Global and Local: Social Work Goes International
By Pat Shelly
(The #MacroSW Twitter Chat on International Social Work was held May 22nd, 2014 .
UB facilitated the discussion. A summary of the chat can be found here.)
“Although what we do as social workers may look different around the globe, it’s WHY we do what we do that unites us. So what exactly are we trying to do? Drum roll, please…maximize human potential. Ta da! …
That’s it! Whether we’re in the U.S., India, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina, the UK, or the at least 70 other countries where social work is practiced, “the underlying common core purpose is to maximize human potential.” (Greenslade and Vos, 2008)
Below is a brief overview, followed by references and resources. International social work is an essential part of our profession’s knowledge base.
What is International Social Work?
Here is a global definition of social work:
“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.” (IASSW 2014)
Social work accomplishes change on local, national and global levels:
- NGOs (non-governmental organizations, usually called non-profits in the U.S.) work with or in government ministries, the United Nations, and corporate foundations.
- Social workers are elected or appointed to regional or national legislatures.
- We write, research, or implement policies and practices that help solve urgent problems in human society.
How do we prepare for International Social Work?
We educate students to be culturally competent – and competitive – in today’s globalized marketplace. We do this in many ways. Here are a few examples from UB:
- Study Abroad: UB had internship placements in Thailand, Tanzania, Macedonia, India, and South Korea over the past five years. In January 2014, students traveled to Moldova to learn about emerging social security programs in Moldova and post-Soviet era issues.
- Practice: Our students also provide service in the Western New York area to refugee and immigrant populations, and address global, social and economic issues and policies, such as human trafficking, refugee resettlement, and immigration status.
- Research: There is the just-launched UB Institute for Sustainable Global Engagement (ISGE), promoting and supporting global engagement and professional action among social work faculty, students, graduates and staff. ISGE will be facilitating collaborations in research, and expanding and developing educational and service opportunities that foster global engagement and human rights-based approaches to alleviating pressing social and economic challenges.
- Technology: The SUNY Center for Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) is UB’s Globally Networked Learning (GNL) organization. Through synchronous sessions, social work students in Moldava and UB’s Buffalo campus shared projects on human development. Such multicultural online and blended learning environments emphasize experiential student collaboration. This holds great potential for expanding international social work.
- The new UB Immigrant and Refugee Research Institute (IRRI), will create and share practical knowledge on immigrants and refugees and to improve their lives in the region, in the nation, and in the world.
- Research Projects Abroad – Currently, faculty have several exciting research projects underway in England, India, Scotland, Pakistan, and Tanzania.
- A Graduate Certificate in Canadian Studies – Buffalo has an advantage of being on an international border and offers a graduate certificate in Canadian Studies. We also draw many students from Canada for the MSW programs, and provide field placement opportunities in their home country.
Where are the jobs?
Many are international social work positions are located within the U.S.
NASW International provides these examples:
- Serving on U.S. military bases providing education and clinical services to military members, civilians and dependents working abroad.
- Facilitating international adoptions.
- Providing aid, relief services and counseling to persons in crisis such as refugees or in disaster areas.
- Assisting in the development of social work education programs.
- Coordinating international service-delivery programs through non-governmental organizations.
- Researching international issues and developing social policy and programs.
International Social Work Encompasses Global Contexts, Human Rights, Trauma-Informed Practices, and Respect for Cultural Differences.
Here’s a snapshot of some areas that may involve international social work:
- Social work with communities in conflict
- Cultural considerations for youths in care
- Poverty, inequality and human rights
- Refugee and asylum seeker social policy
- The use of healing rituals in the recovery after trauma
- Synthesizing indigenous and international social work theory
- Terrorism and social work: perceptions of what social workers need to know
- Public administration without borders
- A new paradigm for global social work: Meta-practice
This list comes from presentation topics at the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development in Melbourne (July 2014). It is organized by by the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), the International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW), and the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW).
How can I learn more or connect with international social work?
-Check out the great list of resources below.
-Read the summary this Twitter Chat:
(See this post for the summary of the chat – it includes additional resources to those listed below.)
A Student’s Guide To Planning A Career In International Social Work by Ann Glusker, University of Pennsylvania http://www.sp2.upenn.edu/restes/isw/chapter52.html
International Social Work and Social Welfare Organizations
Global Impact (International Social Service Organizations)
International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW)
International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW)
Inter-University Consortium for International Development (IUCISD)
International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW)
European Institute for Social Work
European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research (Vienna)
Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC)
U.S. National Organizations
International Social Work Journals
- Asia Pacific Journal of Social Work. (National University of Singapore in collaboration with the Asia Pacific
Association of Schools of Social Work)
- Australian Social Work
- British Journal of Social Work
- Caribbean Journal of Social Work
- European Journal of Social Work
- Indian Journal of Social Work
- International Social Work – Official journal of IFSW, IASSW, and ICSW
- Journal of Social Development in Africa. School of Social Work, Harare, Zimbabwe
- Social Development Issues. The Journal of the Inter-University Consortium for International Social
- Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk. South Africa
- Social Worker/Travailleur Social. Canadian Association of Social Workers
United Nations Resources:
There are many excellent U.N. resources with important human rights, social welfare and social development reports, and the U.N. conventions on human rights.
General U.N. website www.un.org.
UN Children’s Rights & Emergency Relief Organization UNICEF www.unicef.org
UN Development Programme www.undp.org
- The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
- International Labor Organization (ILO)
- Social Security Programs throughout the World – Research Statistics, Policy Analyses
- eAtlas (World Bank) Millennium Development Goals
The Global Agenda for Social Work by David Niven http://socialworldpodcast.com/029-global-agenda-social-work/
Similarities and Differences between Social Work in the United States and the United Kingdom: Interview with David Niven http://socialworkpodcast.blogspot.com/2014/03/niven.html
Podsocs http://www.podsocs.com/ has a number of podcasts under its Global link
Profiles in Social Work (U. Toronto Podcasts): Gabriela Agatiello is a counselor with individuals who have survived torture and war: https://media.library.utoronto.ca/public/serve/QEiwb6oN6zSg.mp3
inSocialWork (U. Buffalo Podcasts):
Peeling the Fear from the Past: Building Community Capacities for Healing Refugee Trauma as a Human Rights Strategy. Dr. Patricia Shannon, Episode 76
Social Work and Human Rights. Dr. Elisabeth Reichert, Episode 41
Native Americans and a Human Rights and Trauma-Informed Perspective. Agnes Williams, Episode 129