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Research explores the role of the social worker in the path to a new eco-social world

A new academic article argues that social workers have a role as central drivers in the development of a ‘new eco-social world’ following the pandemic.

28/02/24

Research explores the role of the social worker in the path to a new eco-social world

A new academic article positions social workers as key agents in the movement towards a more sustainable and just world in the wake of the pandemic.

Published online, ‘Social work beyond the pandemic: Exploring social work values for a new eco-social world’ draws on a series of international research-focused webinars with social workers in 2022 designed to examine the rethinking of professional values during the pandemic in the context of other global crises, particularly the climate emergency.

The webinars followed an international qualitative survey of over 600 social workers in 2020 on ethical challenges during COVID-19 and were designed to inform the People’s Global Summit, held online during 29 June to 2 July 2022. Jointly organised by IFSW and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) with partners, the summit focused on ‘Co-building a new eco-social world: leaving no one behind’.

The newly published article explores social workers’ reflections on the impact of COVID-19 on their practice, particularly how they reconsidered their professional values and ethical actions, drawing lessons for future routine and crisis-responsive work. It also examines the ethical dilemmas faced by social workers, such as self-care, digital working, and navigating reduced bureaucracy, while highlighting the importance of holistic, community-based approaches that weave together the social, health, and economic strands of human life.

Authors said that while many aspects of the pandemic experience were not new – numerous regions of the world have experienced, or are experiencing, health crises such as Ebola or HIV – but that the ‘global reach’ of COVID-19 and the search for vaccines, “highlighted people’s inter-connectedness and the linkages between everyday human lives, biological systems and international politics and economics.”

“Citizens, professionals and politicians faced decisions that tested their values about what mattered, what was right and whose interests, needs and lives counted. The experience of living and working through the pandemic made these issues and choices more universally visible, as existing inequities were exacerbated and people were compelled to reconsider their priorities,” the article said.

Commenting on the publication, Dr Jane Shears, IFSW Global Ethics Commissioner and one of the authors, said the article “advocates for a radical re-evaluation of social work to incorporate eco-social justice that goes beyond human benefits and embrace a holistic perspective on life.”

“It calls for a shift in social work towards a more eco-social approach that integrates care for people and the planet, urging social workers to actively participate in political campaigns that develop practices embodying compassion, sustainability, and equity.”

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