How Close Are You To Your Workmates?

When I hear the word ‘relationships’ I most often think of those in life we are closest to; family, friends and romantic partners.  However in this article, I want to reflect on a kind of relationship that we don’t often hear too much about – and that’s the relationships we form with the people we work with in paid (or voluntary) employment.

Work relationships can be multi-faceted and complex.  We can form close bonds and friendships, spending time with colleagues outside of work hours and becoming quite close in our personal lives.  If we’re lucky, I think, we can find that our work and personal lives blur especially in a job we enjoy with people we like, going to work can feel like a pleasure rather than a chore and meetings can be a bit like a social occasion.

Or, we can be in the polar opposite situation. We might find we don’t really share the same values or interests as our workmates, and so keep our relationships simply professional.  Or worse, we can actively dislike someone we have to work with, and have to navigate this tricky dynamic day-in and day-out.  This can be incredibly difficult and stressful, particularly when you have to work closely on the same projects, or with the same clients.

When I add it up, I’ve worked in 20 or so different employment roles over the past 15 years, including full-time, part-time, contracting and volunteer roles.  This number is high partly because of all the part-time jobs I’ve had over the 10 years I studied at university, partly because I’m an independent contractor at times, and partly because in truth, I love variety in my work and having a number of projects on the go at any one time.

Having a lot of different jobs has meant that I’ve had to form working relationships with quite a large number of people.  Some have been wonderfully close and supportive people who I still maintain contact with now one of which has even become my partner of seven years.  Others sadly have been incredibly unpleasant, passive-aggressive, dysfunctional relationships that have caused a great deal of stress and sorrow.  Luckily, I can say with honesty that I don’t have any of those types of relationships in any of my current roles – although many people unfortunately do.

So what have I learned, through managing all of these different work relationships?  If anything, I think it would be that in any relationship, be it work or otherwise, the only person whose behaviour I realistically have any power to change is my own.  While I completely believe in healthy conversations and working things out wherever possible, I’ve had to accept at times that for whatever reason, I simply do not get along with a particular person.  In these cases I’ve learned that the best I can do is moderate my own behaviour and not let another person affect my personal and professional integrity.

Also, I think it’s important not to sweat the small stuff too much at work.  You can’t expect to get along with everyone, and even when you do, everyone has a bad day sometimes.  When you do have that question mark, it’s also okay to ask, “Hey, what’s up?  I might be totally wrong, but did I do something to annoy you?” Or, “Are you okay?  You seem not quite yourself today?”  If someone chooses to say, “I’m fine!” when obviously they are not, then at least you’ve done what you can to resolve any potential issue.

These small things might seem relatively obvious and straightforward, but I’ve found that simple does work.  Our work colleagues are often the people we spend the most time with, and how functional or healthy these relationships are can have a huge effect on our general stress levels and overall wellbeing.  For that reason alone I think it’s important to cultivate healthy relationships in the workplace as much as possible and, where we can’t, maybe even ask ourselves if it might be time to move on.

Vocation as an Expression of Your Soul


Have you done the math? If you are employed full-time that generally means that you are at work an average of 8 hours per day, 5 days a week, for a total of 40 hours. Give or take. So, 40 hours a week multiplied by 50 weeks a year – accounting for some much-needed vacation time – equals 2000 hours. We have 8760 hours in a year. If we are lucky, we sleep away 2920 hours which works out to almost 40% of our remaining time spent in our vocation.

If this data is not enough to support how important it is to love what you do, then I don’t know what is!

We are Meant to Work and Play. What if We Can Do Both at the Same Time?

The reality is that many of us spend additional hours thinking about work, contemplating our careers, pondering workplace dynamics and solving problems related to work in our “free” time. At the end of the day, a great deal of energy – physical, mental and emotional – is expended in the fulfillment of our work responsibilities.

Work is not meant to be drudgery – something to be avoided and dreaded. We are meant to be active, to contribute, to serve. There is a time for work and a time for rest – a time to produce and a time to play.

