Social Work And Networking For The Greater Good
One of the most common struggles that new social workers face is the reality of providing social services in communities with few resources. Though it is uncommon to come into the social work field with the expectation of working with limitless funding and staffing, it is disappointing to realize few agencies possess the transformative motor to promote social change due to being overwhelmed, over worked and under paid. Consider the many hats a social worker must wear to meet the diverse needs clients face. Social workers manage roles ranging from case management to community advocacy, seamlessly marrying micro- and macro-level skill sets. The following four steps will help transform your professional aspirations into manageable goals that deliver results.
- Visualize -- If you are like me, it is hard to see each project as anything other than the sum of its parts. I struggled for some time seeing connections between small projects and their impact on the bigger picture. By creating a visual, like a spreadsheet, you will often realize more quickly how your team is progressing toward a common goal and where you might be lacking the necessary resources to get the job done. Visual tools will also help you complete small steps on the path to project implementation. This often includes accessing additional funding, establishing venues for community events and defining community needs that may not have been considered before.
- Connect and Make Friends – Use your existing network to grow your stakeholders. Whenever possible, make time for coffee, lunch or local gatherings for like-minded groups. Whatever you do, do not think that you have made a connection just by sharing business cards. Make friends by articulating your agency’s goals, needs and community presence, and make time to find out information about any potential partner with whom you engage. “Who? What? Where? and When?” are qualifiers, “Why?” creates interest and promotes progression toward large goals. “Why?” creates the opportunity to better understand action and community involvement. For instance, many agencies work for competing goals, but perform outreach in different ways. Understanding the present state and history of an agency, will best create a strategic partnership, without significant overlap.
- Collaborate – As a rule, never stop adding to advocacy goals until internal and close external stakeholders have an opportunity to provide feedback. Have you included all relevant community considerations? Do you need to seek out specific ordinances or demonstration permits for action? Do you have sufficient, reliable volunteer rosters from which to pull? Critical feedback will help you and your teammates to better understand the community, and eliminate costly back and forth that will limit the time to succeed with these projects.
- Embrace Critical feedback – Rarely will your plan or project come back unchanged from gathering feedback. In fact, I suggest that if you don’t receive good feedback or critical thinking on your project, you reorganize your stakeholder group to include people who are more engaged in your goals. After incorporating your feedback, you will see how it has changed your considerations, and how you will move toward your greater goals. Define the new resources and approaches you must acquire, build outreach campaigns to bring in support from new communities and draft legislature and press kits for new media groups to help promote your cause. Though your goals should be the same, it will serve you well to reconsider your path to completion.
Will these skills alone make your projects successes? Unfortunately, no one skill or combination of skills will unlock a complete understanding of the community that you serve. However, following these methods will grow your presence in the community and secure your position as a relevant change agent. Effectively networking, sharing your platform and partnering with like-minded groups will lead to success for both long- and short-term projects. In the end, you will be surprised at how many resources are accessible, and how you can navigate them for the greater good. Remember that your community will ultimately be able to say if these projects and actions were impactful or not.