What is the Grand Challenge Initiative?
Social workers are needed now more than ever to tackle the world’s complex, global, and inter-related problems. Research has shown that social workers have positively transformed society during the profession’s last century of history. Now, social work practitioners and scholars are looking toward the future impact of social work practice to identify and begin to address the most pressing social issues of the 21st century. This work has been taken up through the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare’s (AASWSW) Grand Challenges for Social Work Initiative.
The Grand Challenges for Social Work is as an appeal for social change. According to the AASWSW, it is “is a groundbreaking initiative to champion social progress powered by science. It’s a call to action for social work researchers and practitioners to:
- Harness social work’s science and knowledge base;
- Collaborate with individuals, community-based organizations, and professionals from all fields and disciplines; and
- Work together to tackle some of our toughest social problems.”
History and Process
The Grand Challenges for Social Work initiative began in 2013, with a committee of dedicated social work professionals who developed “strategic partnerships with social work’s national organizations, interest groups, and academic entities.” In addition to commissioning several background papers that set the stage for the Grand Challenges initiative, the committee sought ideas from the broader social work community and received 80 concept papers identifying urgent social problems social workers must address.
The committee then synthesized these ideas into 12 grand challenges for the social work profession, with a “focus on the best work with the clearest connection to intervention possibilities that social work and partners could deliver.”
The 12 Grand Challenges
The 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work are grouped into three broad calls for action, each composed of 4 specific challenges. They are:
Individual and Family Well-Being
Challenge #1: Ensure Healthy Development for All Youth
Challenge #2: Close the Health Gap
Challenge #3: Stop Family Violence
Challenge #4: Advance Long and Productive Lives
Stronger Social Fabric
Challenge #5: Eradicate Social Isolation
Challenge #6: End Homelessness
Challenge #7: Create Social Responses to a Changing Environment
Challenge #8: Harness Technology for Social Good
Challenge #9: Promote Smart Decarceration
Challenge #10: Reduce Extreme Economic Inequality
Challenge #11: Build Financial Capability for All
Challenge #12: Achieve Equal Opportunity and Justice
Clearly, addressing these 21st century challenges is no small feat, and requires the hard work and concerted action of all social work professionals working together. The AASWSW has put together several reports, policy recommendations, and action statements for each of the challenges, which you can see by following the links above. Learn more about these challenges and join the call to action today! You can also follow the hashtag #Up4theChallenge or join the mailing list to stay up to date and be a part of the grand challenges!