Grand Challenges for Social Work Video
Grand Challenges for Social Work Video
by Darla Spence Coffey, Ph.D., MSW
Happy Social Work Month!
It is such an exciting time to be a social worker! It should be no surprise that social work is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States (U.S. Department of Labor, 2015). Although one of the challenges of our profession continues to be good public understanding of what we do, it is a challenge born of our strength. Social workers defy easy categorization because we work within and across different systems, in a variety of roles, with people across the lifespan and in various communities. We are direct service providers that understand and affect policy. We are policy makers that understand the biopsychosocial dynamics of individuals and families. How can we be all of those things? The common denominator that ties these activities together is our most important role, that of being change agents.
The recent launch of The Grand Challenge Initiative by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (http://aaswsw.org/) has great promise for social work for (at least) two very compelling reasons: 1) to communicate to the world what social workers do, and 2) to bring an army of allies in to the profession who want to make a big impact on the world.
So what are the Grand Challenges?
The Grand Challenges for Social Work are designed to focus a world of thought and action on the most compelling and critical social issues of our day. Each grand challenge is a broad but discrete concept where social work expertise and leadership can be brought to bear on bold new ideas, scientific exploration, and surprising innovations (Uehara et al, 2015).
The Grand Challenges for Social Work initiative has articulated twelve challenges to focus on:
- Ensure healthy development for all youth
- Close the health gap
- Stop family violence
- Advance long and productive lives
- Eradicate social isolation
- End homelessness
- Create social responses to a changing environment
- Harness technology for social good
- Promote smart decarceration
- Reduce extreme economic inequality
- Build financial capability for all
- Achieve equal opportunity and justice (www.aaswsw.org)
There is little question that the social work profession needs to hone and sharpen its message about who we are and what value we bring. Students and practitioners of social work recognize the areas covered by the twelve grand challenges as areas that are quintessential social work. However, these are not the things that typically come to mind for people we talk to about what social workers “do.” The Grand Challenges initiative gives us a vocabulary to educate people about the value that social work brings to the most important social issues of our time, to expand the public’s understanding of our various roles, and to define ourselves rather than let others – or our settings – define us. It’s high time that we do that.
The Grand Challenges initiative will also help us communicate to young people that social work is the profession to choose if you want to make a big impact on the world. It will remind those of us who have been in the profession for a while that these are the reasons that we chose social work in the first place. There is good potential for the effort to breathe new life into the social work profession by challenging the ways in which we prepare students and reconnecting us to our roots. Remember, we are change agents. Our social work pioneers were not timid and neither should we be.
Consider becoming a part of the Grand Challenges for Social Work (http://aaswsw.org/grand-challenges-initiative/join/).
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2015). Social Workers. In Occupational Outlook handbook, 2014-2015. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-socia-service/social-workers.htm.
Uehara, E.S., Barth, R. P., Olson, S., Catalano, R. F., Hawkins, J. D., Kemp, S. P., Nurius, P. S., Padgett, D. K., and Sherraden, M. (2015). Identifying and tacking grand challenges for social work. (p. 2). Retrieved from http://aaswsw.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/WP3-with-cover.pdf.
Darla Spence Coffey, Ph.D., MSW, is president and chief executive officer of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). CSWE is the national association of schools and programs of social work, representing 750 accredited undergraduate and graduate programs. CSWE is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the United States. Through its many initiatives, activities, and centers, CSWE supports quality social work education and provides opportunities for leadership and professional development, so that social workers play a central role in achieving the profession’s goals of social and economic justice.