As the new presidential administration comes into power, basic assumptions about the role of government in assisting the most marginalized have been thrown into question. Social workers should be deeply concerned about proposed changes to social service programs and the government agencies that administer them.
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has called on social workers to organize, oppose, resist, and educate in response to the anti-social work agenda that is being put forward by the new administration. But how do we actually proceed?
In the first chat of this series, we discussed power–how it’s defined, who has it, and how we build it. To build the power we need for change requires organized people or organized money. In this week’s chat, we will discuss how to build the relationships needed to effectively organize. What starts as a small group of likeminded people can grow into a network of activists driving a movement.
The most important component of organizing, like social work, is listening and building relationships. We must meet people where they are and forge connections based on empathy, shared experiences, or common interests. This development of trust allows us to ask people to take necessary actions they may not ordinarily take–attending a protest or challenging an elected official–in a way that isn’t transactional, but based on mutual self-interest and respect.
To take a closer look at these concepts, we will discuss the following questions:
- Organizing builds public relationships which differ from personal or professional ones. What do you think this means?
- How would you engage stakeholders to start organizing around an issue you care about?
- Do you see a unique role for social work institutions to build relationships for change?
- Once you’ve established public relationships for organizing, what do you think is the next step to address an issue?
- What will you do in the next month to organize around around the issue of your choice?