Social Work: Let’s return to the grassroots

It’s March 20, 2020, and two items sit atop my list of current news relevant to the profession of social work – first and foremost, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic; second, the building momentum for a November face-off between President Trump and former Vice-President Biden.

There’s much that might be said about each, but two questions in particular strike me as most relevant, perhaps even critical, to the future of social work:

(1) What are the prospects for a significant strengthening of the U.S. social safety net in light the frightening weaknesses exposed by the pandemic?  Can real policy protections finally be put in place for the majority of working Americans – let alone the most vulnerable and marginalized, social work’s professed priority population?  Can we at last move from desperately fending off the predations of a rapacious political right to promoting meaningful measures essential to human health and well-being?

(2) What should be the social work profession’s long-term response to both the pandemic and the apparent rebuff of the Sanders campaign’s progressive reform agenda (most commensurate, by far, with social work values and stated commitments) by so-called Democratic party “moderates”?  Under social work’s big tent of the future, what should occupy our center ring?  Is it time to radicalize once more, to pivot from a preoccupation with state-driven policy development to align with grassroots social movements attuned to emergent needs and current political passions?


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