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The Special Commission to Advance Macro Practice  

Darlyne Bailey, Terry Mizrahi, and Jenay Smith

The original goal of the Special Commission to Advance Macro Practice in Social Work was to increase macro social work courses and enrollments in master of social work programs to 20% nationally by 2020. Some saw this as more of a vision, with the numbers in 2013 closer to 8%. Nonetheless, through partnerships with other organizations, forming collaborations and networks, and joining advocacy coalitions, the Special Commission continues to move forward to achieve this goal. The essence of the Special Commission’s purpose remains the same: to monitor and reinforce the viability of macro social work education in professional schools and programs to ensure the most effective social work practice for all served. This article provides the story of the Special Commission from inception through early 2022. It begins with the history (i.e., mission, leadership, structure, staffing, systems, and strategy), highlights accomplishments to date, and concludes with the envisioned future directions of the Special Commission along with anticipated challenges and opportunities. A case example in the appendix describes the process by which the Special Commission engaged its allies and supporters to complete major projects.


State Fiscal Policy  

Alexis P. Tsoukalas

America’s individualistic national identity and regressive tax systems that favor corporations and the wealthy over everyday people have increasingly exacerbated inequality. Meanwhile, social welfare needs continue to outpace the resources governments employ to address them. While fiscal issues can be complex and opaque, holding governments accountable is imperative to counter long-standing oppression of those identifying as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), women, immigrants, and others. How state governments, in particular, raise and expend revenue has a dramatic effect on the public, especially as the federal government continues to decentralize social welfare to the states. Social workers are uniquely equipped to influence this arena, given their person-in-environment view and having borne witness to the numerous ways misguided priorities have severely harmed those they are called to serve.


Strategic Planning  

Mark Chupp, Jennifer R. Madden, and John A. Yankey

Strategic planning is a key management process for nonprofit organizations and is a collaborative methodology for addressing complex community needs. With its increased use and popularity, variations in approaches have emerged that contribute to confusion and skepticism about the value of strategic planning. Social workers practice in increasingly complex and constantly changing environments. Such environments require a well-designed and facilitated strategic planning process to manage the inevitable change.


Suicide and Public Policy  

Janelle Stanley and Sarah Strole

The historical context of suicidal behavior and public policies addressing suicide arose simultaneously within the United States, and both reflect a culture of discrimination and economic disenfranchisement. Systems of oppression including anti-Black racism, restrictive immigration policy, displacement of American Indigenous communities, religious moralism, and the capitalist economic structure perpetuate high-risk categories of suicidality. Suicidal behavior, protective factors, and risk factors, including firearms, are examined in the context of twentieth and early twenty first century public policy. Recommendations for public policy will be discussed with consideration for policies that impact communities disproportionately and social work ethics, such as right to die laws and inconsistent standards of care.


Sustainable Development  

Sudershan Pasupuleti, Susheelabai R. Srinivasa, and Ram Shepherd Bheenaveni

The World Commission on Environment and Development’s report, “Our Common Future,” explicitly outlines social and ecological justice as vital and inherent parts of the idea of sustainable development. The global agenda of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offers social workers the chance to reframe their position in the areas of people empowerment, socioeconomic development, human rights, and environmental protection. Social work practices are based on social justice conceptual framework. Social workers who follow social justice concepts examine all their assisting efforts through the lenses of equality, fairness, and egalitarianism. In general, social work problem-solving techniques are not only compatible with ecological approaches to sustainability, but also provide much-needed social justice awareness. The article attempts to analyze and correlate the imperative aspects of “idea of ecological justice” and “concept of sustainability” to frame and offer appropriate and progressive social work interventions for common future for all within the framework of SDGs.


Task-Centered Practice  

Michael S. Kelly and Marjorie E. Colindres

Task-centered practice is a social work technology designed to help clients and practitioners collaborate on specific, measurable, and achievable goals. It is designed to be brief (typically, 8–12 sessions) and can be used with individuals, couples, families, and groups in a wide variety of social work practice contexts. With nearly 40 years of practice and research arguing for its effectiveness, task-centered practice can rightfully claim to be one of social work’s original “evidence-based practices,” though the relative paucity of research on its effectiveness in this decade suggests that the approach itself may have become increasingly integrated into other brief social work technologies.



Laura R. Bronstein

Teams maximize the coordinated expertise of various professionals within and across organizations, communities, and the globe. Social work skills used with groups, especially contracting, monitoring team processes, managing conflict, creating a climate of openness, and developing and supporting group cohesion and mutual aid need to be purposefully utilized in practice with teams. In addition to implementing these skills with clinical groups, social workers can and should apply them in their work as team leaders and team members with community-based and organizational committees and work groups. Additional outcome-based research is needed to better understand the efficacy and utility of teams. Emerging trends in this field include embedding the notion of teams in a wider web of mezzo and macro collaborative activities, including those mandated by policies such as the Affordable Care Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act, among others; maximizing the voices of diverse clients, families, constituents and communities; addressing the impact of technology and virtual teams; understanding the impact of variable membership on teams; and recognizing teams as a vital part of social policy development and social work education.


