19 thoughts on “Where has my radicalism gone?

  1. Hi Lauren,

    A brilliant article! You have very eloquently encapsulated one of the great challenges of working within the system. I have fought the same types of issues all of my life, in my case, through education. I would humbly say that I had some success at the individual level, through discourse with my students, but had little impact on the systemic nature of the education system, which of course, in the end, serves the needs of the dominant paradigm, and thus, further entrenches the neoliberal agenda.

    I am working on an initiative that I thought you might be interested in. We are in the process creating a global communication platform that aspires to make visible and connect all resistance movements around the world with the goal to develop an action plan that would alter the current dominant narrative that diminishes all of our lives. I like to think of this as Humanity’s response to our crazy world that is currently dominated by forces outside of ourselves.

    To date, I am working with groups in Africa seeking to go through the same process for their continent. As well, I am working with a group in Europe that seeks to do the same thing. I was recently doing research on New Zealand to get a sense of the situation there. Do you know of organizations or individuals that might be interested in such an initiative? I would be happy to contact all or any. If not, perhaps you would like to create your own group and join us.
    Best wishes to you.

    michael breton


  2. Well done Lauren from what I am called ‘an old Social Worker’ (36 years in practice both in South Africa and Aotearoa New Zealand ). I love your thinking. Such a breath of freshness .
    We often see the practice of what we used to then call the ‘casework method’ in Aotearoa New Zealand . Social Workers get stuck on individual issues often with limited success and they either ignore or fail to address the larger structural issues(it is put in to too hard basket). When you do you get called a radical or a revolutionary. It is a lonely place at times but having a conviction is what get you through.
    I too entered the profession of Social Work because I lived in a society where oppression was the order of the day and also at a young age I was determined that I was going to do something about it. Social Work is about addressing the social injustices that result in the other issues like poverty ,child abuse, poor housing ,unemployment etc.
    We as Social Workers don’t always speak up let alone address the issues around the ongoing impact of colonization, inequalities ,racism etc. etc. We continue to put on plasters and keep the capitalist in business.
    The big question Social Workers need to ask is: ARE WE AGENTS OF SOCIAL CHANGE OR DO WE MAINTAIN STATUS QUO?

  3. Kia kaha Lauren, we’re in this together. The power of the collective is one of our defences against relentless neoliberalism.
    Kia ora
    David McNabb

  4. Lauren, you are going to be cited in the opening address of a conference on homelessness, in Aarhus in Denmark, tomorrow. Never underestimate the power of the word!

  5. Nice article Lauren.You touch on so many key points and for a relatively new grad you no doubt will go a long way in this field- as long you can hold onto your energy. Keep it alive Lauren and your passion and drive will be an inspiration for us all.
    Thank you

  6. Go Lauren,
    I still think the only way to chenge the structural problems is to get face to face with them in the political level (this way you can ge paid at the same time?)

    No NGO is going to risk the 3 year contract cycle by allowing radical staff to do their thing. Problem Gambling Foundation is the example of what happens in subsequent funding rounds if you stick your head up out of the trenches too often, (God forbid that they kept practicing ACTUAL health promotion rather than the watered down version offered by the structure built into the Gambling Act – where the individual gambler is at fault for their behaviour, rather than the societal and community COLONISATION by gambling thought/activity/grants -[does this sound familiar in social work?]) The cost of getting some runs on the board and taking back some territory from those who have a vice grip on the STRUCTURES that have been built by powerful govt./business interests, is loss of income, loss of contracts for the employer agencies – and loss of jobs for staff.

    The Government contractual model (Sarah A. Lovell, Robin A. Kearns & Russell Prince (2013) Neoliberalism and the contract state: exploring innovation and resistance among New Zealand Health Promoters, Critical Public Health, 24:3, 308-320, DOI: 10.1080/09581596.2013.808317) that professionals in the social environments fields find work in, sets us all free to be constrained.

    The particular self-policing work of outcomes reporting (RBA), breeds compliance, subjectivity, and everyone being under everyone’s gaze (Foucault).

    *So how might the generations of this era figure out what structures to change, or dismantle?
    *How can these be dismantled and who has the freedom and power to do so?
    *What materials will replacement structures be formed from?
    *How will power be managed, by whom, for whom?

    If “radical” means “at the core” and “from the ground level up”and “in essence”, then to quote a conversation with Sir Bob Harvey, “Instead of shooting arrows at the castle walls, those with the motivation and vision must take control of the castle!”

  7. Amazing blog, I hear every word and 100% agree. I’ve battled the last 2 years as a practising SW (though still completing the MPSW) and a social justice activist.

    I feel that there is real need within the program to not only teach about structural inequality, but to give us the skills and tools to know how to fight it through activism and protest.

    Kia kaha

    1. Thank you Bex! I completely agree with the need to include that in the progamme. Even now I feel really good at talking about structural inequalities and the need to do something about them, but actually knowing how to tackle them in practice is a different story. Definitely something to keep advocating for!

  8. My lord…..you strike a chord, for an old social worker,. Never give up. Never surrender. Never lose the anger that drives us or the compassion that pulls us. Need to read this again.. Loves it, needs it

    1. Thanks for your words Phil. I was unsure how “old social workers” as you say would take this from a young, naive and very idealistic social worker, but I am very encouraged by you!

      1. You, Lauren, are clearly stating what we (not only social workers, but other “old” workers) have all noticed and endured. You can possibly say it well, precisely due to being fresh to the game, noticing all the different positions and frames being used, and yes, your turn of phrase is succinct. I can take what you have said and use it to back up my arguments and rationale…I ran around the house saying “see, this is what I’m trying to explain….to you all…” (so you are assisting some of us to remember our heads ARE screwed on in the right way.)

  9. Kia ora Lauren, stay strong and keep that fire burning. In contemporary times, thinking (and wanting to practice) like we do is not popular. You may even be frowned upon by your colleagues, workplace and some academics, but stay the course. Because without fighting the ‘structural’ injustices all we are doing is allowing the same conditions to continue. Take care, Luis

    1. Hey Lauren, I loved reading your words and feel your frustration. Social work is a global profession and this is our strength. Connect with others across the world who are standing up, speaking out and refuse to be silenced. Take a look at BASW UK’s anti poverty’s activism.
      Pob lwc/good luck
      Allison Hulmes
      BASW Cymru

      1. Thank you Allison, it is a wonderful thing to know that we are not isolated in the battle against structural inequalities, that there is a whole community of social workers fighting the same fight. I feel so honoured to be a part of that.

    2. Kia ora Luis, I really appreciate your encouragement and support. It makes it so much easier to keep going knowing that there are others out there who are on my team, fighting the same fight.

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