Becoming a Practitioner Activist: The Social Work Voice
Becoming engaged with macro practice and making the shift to being a practitioner activist requires first the development of a critical consciousness that allows for deep reflection on how we as social workers wield power in both overt and more subtle ways. This involves a sincere look at our racialized, gendered, and heteronormative privilege (amongst others), and grappling with the ways in which we contribute to and benefit from the maintenance of oppressive structures.
From this open and honest reflection about the role we play in maintaining systems of oppression, becoming a practitioner activist requires greater involvement in essential functions of social work like engaged individual practice, community organizing, supervision, leadership, and education. These roles are critical for developing future social workers to think in a larger way in order to shift our overall approach to the issues facing our clients.
Finally, despite playing a central role working on the front lines in communities regularly impacted by policy decisions, social workers are not adequately represented at the policymaking table, leaving the role we should be filling as advocates to be filled by others who may or may not have our nuanced understanding and expertise. This is not meant to disregard the important and incredible work being done by social workers in the arenas of macro practice, advocacy, and social policy. Rather, it is meant as a invitation for others to join in the ranks and further the work that these social workers are already doing, although with more of a radical focus. The voice of social workers is valuable and poignant-- all the more reason that we should have more social workers engaged in the fight.
As such, we must actively work to cultivate our place at the table and further the reach of social work practice wisdom.