What if we considered that our chosen vocation was just another opportunity to express the truth of our soul? What if you could actually work in a job that was fulfilling for you – one in which you had a sense of meaning – one where you experienced great joy and excitement? A job where you had fun!

What if you created a career that offered you all that you yearn for – those things that money can’t buy?

Work Life Balance – Yeah, right!

What is all this talk about work/life balance anyway? Is that to say we aren’t living when we are working? I’m sure that sounds as silly to you when you read it as it does to me when I write it! The best way to create the kind of balance we are yearning for is to wholeheartedly embrace all of who we are and to bring that fully to all that we do – to connect on a soul level.

Think of your soul as the place where your purest self resides – the truth of who you are at your core – stripped of roles, relationships, and obligations.

What I am suggesting here requires that we dig deep into our stores of self-compassion. It is a no brainer that we strive to be a vessel of compassion for others – especially in the role of a helping professional. The well will run dry if there is no expression of self-compassion.

In a place of self-compassion, you will create a space of grace for those hard-to-accept characteristics you discover, and you will find the courage to express more readily your natural gifts in the world.

Fun, freedom, relaxation, joy – these are not activities – they are states of being. Fun is an energy. Freedom is a state of mind. Relaxation is a presence. Joy is a foundational emotion.

If your soul had an expression, what would it say?

How does the expression of your soul feel?

I realize these are not necessarily easy questions to answer in a moment or two, unless you have already been exploring this in your life. Approach the pondering with a sense of curiosity and a willingness to discover something new about you. And have fun!

Let’s get started!

What precious gems did you uncover in response to these soulful questions?

How can you integrate what you have learned into your vocational life?

For the Love of Money: 5 Observations on Social Workers & Money from the 2014 NASW Conference in Washington, D.C.

The climate of social work is changing. Over the last several years while businesses have moved towards embracing greater social missions, more and more social workers have begun to embrace the field of business and entrepreneurship.

From conversations about money and finance to the increase of social workers starting their own for-profit ventures, social workers are expanding their knowledge on the monetary side of helping.

In fact, in the last two decades we’ve seen a rise in Schools of Social Work like the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis and the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan offering advanced training in entrepreneurship, management, and business, and contributing to new models of business within the corporate environment.

Founder of The Center for Financial Social Work, Reeta Wolfsohn, makes the observation that it’s taken some time for social work to embrace the importance of money and financial education, stating that for years the majority of participants certified by the Center have  not been social workers but other members in corporate America.

However, evidence of this increased interest on the topic of business and entrepreneurship by social workers was most notably apparent at the recent NASW Conference in Washington, D.C..

During the four-day conference, and especially among the conversations at the Financial breakout sessions, I personally observed several nuances that indicated an increased readiness on the part of social workers to talk openly about their not-so-secret desires for more money and increase their prowess in making it.  Specifically, I left the conference with five observations that I hope will help us all feel more comfortable when speaking on the topic of money and business.

Observation #1. Social workers struggle with feelings of unworthiness and shame around money

One might assume because social workers spend so much time talking about self-worth and actualization, we’d have those topics in the bag, and we do on many subjects. We pride ourselves on being able to move our clients from disabling feelings of shame and guilt to more empowering feelings of confidence and pride that enable them to make progress in their development.

However, many social workers struggle with feelings of shame and unworthiness when it comes to the topic of money.

Sometimes it’s because social workers don’t feel like they have enough money and are in debt, other times they may feel ashamed to even desire more money or that it doesn’t align with social work values. And many times social workers just feel incompetent to handle their money or have more of it in their lives.

Social work researcher Brené Brown says that “shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough. Shame erodes our courage and fuels disengagement,” and while we agree with this statement and work with our clients to eradicate it in their experience, many of us allow these same disabling feelings to fester around the topic of money.

