Blog: Happy National Social Work Month!
As a profession, social workers are trained to see a problem, investigate its origin, look at the systems that impact the issue, and come up with strategies to improve the situation or ease the distress it is causing. Social workers start small and work their way out to identify where they can inspire change for the betterment of the individual, community, or world. When people think of a social worker, many picture someone who works in the child welfare system, hospitals, schools, or in private practice; providing support, therapy, or case management to individuals. These “micro social workers” are on the front lines, keeping people safe.
Social workers can also be “macro social workers,” providing services such as community outreach, program management, grant and policy writing, advocating and lobbying for social causes, and working in public relations. Those in the macro field might not sit one-on-one with someone, using clinical interventions on an individual basis, however they still apply these concepts on a larger scale.
Therapeutic techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Motivational Interviewing (MI) have shown to be effective with individuals, helping them identify irrational thoughts and understand how their thoughts contribute to their behavior and influence the beliefs they have about themselves and the world around them. These models used in therapy can be applied on a macro level when attempting to create organizational and community change.
Organizations can suffer from dysfunctional and irrational thoughts and beliefs, which might inhibit them from meeting the needs of those they serve. Such beliefs might be unconscious biases the organization has about the people utilizing their services and the organization’s relationship with them, many of which may be rooted in racism and power dynamics. The organization’s actions, while possibly well intended but driven by skewed beliefs, could cause more harm than good to their community.
Organizations, like individuals, also have to adapt and be flexible to environmental, political, social, and economical factors that may require them to challenge their own (sometimes irrational) beliefs, and adjust their behaviors and norms accordingly. Macro social workers can guide organizations to look deep inside their current practices, ensure their mission aligns with their work, and help them find new ways to interact with their employees and community. Just like individuals, organizations hope to achieve meaning, purpose, self-determination, and to build healthy relationships. To do so, organizations must be open to questioning the status quo, acknowledging the negative practices and beliefs about themselves and the people they serve, identifying behaviors and values they would like to embody, and developing new visions and actions.
Social workers can help organizations with strategic planning, surveying their communities, evaluating the effectiveness of their services, implementing diversity, equity and inclusion policies, and rebranding tactics that resonate with the community. These important steps can ensure organizations are fulfilling their missions and creating healthy environments for their employees, clients, and community.
Anna Michaels-Boffy, co-founder of All In Strategic Consulting, pursued a Masters of Social Work degree after realizing that in order to make big picture change, she needed to understand the unique challenges of individuals and how to facilitate conversations in therapeutic and approachable ways. After several years in the field, Anna built a strategic communications and project management consulting firm with a public relations professional, co-founder Abby Leeper Gibson. Together, they use their skills to help community-based organizations realign their missions and services with the needs and values of the communities in which they serve.
Could your organization benefit from applying therapeutic methods to your strategic planning and communications? Check out www.allinstrategic.com.