Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Twin Cities Radical Social Work Group

This was taken from their homepage:

"We are a group of social workers in the Twin Cities who met monthly to study and discuss Radical Social Work. Although we are not currently meeting, our e-mail list is still active.

We believe that as social workers we have a responsibility to work towards social structural change to resolve the fundamental issues our clients face, not simply resolving individual crises as they arise.

Our Mission Statement:

The Radical Social Work Study Group exists both to radicalize the profession from within, and to develop alliances with those who may not identify with the profession of social work at all. We aim to:

1. Read and study, to promote an "informed radicalism"
2. Discuss current events, solidifying viewpoints and building awareness of social issues
3. Support the personal struggles of members to maintain a radical perspective in everyday life
4. Make public statements of the group's position on local issues of concern
5. Become a resource for social work education"

They have 52 suggestions for simple radical actions one can take:

52 Simple Radical actions:

1. Carve out a few hours in your work schedule every week to be radical. Justify it to your supervisor. Encourage the people you supervise to do the same.
2. Find out who your local and national government representatives are, and write their addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, and e-mail addresses in your Rolodex.
3. Model taking good care of yourself.
4. Find ways to ally yourself with (instead of only advocating for) your client.
5. Include clients in organizational decision-making.
6. Research your own effectiveness as a practitioner, and share the results with your colleagues.
7. Read at least one relevant journal article per month.
8. Go to a block club meeting in the neighborhood where you work or live, and encourage your clients to do the same.
9. Always speak respectfully of clients. Don't give in to "client-bashing."
10. Participate in Social Work Day at the Capitol.
11. Keep clients informed of pending legislation that affects the services that they receive. Provide phone numbers of their legislators and encourage them to call and share their experiences.
12. Inform clients about what avenues they can take if they are dissatisfied or especially pleased with your work.
13. Don't ever apologize for being "just" a social worker.
14. Evaluate your agency's intake forms and brochures to make sure they are friendly to diverse populations (i.e. appropriate demographic questions, non-parental caregivers, gay and lesbian families) and that they are easily understood. Do you really need all the information you ask for?
15. Sign up for the SWAA and RSWSG e-mail listservs (see resource list).
16. Be visible and vocal in your support for others who are trying to practice radical social work.
17. Ask your clients for feedback on your job performance.
18. Write a letter to your congressperson about a social justice issue that affects your clients.
19. Meet with your congressperson to tell them about the type of work you do and the issues facing your clients.
20. Pick up voter registration cards and put them in your agency’s lobby with a sign encouraging your clients to register.
21. Ask your clients and co-workers if they’re registered to vote.
22. Talk to your clients about political candidates and issues that could effect them in upcoming elections.
23. Volunteer for a political campaign.
24. Join the Radical Social Work Study Group, or start your own study group.
25. Read David Gil’s Confronting Injustice and Oppression (1998, New York: Columbia University Press) and discuss it with someone (see resource list).
26. Reject political neutrality and let other people know how you think.
27. Start a self-help group for clients.
28. Ally yourself with a service consumer organization such as the Alliance for the Mentally Ill or the Welfare Rights Committee.
29. Subscribe to Session Weekly and Briefly, the publications of the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate, to keep updated on what bills the legislature is considering. They’re free!
30. Learn the rules so you can break them properly.
31. Have a presentation and discussion about Radical social work at your staff meeting.
32. Read Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky (see resource list).
33. The next time a co-worker requests advice on how to address a client’s issue, recommend one thing they can do on the macro level to attempt to impact the social cause, i.e., call their legislator and ask what is being done about the housing crisis.
34. Vote.
35. Encourage others to vote.
36. Keep informed about issues being decided in the legislature by signing up for an Action Alert list through organizations like Affirmative Options, The Children’s Defense Fund, Family and Children’s Services etc.
37. Increase your own critical consciousness by serving meals at a soup kitchen on your lunch hour once a month.
38. Talk politics in the lunchroom.
39. Read one article in a journal or newspaper that relates to Radical social work and share your thoughts with a co-worker or family member.
40. Read an article about cross-cultural practice and integrate a technique or tool into your everyday practice.
41. Study global affairs and think about interdependence of all people in the world.
42. Go to city hall or county offices and gather demographic information. Find out the economic level of the population in the area you serve and how many people live in poverty.
43. Contact your local housing authority and find out what housing is available for the disadvantaged in your community.
44. Join a local zoning and planning commission to make your voice heard about housing for the disadvantaged.
45. Attend a county board meeting.
46. Attend a city council meeting.
47. Attend a meeting of your neighborhood organization.
48. Form a Social Justice group in your church, synagogue or mosque.
49. Meditate once a week on peace.
50. Visit your children's schools and look at curriculum materials for social justice content.
51. Find out what social action groups are operating in your work or home communities.
52. Find an opportunity to collaborate with someone in your professional or home communities on social justice concerns.

If you have more suggestions for actions that you or others might take to be a little more radical, e-mail them to me and I'll add them to the list. My e-mail address is:


  1. I like the list - especially number 30!

  2. I "aim" to do the first five, most of the time :)

  3. Relevant to #7--students and low-income individuals may join the Social Welfare Action Alliance (formerly the Bertha Capen Reynolds Society) for $10. An additional $25 gets you a 1-year subscription to the Journal of Progressive Human Services (formerly Catalyst: A Socialist Journal of the Social Services).