I was able to note this in many of my fellow colleagues because I’ve seen it in myself. However, the second thing that I noted gave me hope that our approach to money within the profession was changing.

Observation #2. Social workers want to stop feeling guilty about wanting to be rich

There are hundreds (possibly hundreds of thousands) of social workers who want to talk about money and who want to be rich – and  I mean really rich. And not only are these social workers ready to talk, they’re ready to revolt.

At the Conference, I watched brave social workers stand one-by-one and voice their desires to talk about wanting to be wealthy. They were tired of feeling lonely and ashamed, they said, of having aspirations for wealth but feeling as if they had no safe place within the profession to explore and express these desires.

I personally found it interesting that, despite all of the sparsely attended Financial breakout sessions at the conference throughout the week, the one containing the  “Rich Social Worker” presentation, which was held on the final day of the conference, packed a full-house. This was confirmation for me that, when given a forum to talk about money and wealth, social workers are ready to be included in the discussion.

Observation #3. Social workers (generally) don’t know how to make money, but they know that it can be done

One of the things I love about social workers is that we’re tenacious – we don’t give up – and even when we don’t know a thing (which can be quite often), we know how to persevere until we do.

At the Conference many social work entrepreneurs I met shared stories of how they had used their social work skills to create success in their various ventures. And while their stories differed, what was constant was the drive and determination to figure out how something could be done.

When faced with a problem of competency, social workers know that  if we ask enough questions, conduct enough research,  and experiment with enough theory we’re bound to move closer and closer to our goal. Not only was this the story of conference presenters Merry Korn, founder of Pearl Interactive Network, and James Townsend of the Townsend Group, but it’s the story of countless social workers who have ventured into the business world and found success.

Observation #4. Social workers are very generous and want to use their wealth to create more good in the world.

The fact that social workers are generous is not a new idea, but many are limited in their ability to be as generous as they want to be simply because of their financial resources and limited expertise in the way of massive giving.

I personally spoke to social workers at the conference that admitted their financial challenge in being able to attend. This had nothing to do with their desire to attend or the value they felt they had received, but was entirely connected to their income.

For the social worker the question is not about whether or not to give, but about how much he or she can afford to give.

This should not be. And of all the professions that use money to make the world a better place, social work is a shoe-in for “Most Likely to Succeed.”

Observation #5. No matter how successful they become in business, they fully embrace themselves as social workers

Because many social workers are venturing into entrepreneurship and for-profit businesses it’s easy to imagine that they would get so caught up with the for-profit side of things that they lose their connection with social work. But on the contrary, the social work business professionals that I spoke with strongly revered their social work identity and hailed their social work competency skills as the major component in the success of their businesses.

This theme was emphasised over and over at the conference and stood out as a reassuring beacon of hope for those contemplating entry into entrepreneurship, but fearing disconnection from the profession.

What this all means

In light of the observations made, I strongly believe that social work is experiencing a revolution, and that in the next few years, more and more trained social workers will seek options that not only create better conditions for their clients, but allow them to build business models to support them. They will have open discussions about wealth and entrepreneurship, and demonstrate confidence when quoting their rates. If enough are prepared to do this, not only will we impact the overall pay scale, but we’ll change the course of history forever.

Perhaps – just maybe – we will even be able to afford that trip to Cancun. Radical self-care, anyone?

photo credit: ignatius decky

Ageism In The Workplace

If we are not welcome in the workplace and we are expected to live well into our nineties and beyond, how can we ever hope to be able to sustain ourselves financially?

Can you imagine a workforce made up of 3 generations?  I am 68, my children are in their forties, and my oldest grandchild is 17. I am one of the fortunate aging boomers who is still part of the American workforce. I have no problem envisioning a workplace where my granddaughter, my son, and I will all be participating in the growth of our nation’s economy. Yet, there is one major obstacle to achieving this goal. It is the oldest, most entrenched form of discrimination in this country. Ageism!

agediscriminationintheworkplace02Nowhere is it easier to identify ageism than in the workplace. As older workers are staying longer and younger workers enter the field, more often than not they will find themselves part of a multigenerational workforce. By the middle of the next decade, the United States will be an aging society, with more Americans over age 60 than under age 15.

