Social workers and activism: Examining perceptions and participation
Newland, Lisa Zakiya
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Social work, unlike many professions, has a historical commitment to social justice and an activism agenda. This study a non-experimental explanatory survey design which randomly sampled members of the New York City chapter of NASW, examined some of the variables associated with attitudes toward, and participation in, activism and also examined the impact of social work education programs on pre-existing levels of activism. This inquiry was designed to answer, To what extent are social workers involved in activism as it relates to social problems? To what extent does membership in a group that has experienced oppression affect the assumption of an activist role? and To what extent does social work education result in a social worker assuming an activist role?;The study produced statistically significant findings, to varying degrees, on factors that support a social worker assuming more of an activist role. Programs and schools of social work can benefit from this study's findings of the factors associated with higher levels of activism. These factors included, (1) the influence of family of origin prior to social work education, (2) participation in high school and college activism prior to social work education, (3) age, (4) race, (5) membership in an organization supporting activism, (6) content in social work education, (7) clients' socioeconomic status, (8) seeking information related to social policy and (9) identifying a negative impact of social policy on practice and/or clients.;Social work education must take a critical look into activism by examining how it is conceptualized, taught and practiced. Innovative approaches toward curriculum and field education are greatly needed as the profession continues to contend with ways to develop more activist oriented professionals.