On Saturday, January 21, 2017, the world was rocked as the Women’s March on Washington went global. More than 3 million people participated in sisterhood marches across the world. These types of rallies, protests, and demonstrations are all examples of advocacy, community organizing, and people working together to create effective political change for populations around the world. Women, men and children from all walks of life were active participants in these demonstrations: they carried signs supporting a plethora of causes from women’s rights to human rights.
Some of the signs also demanded care for the environment and the continuation of civil rights and marriages for the LGBTQI community.
Joining a cause is so much more than carrying a sign and marching. Many social workers find themselves entrenched in advocacy and community organizing to help with the process of affecting and making permanent changes for a variety of causes. I have a close friend who has dedicated her entire social work career to lobbying at the city and state levels, marching, and signing petitions for various causes that affect vulnerable populations across the city and state of New York.
I find this movement a perfect opportunity for social work educators and mentors to talk about the importance of this work and to discuss how social work is so much more than micro clinical practice. Rachel West, LMSW, is an advocate and community organizing consultant who teaches Macro Social Practice at Stony Brook University. She posted a series of interviews on what it means to be a macro practice social worker on the site Political Social Worker. Rachel lists the following practice skills that encompass social work macro practice.
- Outreach & engagement planning
- Creating legislative advocacy
- Advocacy program development
- Reports & briefs (position papers, policy statements, discussion papers, issue briefs, fact sheets, and talking point memos)
- Social media plans& management
- Establishing live Twitter chats
- Integrating social media into conferences/events
- Engaging constituents on Twitter
- Legislative monitoring
- Volunteer development
She also links to a blog by Jennifer Petersen, who posts about her experiences working for two state representatives in Montana. In Jennifer’s blog post, The Social Worker Shaped Void in State Legislation she questions why social workers are not at the table when bills are being passed, especially ones that directly affect their clients.
“Each year, many well-intentioned public officials and citizens put forth legislation and votes that seek to address the issues our profession has spent countless hours studying, researching and addressing through individual, group and community interventions. Without the contribution of social workers and the clients they serve, well-intentioned legislators will continue to create ill-informed policy that may ultimately hurt the people we are working to serve and empower.”
This is exactly what we are currently seeing as a nation as we move into a new presidency where the values of certain groups are not only disregarded but further marginalized, including:
- Women’s Rights
- Immigrant Rights
- LGBTQI Rights
- Disregard for the Environment
These are great opportunities for social work students to look at the field of social work from a macro lens and to see how they can be a part of the change within marginalized communities by practicing community organizing, advocacy and implementing policy change. Even if the student is focusing on micro practice, we would be remiss as educators and field instructors if we did not discuss the importance of macro practice. I know that I have weaved this into my clinical supervision with students as I have them look at clients from all levels of care (micro, mezzo and macro) as well as an ecological perspective. Educators can also discuss the importance of theory to practice in this area using a macro lens.
We need social workers today more than ever to help with moving America forward so that it is an equitable place for everyone, where basic human rights are recognized and celebrated. We need social workers in the communities, writing grants, organizing groups, talking to city and state elected officials and making sure the voices of all are being heard and acknowledged. Micro practice is not the only direction to follow as a social worker, there are many more avenues through which to affect change and help people with their needs.
Let’s unite and be the change that we want to see in the world!