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Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development: Commitment to Action – By Karen Adshead – #SWSCmedia #SWweek Series #GASWSC #WSWDay #UNSWDay

I have been fortunate to have experiences working within different communities around the globe. Living in London, social disparity and exclusion run alongside collaborative projects for community rejuvenation and action for sustainability; wealth and prosperity offer stark contrast to rising homelessness. It is a place where even faith based groups struggled to find a just voice in the Occupy response to a City entrenching social and economic inequality.

Business is business!

Businesses must grow

Regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.

(Dr. Seuss, 1999)

Where should social work stand in this global crisis? Side by side with those most affected? In front and in the line of fire? Do either of these views place social work in a stance of engagement? I find that I, like many others, are less than satisfied with the notion of merely ameliorating the negative effects often associated with globalisation and neoliberal economic policies.

It is possible to create alternatives rather than being expected to simply record and observe the effects of social inequalities? How can we work together and build a broader base towards a healthy, just world by engaging in discussions and actions that challenge the fragmentation of the micro from the mezzo and the macro areas of social practice, policy and education?

We as social workers, like those with and for whom we work and provide service, share the same human vulnerabilities and responsibilities for our collective future and the future of our planet. The Global agenda on social work and social development is the first of many steps that we, as social workers, are pledging around the world to engage ourselves towards actions. I encourage and invite you to review the global agenda and explore, discuss, debate and act on the commitments of the global agenda on social work and social development! I look forward to our debate on how you see yourselves bring this locally to your practice and around the world!

Briefing on the Global Agenda

What is the Global Agenda?

The ‘Global Agenda Commitment to Action’ is the product of a three year collaboration between the three main international social work bodies representing social work practice, social work education and social development globally. These are the International Federation of Social Work (IFSW), the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) and the International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW).

The Global Agenda was initially inspired by the UN Millennium Declaration (United Nations, 2002) and is working towards the 2015 Millennium Development Agenda.  The Global Agenda provides common goals for social workers, the means to strengthening our voice at an international level and a clear analysis of current and enduring social problems based on social justice and human rights. The collaborative work from social work and social development will continue to maximise our influence in developing a more equal and effective social agenda. The GA demonstrates a commitment to playing a role in generating, enabling and supporting, structures and systems that promote social inclusion and which enable people to have power over their own lives.

Key messages of the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development

Develop common objectives by working with governments, policy makers, educators, communities, service users and within our own organisations to create a more socially just     society that we can be proud to leave to future generations.

Strengthen the influence of social work and social development organizations in international, national and local policy development from which to actively engage in policy and community development and social action. The four priority areas are:

  • Promoting social and economic equalities – addressing the impact of discrimination and oppression, social injustice and other human rights violations
  • Strengthening the recognition and importance of human relationships
  • Promoting the dignity, diversity and worth of all peoples
  • Considering environmental and community sustainability of any actions. 

Recognise the role that social work and social development can play in change for social justice, health equalities and implementation of human rights

Strengthen the ability of social work to have a stronger voice by identifying and clearly articulating issues of importance to the profession and to influence the corporate and political landscape at the local, national and global levels.

Inspire Practitioners and Educators to develop a stronger professional voice at a time of major political and economic change to address the impact of inequality caused by economic and social policies.

Demonstrate Competence and Value by recognising the benefits that social work expertise and knowledge can bring in working together with communities, service users and other agencies, at all levels, for social change. Social workers see on a day to day basis the realities of personal, social and community challenges.

Sustain Education and Continuous Personal Development by ensuring that social workers can contribute to developing structures, systems and interventions that allow people to have power over their own lives and address the root causes of oppression and inequality. Assure excellence in skills and competencies at all levels of social work education, practice, research and social development.

Integrate technologies that serve social work practice and education and social development in an ethical, practical and responsible manner.

Recommended Actions to take the Global agenda forward

Here in London, UK, on March 20th, 2012, World Social Work Day, the British Association of Social Workers and the Joint University Council Social Work Education International Committee, recommend to the Governments of the UK and Westminster, the value of working together and that the following actions begin the process of achieving the Global Agenda:

  1. Recognise the role and value of social work by incorporating the international definition of social work into all relevant legislation
  2. Give a key role to the new Chief Social Work post in England to advance understanding of social work as an international profession and to link with appropriate organisations.
  3. Recognise the benefits and enable more time for relationship based social work and more sustainable community based work.
  4. Develop a wider role for social work in building the capacity of communities to engage actively with national governments.
  5. Recognise the crucial role of social work in the health equalities agenda and in the integration of health and social care. Extensive research by Centre for Social Justice showed the outstanding results of piloted community care teams with health professionals and social workers working side by side.
  6. Develop with DfID a specific programme to support social work and social development
  7. Adopt the Social Protection Floor Initiative as part of a common vision in social policy development. The Social Protection Floor is a global social policy approach promoting integrated strategies for providing access to essential social services and income security for all.
  8. Promote development of more culturally relevant social work interventions and research methodologies in the areas of social justice and social well-being, and identify and articulate cost-benefit outcomes.
  9. Strengthen the ability of social work and social development to influence the corporate and political landscape at the local, national and global levels.
  10. Assure excellence in skills and competencies to achieve the Global Agenda at all levels of social work education.


Action for Children (2012) Child Neglect in 2011:An annual review by Action for Children in partnership with the University of Stirling

Seuss, Dr. (1999) Seussisms for Success: Insider Tips on Economic Health from the Good Doctor. New York Random House. As cited in Wilson, M.G. and Witmore, E. (2000) Seeds of Fire: Social Development in an Era of Globalism. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing. p 14.

CSJ Age of Opportunity, June 2011 and recent report (8th Feb, 2012) from the Health Select Committee

Join us on World Social Work Day (Tuesday, 20-March-2012) at 8:00 PM GMT / 4:00 PM EDT to discuss and explore the “Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development” in a rich and lively Twitter Debate @SWSCmedia.

Karen Adshead (@intlsocialwork) is a Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader for MA in International Social Work and Community Development /Refugee Studies at the University of East London. She is also a member of JUC SWEC International Committee and London Regional Centre of Expertise for Education for Sustainable Development, as well as a member of @SWSCmedia Expert Panel.



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