New Book Calls for Social Workers to Embrace Activism and Leadership to Advance Social Change
In the new book Social Work: A Call to Action – A Time for Reflection and Reckoning, DSW Program Director and Clinical Associate Professor Dr. Linda Lausell Bryant and Senior Fellow Philip Coltoff challenge social work practitioners, educators, and the profession as a whole to embrace the activism and leadership inherent in social work’s core values in order to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the movement for racial justice, the erosion of democracy, and other pressing challenges of our turbulent times. “Throughout our history [social workers] have been committed to serving those most in need and to redressing the ills of our society,” they wrote in the book’s introduction. “This is our new moment, a time to use our leadership and our unique position within the social fabric to re-energize our profession, to teach and practice what’s needed in today’s world and to move forward.”
Dr. Lausell Bryant and Mr. Coltoff have a combined 85 years of human services experience, are both former CEOs of human service agencies, and are NYU Silver’s current and former Katherine and Howard Aibel Executive-in Residence respectively. Dr. Lausell Bryant is also Director of the School’s Adaptive Leadership in Human Services Institute, which published the book. All proceeds from the book’s sale will go to the scholarship fund for the School’s Adaptive Leadership Fellowship for second year MSW students.
The book does not discount the importance of clinical social work and direct service provision for individuals, families, and communities; however, it argues such efforts must be accompanied by advocacy and activism to affect system-wide change. Explained Dr. Lausell Bryant, “If you saw a group of people trapped in a ditch, you might send down water, food, and supplies to make them more comfortable, but your ultimate aim would be to get them out of the ditch. It’s critical for us as social workers to attend to our bigger purpose.”
In its four parts and six chapters, the book explores the profession’s responsibilities in the context of our times; proposes Adaptive Leadership as a new leadership paradigm for the profession; calls for centering social work values when engaging with funders and boards of directors; promotes an interdisciplinary polymathic curricula to prepare social workers to assume executive roles in human service organizations and to expose executives from other disciplines to social work values and principles; and provides reflections from a cross-section of social work executives. Each chapter concludes with reflection questions for both students and academic leaders as well space for reader’s notes.
Wrote Dean Neil B. Guterman in his forward, “Dr. Lausell Bryant and Mr. Coltoff take a deep look at our policies, commitment to social action, and the education of our candidates to exercise the leadership necessary to move our profession forward. They look at hard questions of social reform as distinct from direct clinical practice, the influence of public and private money on the work that we do, the role of philanthropy, and the availability and quality of faculty committed to teach community organization and group work as agents for change. The authors also take an honest look at those who constitute our leadership core today ‒ not only social workers, but attorneys, educators, and policy wonks - good people but not necessarily trained in our profession's knowledge base. They suggest new ways to effectively address the significant issues.”