What this means for an evolving job market is that there will not be enough young workers to fill entry level jobs. We will then have two choices. We can import young workers from other countries, or we can prepare ahead by accommodating older workers and encouraging them to remain or re-enter the workplace. This would be a welcoming departure from the cold shoulder that older workers receive when applying for jobs today.

Our country’s leaders are always a day late and a dollar short when it comes to planning ahead. For years and years people have been writing about the “graying of the American workforce” and the “aging tsunami”. The boomers are not coming; we have arrived!

We are healthier than previous generations, and we are living longer–in many cases, as much as 20 years longer. Yet, when we leave our career jobs, whether by choice or not by choice, we step into a void. We discover that there is no role for us in society. We become invisible. The invisible man today is not a bandaged wrapped non-body. He is an invisible somebody.

Here’s the dilemma: If we are not welcome in the workplace, and we are expected to live well into our nineties and beyond, how can we ever hope to be able to sustain ourselves financially? We have the intelligence, skills and wisdom to become one of society’s greatest assets.  Yet, without the opportunity to earn our own way, we will certainly become society’s burden. Most salient is our position as repositories of historical and cultural history and our ability to solve long term problems that younger people do not have the time for.

One excuse I hear for not keeping or hiring older workers is the fear that it will be too expensive. “They will be sick too often and, therefore, be less productive.” Not true. Older workers come with an innate work ethic. We take less sick days than our younger co-workers. We also come with our own health insurance, namely, Medicare. And, older workers are often willing to work for lower salaries as a supplement to our Social Security.

Mainly, we want to be valued and be seen as contributors to a better society, not as a drain. I wonder if those who would shut older adults out of the workforce are ageists who drank the youth-obsessed Kool-Aide that the media hands out. They probably do not even recognize their own internalized ageism. Have they thought about why they do not want a workplace filled with grey haired people? Could it possibly be the threat of having a workforce who reflect the true life process of aging that they would rather deny?

Ageism does not only affect the old. It affects our entire society. It deprives one generation the opportunity to pass on knowledge to the next, while depriving the younger generation the opportunity to learn and build on that knowledge.  It deprives an older generation the opportunity to keep growing and learning new skills for which the young are our best teachers.

The stereotypes of older people that we all own do not match up with the reality of today.  They are out of date.  It’s time for an upgrade.


4 Free Computer Programs all Social Workers Need to Use

Let’s talk a little about free…it happens to be one of my favorite words. Free parking, I live in LA, Free Willy,  and most people’s favorite free money.  A common excuse I hear when I ask other social workers why they don’t know how to use a specific piece of software is, “It’s too expensive.”, and I am sure you have felt the same way.  Another I hear is, “It’s too hard to learn or I didn’t go to college for that.”.

Here is some free money, if you were to buy the consumer version of these programs it would cost you close to $1000! That is one licence each for a computer. These computer programs which will enhance your own practice and/or the organizations you work for, completely for free! They even come with free handy tutorials to go with them!

For your convenience I have hyper-linked the software’s homepage in each of their respective names.

1.OpenOffice Calc: Spreadsheet program

pieOpenOffice Calc is part of  Apache OpenOffice, which is a suite of software much like Microsoft Office, but free. As most people know how to use a word processing program and understand its value instead lets focus on something most people do not know how to use which is a spread sheet program. Programs like Excel and Calc can be alien and daunting at first glance but with the right tutorial they are manageable. So, what can you do with a program like this?

Administrative functions, which many of us will have to do are made significantly easier with this program. You can track client information, track client outcomes, keep notes on client; on the more macro side of social work you can keep track of donations, organize and analyze hours for volunteers. You get the idea and I am sure you can think of more things.

