Dr. Shannon Lane

Dr. Shannon Lane, assistant professor of social work at Wurzweiler School of Social Work, with Dr. Suzanne Pritzker of the University of Houston, co-published “Political Social Work” concurrently in the Encyclopedia of Social Work and the new Encyclopedia of Macro Social Work (Aug. 31, 2021).

Here is the summary:

Political social work navigates power in policymaking and politics to elicit social change. It is grounded in core social work values and ethics, including the professional responsibility to challenge systemic discrimination and institutional inequalities through political action. Political social workers address systemic barriers to social, political, economic, and racial justice, and engage in political action to promote individual and communal well-being through policy processes and outcomes. This article discusses the five domains of political social work: engaging individuals and communities in political processes; influencing policy agendas and decision-making; holding professional and political staff positions; engaging with electoral campaigns; and seeking and holding elected office. It also examines social workers’ political activity in the United States and globally, the role of social work education, and challenges for political social work, including the profession’s legacy of supporting injustices and tensions around the role of political social work, and identifies opportunities to address these barriers.

The authors begin with defining the phrase “political social work,” then show that meaning in action in various ways: Political Social Work in Context, Domains of Political Social Work, Ethics and Values in Political Social Work, Social Workers’ Political Activity, Political Social Work Education, and Challenges and Opportunities Facing Political Social Work.

In their conclusion, “Moving Forward,” they note that “political social work can contribute to political justice if all social workers, across fields and levels of practice, possess the capacity to effectively navigate power dynamics and to act on the professional obligation to step up and lead toward change, even in difficult times.”

They add that “social work values and ethics provide … a compelling opportunity for the profession to participate in the political process and effect meaningful change.”

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