Social work organizations launch Grand Challenges

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

NASW and the Council on Social Work Education recently joined the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare to announce the launch of the academy’s 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work.

Richard P. Barth, president of AASWSW and dean at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, announces the Grand Challenges for Social Work initiative in January at the Society for Social Work and Research 20th anniversary annual conference in Washington, D.C.

Richard P. Barth, president of AASWSW and dean at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, announced the Grand Challenges before a large audience at the Society for Social Work and Research 20th anniversary annual conference in Washington, D.C., in January.

“We all want to build a better world,” Barth said. “Social work has the greatest untapped capacity to develop and implement interventions to build that better world.”

The Grand Challenges are needed to drive social progress that is powered by science, he said, adding that social factors contribute more to the individual condition than any other single factor; more than disease, the environment, genetics or technology.

Addressing the Grand Challenges will result in promoting innovation, collaboration and expansion of proven, evidence-based programs to create meaningful, measurable progress in solving urgent social problems within a decade, Barth said.

NASW CEO Angelo McClain, who is a member of the Grand Challenges National Advisory Board, spoke at the event. He said this is an opportunity for the social work profession to have a greater collective impact.

“If we act alone, we know we won’t get far,” he said. “If we make a collective commitment to the Grand Challenges, it can enable social work to be the engine that powers societal victories against the biggest social challenges of our time.”

Social workers helped foster major positive social changes during the 20th century, but this century presents a new set of complex issues, McClain noted.

“Building new knowledge and connecting it to practice and policy will be critical in helping social workers drive real, lasting and transformative social change in decades ahead,” he said.

The Grand Challenges Initiative aims to create an opportunity for social work researchers and practitioners to collaborate with each other and with many other fields and disciplines, including health care, law enforcement, education, civil rights, technology and climate science.

Darla Spence Coffey, president and CEO of the Council on Social Work Education and a member of the Grand Challenges National Advisory Board, also spoke at the launch.

She said the Grand Challenges will appeal to young people interested in making positive change and for those who care about social justice. In addition, the challenges will impact how social work students are educated.

“It will be important for us to think strategically, critically and intentionally in how to engage students in practice-based evidence,” Coffey said. “That is critically important to each of these challenges.”

Conference attendees also witnessed the launch of the Grand Challenges official video, which includes comments from Barth, Coffey and McClain. Visit aaswsw.org/grand-challenges-initiative for a link to the video. The initiative launched with the hashtag #Up4theChallenge as well.

From the March 2016 NASW News. NASW members can read the full story here.

One comment

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