The most important function of these programs are the formula, all of which can be easily learned. At sites like this: Tutorial  and if you forget what you learned you can always check out the wiki.

These functions allow you to do things that might otherwise take you hours to do in seconds. More importantly they do it without errors. (Note: if you don’t mess up the formula and your data is good)

A good example; you are being reviewed by your boss and they want to know how many of your clients missed their therapy appointments and why. Fancy you kept a spread sheet with all of that data. You can then use a formula to count the days missed and list the reasons why for each client. You can even set up a pie chart that indicates why.

For those more macro social workers out there, say you are getting donations and you wonder where people are hearing about your program. So you  use a the “filter” function to sort out all the zip codes of your donors and pull for you the ones that occur the lowest and the highest. Then you can tell where you need to focus more of your effort  to get more donations!

These are simple ways of using an otherwise ignored piece of software. The best part is, you can save money for yourself and your organization by having them switch to OpenOffice from microsoft products.

2.GIMP : Free graphic design program

We have all heard of Photoshop. Well GIMP is photo shop but free. I will keep this short and simple, you need to learn this because:

10,000 Hours in MS paint vs. 20 Minutes in GIMP

Which one would you rather have potential donors, clients and staff members see?

Even if you only learn the simplest functions on this software you can drastically improve the forms, advertisement and website that your organization uses. Most organizations can’t afford to hire a graphic designer and you don’t really need one to create an intake form or flyer for your next fund-raiser. Appearance is key though, a professional looking advertisement will garner more and higher donations and attendance then one that looks like it was made with crayons.

GIMP has easy it use tutorials , and a great community of people who will help you. That being said, many of the same functions that work in Photoshop also work in GIMP.

3.Freemind :The free way to free your mind

Do you remember when you were young and your teacher or parent said, “Write down you ideas it will make it easier to think about?” Well that is what Freemind is for. Imagine that you could lay down all your ideas, with sub idea, with even more sub ideas and even more sub ideas. You get the point.

Free mind is useful for a whole variety of purposes, from reorganizing your own ideas to helping clients get a better grasp on their own goal. Free mind can help you structure just about anything and get a grasp on ideas that might be just a little too big for paper. This article was written using Freemind!

You can learn to use Freemind from their website, with a simple tutorial on the main page. While freemind is not as easy to use as some similar software, it is free.

 4. PDF-XChange Pro2012: PDF reader

One of the best PDF readers out there, great if you are a social worker or social work student looking up evidence based practices. Many of which are in pdf form and contain strange characters that normal PDF readers cannot understand. This software can recognize most characters as well as let you note the PDF yourself. Over all something that all social workers need.

The bummer part is that the free version wants to install a toolbar, use caution when installing this software and ensure that you avoid the toolbar!

Note: Before Downloading any software to your computer ensure that it is from a site you trust.

Emergency Services: Strengthening Bonds and Improving Resilience

The BrotHERhood in Emergency Services

kristy barg rural fire brigade (2)

It’s summer in Australia, and as usual that means hard work for emergency services. The last few months have been particularly demanding Down Under, with catastrophic fires affecting property and lives in most States across the country. Firefighters, police and ambulance personnel spend long hard days dealing with situations most of us never have to deal with.

We call them our ‘heroes’. The reality is that our heroes are human too. The stresses they experience are unique and if unchecked, those stresses can lead to more serious mental health issues. In a bid to increase awareness of those stresses, provide some strategies to build resilience and improve support networks, Behind The Seen was launched in May last year. No it’s not a spelling error, the name relates to what emergency services “see” that the public don’t.

Whilst emergency services have unique stresses, they also have some very unique strengths. This article focuses on just one of those strengths – the culture of “brotHERhood”.  Yes, those letters are in caps for a reason, we have many women in the services now, but the term “brotherhood” seems too historically significant to replace, hence the caps to signify gender equality. When a person joins one of the emergency services as a career move or as a volunteer, there is an underlying  assumption that they become part of a “select community”, or as is it more often referred to internally, a “family”.

