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Article

Education Policy  

Melissa Jonson-Reid and Sheretta Butler-Barnes

Educational policy in the United States has evolved over the last hundred years to address a vast range of issues, including creating a universal system of primary and secondary education, trying to ensure equity and access for students, preparing youth for the workforce, preparing youth for postsecondary education, improving academic outcomes, and school safety. The following summarizes key historical trends, judicial rulings, and legislative milestones that have helped form educational policy in the United States. The current role and potential for social work engagement in macro level advocacy for educational policy is also discussed. Special attention is given to current challenges.

Article

Social Work Education for Macro Practice  

Michael P. Dentato

The profession of social work is based in a rich history of macro practice and the promotion of social justice for all diverse communities. Over the years, while the field of social work education has shifted its focus between macro and micro frameworks, there is a continued resurgence of efforts promoting the integration of mezzo- and macro-practice content within social work curricula and field placement experiences across degree programs. In that regard, social work students must be adequately trained in macro-practice theory, interventions, assessment, and evaluation, as well as they must understand its unique intersection with mezzo and micro frameworks. Additionally, to effectively serve diverse populations, macro social work students must raise consciousness, increase self-awareness, and continually practice through the lens of cultural humility. Ultimately, the effective preparation and readiness of social work students for direct macro practice in fields such as program management, leadership, fundraising, advocacy, community organizing, and policy practice remains essential and understudied.

Article

Social Media  

Maria Rodriguez and Jama Shelton

Social media are defined as applications and websites that allows users to share content, usually of their own making. More than just a teenage pastime, social media users include individuals and organizations, across a broad range of social positionalities. Key social work organizations, such as the NASW and AWSB, have begun noting the proliferation of social media usage in education and practice and have begun developing guidelines to govern their use. The American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW), in their Grand Challenges of Social Work initiative, has also highlighted social media as an important area of growth for research and education. Despite the field’s nascent enthusiasm, practical and ethical concerns persist.

Article

Climate Change and Macro Social Work  

Kelly Smith

The compounding and escalating effects of environmental degradation, which include climate change, threaten the human-earth system with severe implications for the future of macro social work. Systems of power and oppression, including racial, economic, and gendered inequities, are exacerbated by environmental changes with significant impacts on human rights, public health, and various measures of well-being. While climate change is often not the root cause of inequality, it compounds existing inequities, making it substantially more difficult for marginalized populations to rebound from escalations of the myriad acute and chronic consequences due to climate change and environmental collapse. Experiences of environmental change consistently highlight the expanding resource and resiliency gaps among vulnerable populations, leading to disproportionate repercussions felt initially and, to an arduous degree, by marginalized groups. Simultaneously, these circumstances create opportunities for social workers to intervene and advance the causes of social justice. Macro-level interventions and climate solutions can emerge from social work development and support of policies and interventions that overcome short-term thinking to produce beneficial outcomes for populations and the environment by building capacity in the human-earth system and economic policy systems. Social work is ideally situated to confront climate change by balancing immediate needs with long-term ecological sustainability and relying on its historical understanding of systems to improve policy development and practical climate change mitigation approaches.

Article

Interdisciplinarity and Social Work  

Terry Mizrahi and Yossi Korazim-Kőrösy

Social workers have had a major role in participating in and promoting work with those in different disciplines and professions. Collaboration between social workers and those in other disciplines is essential given the complexity of sectors and settings in which the profession operates. Various terms have been used that have different meanings: multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinarity. Moreover, social work as well as other professions and applied disciplines also use the term interprofessional for cross-boundary collaborations. In multidisciplinary practice, social workers practice with those in other disciplines and professions but for the most part continue to pursue their own intervention aims. Interdisciplinarity links social work to other disciplines within complex domains of practice. It includes a blending and combining of those practices distinctive within each of the disciplines in pursuit of a common set of outcomes about an agreed upon social problem. It also requires the integration of knowledge and action, and the formation of a common agenda of practice, guided by compatible if not identical goals. Transdisciplinarity is the newest of the three terms. It connotes transformative outcomes that go beyond professional boundaries and include other stakeholders to effect particular change with real-world consequences. The lines among the three are blurred, mutable, and, at times, inconsistent, overlapping, and changing. Challenges and barriers remain, although opportunities have increased to move beyond monodisciplinary practice in all practice domains.

