Promote the empowerment and liberation of people: Boycott Israel!

Context is everything. All social workers know this: that to make sense of a situation, to assess it, we need to put events into context. Put another way, private troubles are often connected to public issues, but we only see this when we make an effort to join the dots, to locate the micro in the macro. This connection, between the personal and the political, is at the heart of what it is to do social work. As the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) states:

Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work.  Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledges, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing (IFSW, 2014)

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Women behind barres: Ballet and the prison system

There is something very compelling about the Radio New Zealand story described in the video below and I congratulate NZ Ballet for taking the initiative to do outreach work with the women incarcerated in Arohata prison: it is an excellent project that recognises the humanity of people in prison (and God knows, the women could do with a distraction at this time of year). However, even more compelling are the facts the presenter drops into the narrative: that the female prisoner population in Aotearoa has quadrupled in the last five years, that three-quarters have mental health issues and many others have histories of domestic violence.

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The struggle continues

Today is Labour Day in New Zealand, a day commemorating the struggle of the New Zealand working class for an eight-hour working day. A struggle that began with the resolute action of a single carpenter from Petone, and was achieved by the coordinated action of the entire trade union movement. Labour Day reminds us of the importance of solidarity and the continued need for coordinated action to defend the rights of ordinary people. I want to use my Labour Day to reflect on recent political events and their implications for my fellow social workers, and the workers with whom they work.

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Enhancing fieldwork education: A strategic approach?

This is the third and final blog post in response to the New Zealand Social Workers Registration Board’s (SWRB) current review of their standards for recognising programmes of social work professional education. In the first blog post I discussed the question of whether required curriculum inputs should be specified in the standards and argued that an emphasis on inputs and content specification in other jurisdictions stifled innovation, overloaded the curriculum and led to students feeling pressured by the sheer amount of content to be covered. I went on to argue that, if we want to improve social work education programmes in Aotearoa New Zealand, then we must focus on the outcomes of qualifying programmes, not curriculum inputs. The second blog post responded to the question of the adequacy of the graduate attributes specified in the standards and argued that, instead of having a set of 14 graduate outcomes, in addition to a set of 10 core competence standards, we ought to articulate a single set of clear, unambiguous and realistic statements of intended graduate outcomes, competencies or capabilities. Furthermore, I argued that we could obtain clarity about the correct level of achievement for new graduates if we adopted a whole of career approach and specify the outcomes we expect at different points in the career journey of a social worker. I also pointed out that the enhance R2P project is national research project funded by Ako Aotearoa to address precisely this issue.

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An outcomes-based approach to social work education?

In a previous blog post I discussed the current review by the New Zealand Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB) of its programme recognition standards. Since the programme recognition standards are what the SWRB use to recognise and (every five years) re-recognise a social work qualifying programme, any changes introduced as a result of the review would, in effect, reform social work education in Aotearoa New Zealand.  A consultant has circulated a survey amongst stakeholders to invite comment on the existing standards (SWRB, 2013) including: the graduate profile, the curriculum, requirements for fieldwork placement, admission criteria, modes of delivery, and staffing requirements. In my last post I discussed curriculum content and argued that specifying required curriculum content would hinder rather than help curriculum improvement. Instead, I argued that the focus of our attention ought not to be on curriculum inputs but on clarifying the outcomes of qualifying education. In this post I want to continue with that argument, reflect on the survey questions about the graduate profile, and consider what an effective, outcomes-based social work education might look like.

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Reforming social work education: the question of curriculum inputs

As a distance educator and someone who has been involved with learning technology for over twenty years I am a great fan of the Canadian educational researcher George Siemens. It was George who, along with Stephen Downes, developed the first Massive Open Online Course (or MOOC). However, the original MOOC designed by Siemens and Downes could not be less like the content driven MOOCs offered by the plethora of institutions who now occupy that space, theirs was founded on a connectivist pedagogy driven by the activity of learners and the networks they form, not by a pre-determined content driven structure.

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The State of Care report: A narrative resource?

Official reports, like other documents, have effects: they have agency, they enter the world and are used by a range of actors to achieve their goals and projects. Prior argues (2003) that documents can only be understood in terms of the ‘networks of action’ (p.2) within which they are situated and mobilised. They are entities ‘that influence and structure human agents’ (Prior, 2003, p.3). Harnessed for particular ends, official reports can be enlisted, manipulated or suppressed. This perspective draws our attention to the fact that official reports are not just repositories of content, but active agents that have effects on the world (Prior, 2008). Put simply, documents do not just contain things (statements, points of view, recommendations), they do things. Or rather, they can be enlisted by other actors to do things, sometimes in ways unintended by their authors.

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To tweet or not to tweet? An RSW activist’s guide to twitter

Several colleagues with an interest in the work of the RSW collective have asked how they can use digital media to support and contribute to our work.  This post offers a basic introduction to one social media tool:  twitter.  It explains the basics of tweeting, provides links to additional information, and offers you a nice wee digital activist project for the long weekend. Future posts will explore the value of digital activism more broadly, and discuss engagement with other digital media tools.

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The Child, Youth and Family review: Reading between the lines

In these media savvy days political pronouncements are almost always focussed on managing media. During elections media management is particularly intense with resources invested in promoting vote winning messages whilst sullying the reputation of others.  Once in power, and with a respectable majority assured, governments turn to the business of pushing their real political agenda.  Media management between elections includes tactics such as timing political announcements to minimise critical reaction, wrapping politically sensitive policies in good news stories, and using slippery semantics to conceal or make palatable politically controversial policies.

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