Technology in Macro Social Work Practice  

John G. McNutt and Lauri Goldkind

Information and communication technology has become a major force in society, the social welfare system, and the social work profession. This entry examines the growth of technology and its application to social work and society. It looks at the role of technology and places an emphasis on administrative/organizational, community, and policy practice. It also considers the larger context of the global information society. It additionally explores the impact of technology on the profession and professional education.


Temporary Assistance for Needy Families  

Catherine K. Lawrence

In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act repealed the 60-year-old national welfare program of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and replaced it with a new cash assistance program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The 1996 law introduced a new generation of rules and regulations for delivering cash and other assistance to families living in poverty, and it fundamentally reformed the way the United States assists such families and their children. Decades after welfare reform, opinions regarding the success of TANF and its impact on families still vary; welfare caseloads have declined since TANF implementation, but economic disparities have escalated in the nation, and self-sufficiency eludes many families.


University-Community Partnerships  

Tracy M. Soska

Social work is among the most engaged fields in both education and practice, but it is important to recognize university-community engagement through the historical development of higher education and the university as a reflection of society and community development. Universities have been shaped by and, reciprocally, have helped shape society and community. Social work as an engaged and applied profession reflects this vital connectivity from its earliest roots in the settlement house and charitable organization movements to its current posture of community engagement in education and practice. Higher education in the community context has evolved from a relationship of co-location and codependence to one of increasing intentionality toward engagement and partnership for interdependence and mutual benefit, including addressing racial and socioeconomic tensions. It is useful to explore this evolution from “university in the community” to “university of the community” as well as the implications this holds for social work, especially macro social work.


Urban Planning and Social Work  

Laurie A. Walker

Urban neighborhood disinvestment in the United States resulted in deferred maintenance of buildings and common social problems experienced by residents. Strategies to redevelop neighborhoods include collaboration among many subsystems seeking to collectively invest in places and people. Contemporary federal initiatives focus on incentivizing coordinated investments between existing local community-based organizations, local and federal government, and private investors. Public–private partnerships include anchor institutions with commitments to the long-term success of place-based initiatives who invest their financial, intellectual, social, and political capital. Social workers are embedded in local community-based organizations and relationships with residents in neighborhoods experiencing redevelopment. Social workers can help guide top-down and bottom-up approaches to neighborhood revitalization toward more equitable and inclusive processes and outcomes. Resident engagement in redeveloping neighborhoods takes many forms and requires differing skill sets for social workers. Urban redevelopment is a global trend with common critiques regarding relying on gentrification and market-driven strategies with private investors.


Urban Practice  

Wendy Cholico

Social work practice is best understood and practiced when taking into account the local context. The urban context of social work practice may share much with suburban and rural contexts but also brings with it unique problems and opportunities. Location in urban cities plays a major role on the social, economic, and environmental justice of group populations. Within close proximity and density of some locations, groups of people become isolated due to social and economic status. Subsequently, opportunities that foster well-being are limited and environmental hazards such as water and air pollution further suppress vulnerable group populations, limiting opportunities due to structural disparities. Distribution of environments, resources, and opportunities is connected to social justice through the relationship of people and environment, combined by race, gender, and class. Furthermore, gentrification is an evolving social problem that leads to displacement of vulnerable groups, challenging social workers to be social, economic, environmental, and political change agents that disrupt injustices on behalf of marginalized populations.


Veteran Services in Macro Practice  

Leora Shudofsky and Amanda Matteson

This article presents an overview of veteran services, including the definition of a veteran as it relates to eligibility for services and a range of veteran services are described. Background information includes a brief history of social workers in the military and in veteran services. Social workers practice in many macrolevel areas where social justice issues in veteran services are addressed, such as administration and management, community practice, and policy. Social workers who understand the challenges and trends in veteran services are better positioned to make an impact. Future implications for macro social work practice include integrating curriculum into schools of social work, building transition programs, collaborating in community health, normalizing mental health treatment, and working on policy enactment along with many other areas where social workers can make an impact on the well-being of veteran communities.


Virtual Communities of Practice  

Mary Pender Greene

Sociologists and social workers have long been invested in understanding the role of communities in shaping identities and influencing behavior; however, the study of virtual communities is still new despite the dramatic ways in which online social networks have replaced traditional, geographically bound conceptions of community. The present article briefly reviews some of the early theories of community that have influenced practically all scholars studying computer-mediated virtual communities. The focus then shifts toward an analysis of early, important theorists focusing on virtual communities. The article concludes by examining contemporary research and practices utilizing virtual communities in social work, with a particular emphasis on ways to integrate virtual communities into professional practice.