Article

Rural Practice in Macro Settings  

Laura Trull, H. Stephen Cooper, and Freddie L. Avant

Rural social work, the history of which stretches back more than a century, has been revitalized since the mid-1970s. The renewed interest in rural social work has led to an increase in scholarship on rural social work practice, much of which is a direct result of the efforts of the Rural Social Work Caucus and its annual National Institute on Social Work and Human Services in Rural Areas, as well as social work influence in rural organizations in allied professions. Recent research endeavors have moved our understanding of the differences between rural and urban communities beyond the common definitions, which are limited to population and population density. We have also come to realize that there are many different types of rural communities, all of which have different characteristics, needs, and so forth. Rural practitioners and researchers have also reached a better understanding of the following: rural culture and lifestyles, the importance of approaching rural communities from a strengths perspective rather than a deficit or problem focus, and the challenges to rural practice presented by the characteristics that are common across rural communities (e.g., lack of anonymity, dual relationships). Rural areas have also been sharply and uniquely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not surprisingly, the increase in research on rural social work practice has been accompanied by an interest in preparing social workers for rural practice and growth in the number of graduate programs focused on such. The importance of these programs lies in the unique nature of the challenges faced by rural communities. For example, many rural communities are experiencing sharp population declines while at the same time seeing substantial increases in adults who are 65 years of age and older. Other common trends include economic decline and subsequent increase in social issues; substantial issues with substance abuse, especially methamphetamine and opioids; lack of technology infrastructure; concerns related to the environment and/or conversation of natural resources; and lack of services for veterans. The key to successfully addressing these issues in rural communities is involvement from social workers who are prepared to practice in the rural context.

Article

Demographics  

Pamela P. Chiang and Hsiu-Fen Lin

This is an overview of the latest social demographic trends in the United States that are particularly significant for social work macro practice, including population changes, projections, and compositions affected by race and ethnicity, nativity, age, and sex and gender. We examine the history of the census survey, the controversial attempt to reinstate a citizenship question in the 2020 census, and the measurement change of the race/ethnicity question in census surveys across decades. In addition, trends in marital status, family structures, socioeconomic status as well as educational attainment, poverty, and income inequality are discussed. Finally, implications about how demographic data inform and impact social work in education, practice, policy, and research are addressed.

Article

Financial Capability  

Margaret Sherrard Sherraden, Jin Huang, and David Ansong

In a context of financial insecurity and inequality, exacerbated by a global pandemic in which many people are struggling to survive, financial capability has become increasingly important. Financial capability combines the ability to act with the opportunity to act in ways that contribute to financial well-being. Improving financial capability requires improved lifelong access to appropriate and beneficial policies, financial products, and services, along with financial education and guidance. Historically, social work played a key role in building financial capability through interventions in households, organizations, communities, and policies. In the 21st century, despite significant developments, social workers must do more to eliminate systemic and persistent economic, racial, and political barriers to financial well-being.

Article

Digital Technology  

Gina Griffin

As technological advances continue to develop, delivering macro human service through social work innovations becomes a new priority for the discipline. Digital technologies offer potential applications using tablets, smartphones, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and wearable technology to enable whole new possibilities for human services. As a result, policymakers and community organizers alike can access the existing information much faster, and potentially connect with hard-to-reach communities to make meaningful decisions. Incorporating the latest digital trends from business and industry settings to macro social work practice are highlighted. By utilizing digital technology, human service organizations can become more proactive and citizen-centered, potentially transforming personal and economic capacity.

