March 20, 2018

Depending on your interests, today is either all about raising awareness and celebrating World Social Work day, or it’s about raising awareness and celebrating Ravioli day, World story telling day, Proposal day, International day of happiness or Won’t you be my neighbour day, honoring Fred Rogers, - who I’ll come to later.   

When I was training to be a social worker I genuinely thought I was going to be part of changing the world, part of making a tangible, significant difference. In my first qualified role as a substance misuse Social Worker I came to realise that getting the right urine sample from the right person at the right time was a major achievement. Looking back over almost 40 years of a varied, challenging, interesting career, I’m yet to be part of making any major large-scale difference.  I haven’t written any profound articles, chapters in a book or even tweeted. However, I, like millions of other Social Workers around the world, have turned up (almost) everyday intent on engaging with people, systems and structures in order to be part of making a sustainable difference for individuals and communities. 

Though I look back to generic community-based SW with fondness, I am enthused and hopeful by what I see and hear today. Technology is helping to empower individuals, promote social change, develop new, transparent, accountable systems and build communities. Individuals and small groups are embracing principles of the Circular Restorative Economy and making real grass root differences, for example, Local Entrepreneur Forums with their Community of Dragons and REconomy projects, Caring Town – Totnes, Shared Lives, Home Share, Men’s Sheds, Buurtzorg, the ‘Library of Things’, Peregrine House and a multiplicity of other examples.  

I’ve read about Bill Grimsey – former CE of Wicks and Iceland outlining new research that he is leading on which looks again at how to 'turn moribund high streets into thriving and diverse community spaces’. I’ve listened to Alex Fox’s presentation at the launch of his book ‘A New Health And Care System – Escaping the invisible asylum’ (awaiting delivery of it) and again I’m enthused and hopeful.  

We are slowly and doggedly extending the move towards active participant led approaches and building support around individuals, not the other way around. We are beginning to acknowledge that to achieve wellbeing - the ‘good life’ that is unique to us all, requires assistance to connect and associate, not just the devolution of power and responsibility.  

In Alex’s presentation he talked about building confident resilient connections as part of every intervention, at every point in the support journey, of people building their own enterprises and their own small-scale commissioning alliances, and of a revolution in designing and delivering services. 

Aside from Alex having my vote, commitment and enthusiasm, through Younifi, I may at last be part of making the tangible, significant difference that I spoke about at the beginning, see what you think. 

So today is our worldwide opportunity to raise awareness and celebrate what we’re all about – Promoting “… social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. … engaging people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing. …” (IFSW). 

That said I started by noting it’s also a number of other apparently unrelated awareness days. We’d do well to remember however that ravioli originates from Italy, Italians place huge importance on family; stories are powerful tools within our professional toolkit; proposals of any nature, are usually about making positive changes; happiness is generally linked to a holistic approach to life, emotional well-being, friends, family and communities. Finally, ‘Won’t you be my neighbour day’, I discovered is based on Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood, first broadcast in USA on February 19, 1968. Mister (Fred)  Rogers apparently ‘created a calm, safe place for children to learn about themselves, about others, and about the world around them. … bringing a one-to-one affirmation of their self-worth’.  

Given that the theme of world Social Work day is ‘Promoting Communities and Environmental Sustainability’, maybe we can all learn something from Mr Rogers’. 


Circular Economy -

REconomy - 

Caring Towns – Totnes 

Shared Lives and Home Share

Men’s Sheds 

Buurtzorg - 

‘The library of things’ movement 

Peregrine House 

Alex Fox book launch at Nesta 28th February


Mr Rogers’ Neighbourhood -