Voter Participation  

Lorraine C. Minnite and Frances Fox Piven

Compared to other rich, capitalist democracies in the contemporary era, the United States has a record of low voter turnout. Even as the right to vote was finally won by African Americans and the Civil Rights Movement a century after racial discrimination in voting was formally banned by the Civil War Amendments, voter turnout has failed to reach levels achieved in the late nineteenth century. Scholars offer two strong explanations for this. Some argue that the voting process has been encumbered by procedures that make actual voting difficult. Others favor an alternative explanation that voters must be mobilized by political parties and other activist groups. The dynamic interplay of electoral rules and political action have mobilized and demobilized the American electorate since the 1970s. Recent collective initiatives of social work faculty and practitioners in promoting nonpartisan voter registration campaigns are central to social work’s core values and social justice mission.


Welfare Rights  

David Stoesz and Catherine Born

American social and economic justice advocates, social workers included, have struggled to establish a national mindset that welfare is a right, a duty owed to the people by government, not a privilege that can be revoked at will. Industrialized nations with a universalistic, rights-based philosophy have strived to provide citizens with some measure of a basic, minimum income; the United States has not, yet. The United States has been hobbled by ideology; a two-tier system consisting of assistance and insurance; and cultural misgivings about direct, ongoing public payments (welfare) to the poor. Revitalization of a national welfare rights movement, early signals from the Biden administration, and awareness that major social policy changes most often happen at times of crisis offer reasons for a degree of optimism. The COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath are a moment in time—an inflection point—when social workers, because of their training, ethical codes, skill sets, and appreciation of the lessons of social welfare history, could play a key role in charting a new course of action suited to 21st-century needs and realities.


White Supremacy  

Tracy Whitaker, Lauren Alfrey, Alice B. Gates, and Anita R. Gooding

The concept of White supremacy is introduced and its impact on society and the social work profession is examined. The ideological and historical foundations of Whiteness in the United States are summarized, and an overview is provided of the legal supports that codified White supremacist ideas into structural racism. White supremacy’s influence on social work is discussed, with an emphasis on language and concepts, history, pedagogy, and organizations. Critical theory and practice frameworks are explored as responses to White supremacy. The limitations of social work’s responses and specific implications for macro social work are discussed.


Women: Overview  

Ruth A. Brandwein

This overview article introduces the topic of women, beginning with general demographic information. The section on poverty and inequality, which follows, describes the gender differences and delineates some reasons why women are poor and unequal. Issues of child care, welfare, and education are explored. Interpersonal violence and sexual trafficking are discussed, followed by a discussion of health and mental health issues affecting women, including access to health care. The role of women as well as women social workers in politics is briefly explored. Throughout, attention is paid to intersectionality. The article concludes with a discussion of current trends and challenges, with a brief examination of changes in policies affecting women from the Obama presidency to the end of the Trump administration in 2020, including implications for social justice, as well as implications for social work.


Women: Practice Interventions and Macro Practice  

Cheryl A. Hyde

Macro social work practice with women encompasses women as practitioners in organizational, community, and policy arenas, and issues of particular concern to women including violence against women, reproductive rights, family health and well-being, and economic equity. It recognizes that women, as a group, are more likely to be marginalized, subordinated, and oppressed compared to men, as a group. Further, there is awareness of the diversity within the category of “woman.” This article provides an overview of women as macro practitioners, issues central to the lives of women, feminist activism and its influence on macro social work, and examples of macro practice centered on the lived experiences of women. Given the gender inequities and discrimination that women and girls contend with daily, macro social work needs to embrace these issues and strive to dismantle gender-based oppression if the profession’s social justice mission is to be realized in full.


Worker Centers  

Alice B. Gates

This article describes worker centers as new sites for macro social work practice. Incorporating elements of community, policy, and organizational practice, worker centers are community-based organizations focused on the needs of low-wage and otherwise vulnerable groups of workers. This new type of worker organization emerged most prominently in the United States in the mid-1990s, largely in response to concerns about workplace abuses in low-wage and informal sectors dominated by immigrant workers and workers of color. Since then, the impact and reach of worker centers has grown through their dispersion across the United States and the growth of national worker center networks. Drawing on multiple traditions, including labor unions, settlement houses, and ethnic agencies, worker centers offer a hybrid approach to planned change. They support workers organizing for collective action, provide direct services, and advocate for policy change at the local, state, and federal level. Since their emergence, worker centers have led the efforts to pass legislation protecting domestic workers and helped low-wage workers win millions of dollars in lost or stolen wages from employers. These and other notable examples of U.S. worker centers’ contributions to macro practice will be discussed.