Article

Elliott, Doreen  

Richard Hoefer

Dr. Doreen Elliott (1941–2018) earned her bachelor of arts from Queen Mary University of London; a postgraduate certificate in education from the University of Hull, England, Institute of Education; her advance diploma in the educational rehabilitation of young people from the University of London, England, Institute of Education; and her doctoral degree from the University of Wales, United Kingdom, School of Social Work, University College Cardiff, UK. Elliott became a faculty member at the University of Wales in the field of social work and worked as a visiting associate professor at the University of Texas at Arlington for the 1986–1987 academic year. The University of Texas at Arlington became her home institution, first as Associate Professor (1988–1992) and then, from 1992 until retirement in 2013, as Professor.

Article

Political Interventions  

Megan Meyer

Since the Progressive Era, social workers have played important roles in political struggles and social movements for social justice. They have advocated for, designed, and implemented an array of domestic and international social policies and have increasingly campaigned for and held political office. Even so, there has been considerable ambivalence within the profession about the extent to which social workers should engage in political action, considered by some to be “radical” social work. A major challenge facing the profession during the 21st century is to ensure that social work programs and associations prepare students and practitioners to understand the impact of political processes on their and their clients’ lives and to develop the skills to identify the forms of political intervention that are effective for different goals and different political, social, and economic contexts.

Article

Community Organizing  

Geoffrey W. Wilkinson, Lee Staples, Ashley Slay, and Iliana Panameño

Community organizing centers the leadership of community members in developing and controlling organizations created to express, sustain, and build community power through action for social justice. It is distinguished from other forms of community practice by the ethos, “nothing about us without us,” and may combine elements of community development, direct action, popular education, and community action research. Community organizing promotes individual and collective empowerment. It is practiced in communities of geography, identity, shared experience, and other arenas. In the United States, organizing takes three major approaches to building sustainable bases of community power—organizations formed through individual membership, institutional networks, and coalitions. Innovations in community organizing arising particularly from the leadership of women and people of color—known as transformational organizing—take an intersectional approach to addressing racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of systemic oppression while also addressing the personal and social needs of community members. Organizing increasingly takes advantage of internet technology and is effective for influencing legislation and electoral politics, as well as a wide range of community-based issues.

Article

Human Trafficking Overview  

Fariyal Ross-Sheriff and Julie Orme

Human trafficking (HT), also known as modern-day slavery, has received significant emphasis since the early 21st century. Globalization and transnational migration trends continue to amplify economic disparities and increase the vulnerability of oppressed populations to HT. The four major forms of exploitation are labor trafficking, sex trafficking, state-imposed forced labor, and forced marriage. Victims of HT are exploited for their labor or services and are typically forced to work in inhumane conditions. The majority of these victims are from marginalized populations throughout the world. Although both men and women are victims of HT, women and children are heavily targeted. Interdisciplinary and multi-level approaches are necessary to effectively combat HT. Combating HT is particularly relevant to the profession of social work with its mission of social justice. To address the needs of the most vulnerable of society, prevention, intervention and advocacy strategies are presented. Roles and implications for social workers in education and practice and for the profession are presented at the micro level.

Article

Social Work Professional Organizations and Associations  

Halaevalu F. O. Vakalahi, Michael M. Sinclair, Bradford W. Sheafor, and Puafisi Tupola

Professions are developed and maintained through various professional organizations and associations. As social work has evolved in terms of context and content, the professional membership and professional education organizations have periodically unified, separated, and later reunified in the attempt to maintain an identity as a single profession, yet respond to the needs and interests of different practice specialties, educational levels, special interest groups within social work, and diverse cultures and communities. There are approximately 40 known social work organizations and associations across the country, which recognizes the continuous important contributions of emerging groups and entities that represent the diversity that exists in the profession and the diverse critical issues that warrant a timely response. Some of these organizations and associations experience sustained growth and national presence, while others remain on the local level or are no longer active. A few examples of these major social work organizations and associations are described herein.