This past year, Berkeley Social Welfare launched a series of presentations aiming to examine the “Grand Challenges in Social Work.”
Initiated by Dean Jeffrey Edleson as part of a national effort being led by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, the purpose of the Grand Challenges events are to facilitate a dialogue among social welfare scholars in identifying the pressing issues facing the social work profession and the larger community in the coming decade and beyond. The determination of these challenges will help schools of social work throughout the country in shaping curriculum and scholarship to meet the emerging demands of the field.
In October, Dean Edleson moderated the first Grand Challenges event, titled “Promoting the Nation's Health and Mental Health.” Held in Haviland Hall's Social Welfare Library, the presentation focused on the context of social work practice in the changing landscape of the nation’s health systems. The speakers included California Association of Deans and Directors (CADD) of Schools of Social Work President Dr. David Cherin; longtime social worker and the founder and director of Oakland-based non-governmental organization Prevention Institute Larry Cohen; Marin County Department of Health and Human Services Director Dr. Larry Meredith; and Mack Distinguished Professor in Mental Health and Social Conflict Dr. Steven Segal.
The second Grand Challenges event was hosted by Assistant Professor Adrian Aguilera in November. Entitled "Harnessing Technology to Enhance Behavioral Interventions and Improve Service Delivery," the panel explored the impact of emerging technologies — such as the Internet, social media and text messaging — in client outcomes, particularly among underserved communities, and how those vehicles are shaping social service delivery.
The panel was comprised of leading thinkers and innovators in this area, including Esther Crawford, the founder of Lifebook, a website that assists teams, such as families caring for elderly loved ones and child welfare agencies, coordinate care efforts; Margaret Laws, MPP, the director of the California Healthcare Foundation’s Innovations for the Underserved program; and Ricardo Munoz, PhD, UCSF Professor Emeritus and Palo Alto University Professor, whose research interests include evidence-based Internet interventions for health in Spanish and English as well as prevention and treatment of depression.
Professor Michael Austin moderated the first Grand Challenges event of the spring semester. Entitled "Poverty and the Empowerment of Women: Lessons from Developing Countries for the U.S.," the event featured an international group of panelists who spoke on issues ranging from the role of NGOs in Bangladesh to the challenges faced by women in India because of patriarchic structures to the policies and perceived effectiveness of micro-lending.
The presenters included London School of Economics and Social Policy Professor David Lewis, Berkeley Social Welfare Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr. Lalima Srivastava and Berkeley School of Social Welfare Mack Center Doctoral Fellow Sirojudin Sirojudin.
The final Grand Challenges presentation of the 2012-13 academic year, "The Challenge of an Aging Society," focused on the unprecedented growth of the senior population in the United States — a group that is expected to surpass 71 million in the coming decades. The panel also examined the issues, or -- as moderator Professor Andrew Scharlach framed it — "the opportunities," presented by the significant demographic shift.
The three invited speakers collectively provided an overview of aging services and policymaking in the Bay Area, California and the nation, along with their visions and hopes of what — and how best — those policies and services might serve our aging population. Speakers included Institute for the Future Distinguished Scholar Richard Adler, On Lok Lifeways Executive Director and CEO Robert Edmonsonand San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services Executive Director Anne Hinton.
“I know that our School's faculty, staff, students, alumni and partners can play a major role in helping define the grand challenges for our profession nationally and, more importantly, provide the big and bold ideas to solve them as well as the social work leaders and scholars to help us reach these solutions,” notes Dean Edleson.