Social workers around the world are playing a key role in important initiatives that seek to create local and global change.
Across the U.S. and around the world, social workers and social service workers play an active part in community initiatives that make a difference. From local art projects that raise awareness of social issues to global programs with big-picture goals, such initiatives are a cornerstone of change.
Here we highlight five initiatives that are raising awareness for important causes and helping to change the world in the process.
Grand Challenges for Social Work
Spearheaded by the American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare (AASWSW), Grand Challenges for Social Work is an initiative that promotes social progress backed by science. It calls on social work researchers and practitioners to work together with other professionals and community organizers across multi-disciplines to harness the power of science to tackle tough social problems.
Its ‘12 Grand Challenges for Social Work’ includes initiatives that aim to close the health gap, end homelessness, achieve equal opportunity and harness technology for social good, among others. It asks social workers to use their “unique blend of scientific knowledge and caring practice” to help create change in these vital areas.
Chicago Help Initiative
Poverty is a major problem in Chicago, one of the largest cities in the U.S., with an estimated 10 percent of Chicagoans living in deep poverty. The Chicago Help Initiative (CHI) is fighting hunger in the city by providing meals to the homeless, unemployed and underprivileged.
With the help of local social workers and social service workers, it also connects people with services that can help and with job opportunities. Every Wednesday night, the CHI serves a nutritious hot meal to more than 100 guests in a “safe and dignified” setting, with an additional 70-plus people receiving a bag meal to go. Each meal is staffed by two social workers who help troubleshoot issues presented by guests and who liaise with other volunteers and community services to ensure follow-up support.
NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt
Started in 1985 by San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones, the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt is now the largest community art project in the world. In 1989, it was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The quilt was first inspired when Jones asked fellow candlelight marchers remembering the assassinations of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone to tape placards with the names of friends and loved ones who had died of AIDS to a wall. The result looked like a patchwork quilt and so the idea for a giant quilt commemorating those who had died was born.
Today, there are chapters across the U.S. and independent affiliates around the globe. The NAMES Project has raised more than $3 million to date for AIDS service organizations throughout North America.
Creativity Explored helps people with developmental and severe disabilities to become working, recognized artists.
Artist Florence Ludins-Katz and her husband, psychologist Elias Katz, founded the San Francisco-based program in 1983. The organization provides studio space for disabled artists, along with support, mentoring, materials and liaising with the art community to display and promote their work.
It organizes six exhibitions a year featuring artworks that range from painting and sculpture to books. It gives studio artists the opportunity to earn income from the sale of their work, thereby helping them pursue greater financial and personal independence.
The Transition Network
The Transition Network movement began in 2005 with the core goal of addressing climate change and peak oil problems by working upward from a local, community level. It encourages communities to begin with local actions to these big-picture challenges, such as creating practical programs for local schools that want a low-carbon, sustainable future.
Through crowd-sourcing, entrepreneurship, re-skilling, and storytelling, the movement is weaving together communities to support each other for change. The movement currently has more than 400 initiatives happening in over 34 countries worldwide.
Global policies and developments such as these are changing the face of social justice activism around the world.
Get involved in these great initiatives or take the first steps to starting your own by investing in an advanced social work education.