Make a Small Difference Daily and Change Will Follow | NASW Member Voices

Apr 4, 2023

people running to the top of a marble staircase outdoors

By Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW

I am not one to crash a party with serious thoughts.

Last month was time for celebration as we commemorated the 50th anniversary of Social Work month.

Our profession and its contributions to this country’s well-being too often go unrecognized. Even our future was once questioned by noted experts like Dr. Abraham Flexner who said in 1915 that social work was not yet a profession because of its lack of specificity, specialized skills, and knowledge.

Our wins are often quietly observed, and our losses are loudly excoriated. Celebrating and commemorating social workers during this month helps us all remember why we entered into the profession and why we stay.  Even Flexner recognized that social workers had “the unselfish devotion of those who have chosen to give themselves to making the world a fitter place to live…”

But now it’s April.

 I suggest we start now a national conversation of how we should show up in this social workspace going forward.

When National Social Work Month was started in 1963, fixing broken people was considered the same as fixing our nation’s problems. Hunger could be solved by food stamps.  Housing could be provided by housing projects. Education could be improved by integration. Illness could be resolved by health clinics. Social work was the nation’s response to the ineffectiveness of government to address society’s growing social problems.

Fifty years later, it is time to also turn our attention to rebuilding broken systems.

We must go beyond helping individuals with their personal problems and becoming advocates to fix our broken health, housing, education, judicial and workforce systems. But major changes are daunting and can paralyze the best of intentions.

So instead of aiming for making a change at first, discover how you can make a difference daily.  

 And here are three steps to start that journey right now.

1. Develop a deep understanding of how interconnected we are.  

Former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon said, “Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth … These are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security, and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.”.

2. Develop your creativity.

Rebuilding a better system will mean that we must think outside our boxes.

“I think that another word for activism is… imagination. Because it’s about this idea of being able to envision a world that doesn’t yet exist. I think that’s what the job of an activist is, it’s to be able to create, and create into being or create into existence a new world order that is really equitable and that is really fair and that’s just and sustainable. Advocacy is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. We advocate for our survival,” said Eddie Ndopu, an activist and UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate.

3. Finally, commit to making a small difference daily.

This year, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) designated Social Work Breaks Barriers” as the theme for Social Work Month 2023. Too often we only think of the large gesture and forget it is what we do each day that is critical for breaking barriers.

As labor leader Delores Huerta once said, “Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.”


About The Author

Chad Lassiter

Chad Dion Lassiter is a nationally recognized expert in race relations. He has worked on race, peace, and poverty-related issues in the United States, Africa, Canada, Haiti, Israel, and Norway, and is frequently featured in the media providing commentary and solutions to racial issues. Lassiter is currently executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, where he has legislatively delegated authority to investigate filed complaints alleging the occurrence of unlawful discrimination in the areas of employment, housing and commercial property, education, and/or regarding public accommodations.

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