This informal process has no geographical boundaries – a firefighter in Australia is a “brother” to a firefighter in the USA. No introductions needed, the only commonality necessary for acceptance is the fact that they are both firefighters. This unique sense of camaraderie that can instantly connect strangers from across the globe has the potential to be an enormous source of strength in terms of support for first responders and their families.

As social workers we all know that effective support networks assist with early intervention of mental health issues, and can significantly enhance recovery processes. The notion of brotherhood then is vital when assessing how we can increase resilience in emergency service responders and their family members.

If a bond can be established in an instant with a total stranger in another country, it would be easy to presume that in local terms at station level, crew members who work together have an even stronger connection, one that far exceeds any standard “working relationship”.  Certainly this can be the case in some stations, but ask any of the older firefighters about the brotherhood and they’ll tell you “it’s not like it used to be”. Somehow that old feeling of being consistently “supported” is losing its impact.

Whilst a number of reasons are suggested for this, the bottom line is that things have changed. If those changes have somehow reduced the supportive connections that used to exist, then it’s time to look at how to adapt to those changes in order to revive and strengthen the notion of brotherhood. How can this be done? The following experience illustrates that sometimes a simple project with a common goal can bring new connections and a revived awareness and trust in support networks available.

By what some might call a “twist of fate”, a painting created to raise funds for “Behind The Seen” in September of last year had an unexpected side effect. The process of transporting the painting from its place of origin to point of sale raised awareness that the brotHERhood is alive and well. It encouraged connections, and furthermore highlighted that in time of need, that sense of community, of belonging and what some call second family is still very real.

A relay was organised online by both career and volunteer firefighters from different stations to transport the painting. Ironically the day before the painting’s planned departure, the artist who is also a volunteer firefighter was asked to evacuate her home in the midst of some of the worst bushfires seen in years. In another strange coincidence, the delivery point a hundreds of kilometres away was also affected by some of the worst fires seen in years.

But nothing would stop the plan – exhausted but determined, firefighters took the time out to ensure the painting would make it to its destination.  The painting had a dozen stops, and at each stop a photo was taken of the handover and posted on facebook, to keep everyone up to date. Utilizing social media in this way assisted in engaging those who could not physically take part, allowing them to feel a part of the process as well.  The painting ended up being purchased by a headquarters brigade, a fitting result considering the heart warming story of determination and collaboration in the midst of two fire emergencies. Here are just a few of the comments of those who took part:

It was a great way to meet some of you, and I’m pretty proud to have had a small hand in one heck of a “painting relay” to get Kristy’s amazing artwork safely into the hands of Behind The Seen, amongst the pandemonium of the bushfire crisis. The BrotHERhood can do amazing things!

It’s not just a painting anymore. That canvas is a part of NSW fire history having travelled from one fireground to another via the men and women fighting said fires during Red October, and it’s a canvas of fire fighters in the heat of battle that went from one fire emergency to another.

It represents 2 services, united for one cause, Behind The Seen. I was honoured to be one of the two that took the painting to its final home.I joined the Rural Fire Service some 23yrs ago to help the community, by assisting with this project I feel that I have also helped to contribute to my fellow emergency service workers by raising awareness of the stresses we all face at times. Would I do it again, hell yes! The fires looked like they might put a bit of a dent in the relay taking place, but in fact I think they actually served to make the whole thing even more meaningful.

This experience illustrates how a simple call for help inspired the brotherhood into action. Perhaps that’s all that is needed. The occasional reminder that this support network, with no geographical boundaries, with people from a variety of backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, religions and cultures can and will be there for each other in times of need.  The common bond is that every one of those people is committed to a job that assists their communities to stay safe. In keeping the brotherhood alive, they are looking after their own and their families’ wellbeing.

