Discussion: Using Power in Social Work Practice

Discussion: Using Power in Social Work Practice
Politics represents efforts by people in governmental and nongovernmental settings to secure their policy wishes by developing and using power resources.

—Bruce S. Jansson, Becoming an Effective Policy Advocate: From Policy Practice to Social Justice (8th ed.)

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Social workers are in the business of empowering people. They are also often faced with power structures that are entrenched and difficult to navigate. Skillful policy practitioners recognize the many kinds of power resources that exist, thus expanding their options in specific situations. As a social worker, you will learn various strategies that can create and expand personal networks that might be useful in negotiating your policy practice within an agency. You want your power resources to be recognized as effective ways to get things done, not as coercion and force.

In this Discussion, you identify various kinds of power resources (including person-to-person, substantive, process, and procedural) that you can use to secure the adoption of a policy proposal.

To prepare: Review Chapter 10 in your text, focusing on Jansson’s categorization of types of power resources in the policy-enacting task.

By Day 3
Post a description of how social workers use power resources in their social work practice and advocacy. Select a type of power resource you would use in your practice and advocacy. Describe the ethical issues or concerns in using the type of power resource you selected.

Discussion: Developing Political Strategies
In this week’s resources, you explore the stories of Susana and the Bradley family. They are all in situations that need social work intervention and advocacy. What political strategies would you use to enact policies developed to assist these individuals?

In this Discussion, you develop political strategies to address one aspect of the situation(s) and problem(s) facing Susana and members of the Bradley family.

To Prepare: Read and review Chapter 11 in your text. Read “Social Work Policy: Children and Adolescents” and “Social Policy and Advocacy: Violence Prevention”. View the Bradley Episode 7 in the media for this week.

By Day 3
Post an explanation of the political strategies you would use to address one aspect of the situations/problems facing Susana and members of the Bradley family. Explain why you selected that strategy.

Discussion: Policy Implementation Challenges
Implementation never occurs in a vacuum.

—Bruce S. Jansson, Becoming an Effective Policy Advocate: From Policy Practice to Social Justice (8th ed.)

When a policy is launched, its success is dependent on a variety of stakeholders. As the politics of decision makers, executives, staff, clients, and social workers begin to influence the implementation process, their beliefs—and subsequent actions—determine the fate of the policy.

Often a social worker must step out of the comfort of his or her social service world and may find himself or herself making difficult decisions about ethical issues and/or may find himself or herself involved in implementing policies that he or she feels is against his or her social work values. How does a social worker handle the intricacies and challenges of policy implementation on both a personal and professional level?

In this Discussion, you explore policy implementation and the challenges faced by social workers during policy implementation.

By Day 3
Post your thoughts on whether social workers might try to undermine the implementation of specific policies. What ethical issues might they confront? Discuss how social workers can implement policies that they feel may be against their social work values. Discuss a specific policy’s impact that you would try to mitigate in the implementation phase. Provide an experience you have had with a policy you had difficulty implementing or a policy you are aware of that you would have serious qualms about implementing.

Discussion 1: Policies and the Influence of Values
Ideology, politics, and the influence of values often override evidence-based policy. When there is evaluation conflict, a policy advocate must be prepared to defend his/her reasons for wanting to implement a policy. Because almost all proposed policies are circumscribed by politics (for reasons brought up by Jansson throughout the course when discussing the subtleties of policy implementation), you should be prepared for some conflict, ranging from having your research ignored, to having the accuracy of your data questioned, to having your personal values brought into question.

In this Discussion, you consider the assertion that the evaluation of specific policies is often strongly influenced by values. You also examine and evaluate ways to mitigate evaluation conflict to defend the feasibility of your policy.

By Day 3
Post a response to Jansson’s assertion that evaluating specific policies is strongly influenced by values with respect to the case of the evaluation of special services. How do the values of evaluation conflict adhere to social work values? What practices would you use to defend the feasibility of and effectiveness of your evidence-based policy?

Discussion 2: Becoming a Lifelong Advocate
It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act.

—Tenzin Gyatso

As this course comes to a close, consider and reflect on how you can become a lifelong advocate for social change in your future social work practice. As a motivated policy advocate and social worker, your actions in your chosen profession will reflect your motivation to help relatively powerless, disenfranchised groups of people improve their resources, their opportunities, and their quality of life.

In this Discussion, you reflect upon your responsibility as a social worker, politically and professionally.

By Day 4
Post your thoughts on this question: As a social worker, what is your responsibility to engage in political action? Identify an area of social welfare where social work policy advocacy is needed.

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