents, his siblings, his friends and his girlfriend, he would have upset and disappointed me too much to come. No one else attended that day. I will always remember walking into the cell and seeing Dan look up at me. “I don’t get why you do this job,” he said” “You could do  anything else. Something that doesn’t upset you”. I responded, “but then I wouldn’t be here sitting with you now, would I Dan?” We sat there for a few moments in silence. Dan eventually replied, “no, I guess not… Thanks for that. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Photo Credit: ifsw.org

Learn How To Be A Consultant Series with Dr. Michael Wright

In case you missed the phenomenal chat with Dr. Michael Wright, I have compiled his Social Work Consultant series into one article, and I have attached the link to the archived chat. This will allow you to easily access the vast amount of information he provides in his Consultant series.

Series 1. Defining the Social Worker as a Consultant

Social Workers are uniquely qualified to operate as consultants at all ecological systems levels. Our mandate of individual change and social change ensure that we are always mindful of the consequences of individual creativity and organizational innovation. Our ethical parameters provide a clear process for reviewing policy, corporate decision making,… Continue Reading »

Series 2. As the Consultant, What the Social Worker Already Knows

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… Continue Reading »

Series 3. As the Consultant, What the Social Worker Must Learn

A Matter of Roles (and Rolls?) Consider that, as consultant, you must gather the ingredients, the cooking pans, the oven, the electricity, and the dinner guests. You cannot simply show up with napkins and a winning personality. The ability to plan and manage complexity across systems bakes success into the…Continue Reading »

Series 4. Managing Your Consulting Business

The social worker will certainly be skilled in connecting with and informing clients. The social worker as consultant will also need to manage a business. Social work tends to attract persons whose primary concern is not money, who do not typically publicize their achievements, who favor trust-based relationships, and who… Continue Reading »

Series 5. Four Context for the Social Worker as a Consultant

Launching and sustaining any business depends on three things: Development of a brand, marketing of brand, and truth in advertising. In other words, first, you have to come up with something to sell. Second, people have to hear about and understand what you are offering. Third, your product or service…Continue Reading »

Series 6. Consulting with Start-ups

BUSINESS PLAN The first and most important task for any start-up is a two-page executive summary outlining your business model. In two pages, you need to be able to summarize the market, operations, management, and financial projections of your new company. It must have real information (not fluff and wishes),… Continue Reading »

Series 7. Ethics of the Social Work Consultant

I am nearing the end of the “Social Worker as Consultant” series (only 1 post remaining). I am going to publish the complete series as a text book. I am soliciting your help. Would you like to write a chapter for the book? Let me know your ideas. I think… Continue Reading »

Series 8. Educating the Social Worker as a Consultant

THE CURRENT SOCIAL WORK CURRICULUM: The standard social work education curriculum has 5 areas of inquiry: Practice Methods, Policy, Ethics, Human Behavior in the Social Environment, and Social Research.  The social worker as consultant may organize these into two categories: Systems of Practice with Human Behavior and Social Mechanisms. “Systems… Continue Reading »

CSWE Film Festival Series: Finding Refuge

by Maya Navon

refugee placard

Finding Refuge emerged from an extremely challenging yet life-changing college course. When the three filmmakers entered the course “Producing Films for Social Change,” we had no idea that we were about to begin an emotionally charged, fast-paced, and eye-opening period of our lives. In September 2012, we did not know how to use a camera, edit a clip, or even write a treatment.  Over the course of 3.5 months, we learned each and every aspect of creating a film, from the research stage to post-production, and emerged with a 20-minute piece that we were proud to share.

The idea for Finding Refuge stemmed from a class discussion about the topic of refugees. Armed with this very broad topic, we preceded to contact various refugee organizations. After weeks of trying to find just the right niche in this realm, we finally made a breakthrough with the connection to Natasha Soolkin, director of the New American Center in Lynn, MA. We knew that we wanted to focus on refugee resettlement in the United States; particularly, the various challenges and triumphs newly resettled refugees face when they arrive in the United States. However, we also knew that this topic would have no impact without a personal story. We needed a refugee to share his or her experiences, and it would be no small feat to find someone. Luckily, Natasha had just the person for us who would bring a voice to this issue: Mani.

Once we connected with Mani, the documentary finally took shape. We spent countless hours interviewing Mani and his family, touring his home and office, and getting a glimpse into his new American life. We also spoke to a wide variety of experts and workers in the field of refugee resettlement to gain a broader understanding of the journey from a place of turmoil to a new life in the United States. In a few months we had our final product: a piece shedding light on refugee resettlement through the story of one courageous, hard-working, and resilient man.

Our connection with Mani extended far beyond filmmaker and subject. He touched our lives with his story and made us realize the true meaning of strength. After spending 17 years in a refugee camp, Mani managed to keep his spirit and his thirst for success alive. The perpetual smile on his face reminded us to always stay positive, even in the face of hardship.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7xgRqqGDD4

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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