For social workers, particularly those who work with groups in the community, there are a few lessons in this story:

1)      Support networks aren’t always “obvious” to everyone. Sometimes a little education or finding a way to remind people about their support networks needs to be arranged.

2)      Sometimes “time” changes the way things work – look for innovative ways to revive interest and commitment to participation in support networks, especially where generational differences come into play

3)      Remember to utilize social media as a connector when geographical boundaries place obstacles in the way of participation.

4)      In every instance of community work, be open to new possibilities and think beyond the original goal. The original outcome we sought was to raise some funds. We could have just sold the painting online, then posted it to the winning bidder – but would have missed significant outcomes.

5)      Expect the unexpected – and go with the flow. Sometimes the unexpected is precisely the thing that will make your project meaningful.

For more information about Behind The Seen go to

Educating the Social Workers as Consultant (8th and Final in Series)

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 of Practice with Human Behavior” describes the systems level the social worker as consultant is hired to impact. The systems level can be individual, family, group, organization, or community. Often, the social worker as consultant is tasked with assessment of one or more systems and observation, intervention or evaluation of one or more systems.  The traditional social work education practice methods informed by human behavior in the social environment can be enhanced with coursework that specifically applies these concepts to behavior change, culture change, leadership, innovation, and mobilization.

“Social Mechanisms” describes the structures that may be used to engage systems at any level. The social worker as consultant utilizes social mechanisms to intentionally support change. Traditional research training can be enhanced with specific techniques for information gathering and sharing. Advanced research can draw on in-depth interviewing, demography, and crowd sourcing.  Traditional policy can be expanded to include skill practice in outlining cultural mechanism, comparative analysis, and case construction. Traditional ethics can be augmented to emphasize economic justice, financial capability, and collective promotion of social good.


Toward jump starting the inclusion of content that would prepare the social worker as consultant, I propose a group of competencies. Each competency organizes modules having both skills suitable for classroom practice and connected abilities to be demonstrated in the field. Successful completion of skill challenges, demonstration of the abilities, and articulation of professional ethics would comprise a portfolio of competence.

Social Entrepreneurship

This group of modules explores the concept of social good as a business strategy. It includes concepts of social development, social capital, and social economics. Each student will be expected to master the following skills:

  • Articulate the process of value creation in 4 different business models: Sole proprietorship, B-Corp, C-Corp, and Non-Profit
  • Outline a successful supply chain model complete with holons, nodes, partners, third parties and logistics.
  • Calculate the expected return on investments in market development that includes support for financial capability and asset building of potential customers.
  • Compose a plan for sustainable growth with attention to the long-term health and well-being of human resources.
  • Define mechanisms of venture capital and crowd funding.

Leadership & Culture Change

This group of modules explores the power of a leader to cast a vision, build supportive structures, train staff, inform stakeholders, and manage organizational culture. Each student will be expected to master the following skills:

  • Define leadership for intentional goal achievement in interpersonal, organizational and community contexts.
  • Identify key stakeholders in a change process along with methods to engage each stakeholder group.
  • Outline a competency-based approach to training and education including certification and continuing education.
  • Analyze the compile the learning orientations and change facilitating factors present within an organization.
  • Articulate a process for creating and maintaining a social change movement within a community.

Behavior Change & Influence

This group of modules explores the unique ability of social workers to engage in interpersonal relationships, promote dignity and worth of the person, influence self-sufficiency, and support sustainable behavioral health choices. Each student will be expected to master the following skills:

  • Define complex adaptive systems in the context of emergence, human nature, and the concept of individual will.
  • Operationally define human interaction as a control system.
  • Identify the biological, social, psychological, spiritual, and perception parameters representing individual inputs into Sociocybernetic systems.
  • Model institutional systems utilizing agent-based model techniques.
  • Identify institutional structures that promote, stabilize, and constrain human choice behavior.


Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) policy, state licensure requirements, and typical university operating procedures provide supportive mechanisms for the education of the social worker as consultant. The competency-based structure of the aforementioned modules is in line with CSWE’s own competency-based approach. In addition, CSWE has adopted the concept of “Field as Signature Pedagogy.” This means that field work is the important opportunity to demonstrate skill and assess ability.

State licensure boards require continuing education almost without exception. This mechanism provides an opportunity for social work programs to continue to educate their graduates beyond the confines of their traditional curricula. Content on the social worker as consultant and other specialized competencies can headline continuing education content.

Universities maintain connection with their alumni as a matter of sustainability, but also as a matter of service. As a long-standing institution, universities have unique reciprocal offerings for students. Offerings such as credibility, personal introduction, event hosting, grants management, and others can benefit all alumni including the social worker as consultant.

Field Work

Students are a built-in opportunity for collaboration and capacity recognition when they are connected to the school and practicing in agencies. Enhance campus-community partnerships. Construct a continuum of service learning from volunteerism through project-based learning, to field practicum. Identify and strengthen all collaborating agencies by training them on competency-based education tenets and practices. Track student service contributions including class assignments, service learning, and student government activities. Provide an individualized learning plan for each student—a plan that recognizes the individual career and competence goals of the student. Connect students in purposeful advising with faculty and field instructors.

I propose that schools of social work engage students early, from the sophomore year for undergraduates, first semester for graduates. Identify projects based on the expected skill level of students. For example:

  • First Year: Customer Support, Office Rapport and Data Entry
  • Second Year: Knowledge Management, Training Support, and Client Assistance (Navigation through Service System)
  • Third Year: Compliance Evaluation, Quality Assurance, and Staff Training
  • Fourth Year:  Caseload Management, Policy Drafting, Group Engagement
  • Graduate/Continuing Ed: Supervision, Consulting, Grant Writing

Organize the field supervision model as a consultancy involving field liaisons as consultants to advance the mission of the agencies with which they liaison. Graduate students who are already employed in an agency can refocus on innovation and leadership in order to keep their jobs while growing educationally and adhering to the requirements of CSWE.

Continuing Education

Many schools of social work recognize the opportunity and service represented in continuing education programs. Many collaborate with on-site centers or community organizations to provide the information that alumni desire. Many also provide certification programs or other credentialing. Still others provide courses or supports for licensure examinations.

An innovation would find schools developing centralized training data stores, compiling the information reported from the field, and informing new service opportunities. The repository can be enhanced through agency collaboration creating a knowledge base and training platform for social work practice. Association partners can provide certification and credentialing along with a pool of diverse members. Agencies provide the practice environments for evaluation and available clients for research. The school of social work provides capacity in the form of student and expertise in the form of faculty.

The result for staff and faculty is continuing practice experience, continuing education, and increased relevance in the classroom. The result for students is educational innovation, certification, and a solid ability to contribute to their alma mater as well as the social work profession. For agencies, the return includes increased capacity, research & evaluation services, and continuing education for staff. For associations, the benefit is in the form of increased membership and collaborative research opportunities.

Alumni Services

With little experience, you need connections. Schools of social work often leverage their alumni connections, credibility, and reputation for the benefit of graduates. An innovation would find institutions partnering with associations to provide applied education & practice, networking, and demography symposia that bring together current and former students, agencies, and funders to discuss approaches to community development. Similar to what a chamber of commerce does for local businesses, schools of social work can act as “chambers of social good.” The result is an intentional impact on the community and a boost for students attempting to engage in their communities of practice. Schools can engage with agency boards and offer student representation from among current students or graduates. This maintains relationships between schools of social work and community agencies, but it can also be a model for engaged service to the community.

Schools of social work can engage consistently with local and state governments to outline a clear path for social workers to enter politics and engage the larger political discussion. School-sponsored visits to Capitol Hill, local congressional offices, and city council meetings can provide students with context for what they are learning. School-sponsored “suppers with the state representative” or other such events can engage alumni and current students in important issues and reveal politics as less intimidating.

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