Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Special Commission on Macro Practice: Interview with Dr. Darlyne Bailey and Dr. Terry Mizrahi

[Episode 121] In today's episode of the Social Work Podcast, I speak with Dr. Darlyne Bailey and Dr. Terry Mizrahi about the Special Commission on Macro Practice.  We talk about how their social work experiences led them to co-chairing the Special Commission, the relationship between case and cause, moment and movement, and process and product. We talked about the false dichotomy between micro and macro practice, and that there is nothing wrong with focusing your energies on one or the other. We ended the episode with a call for the social work profession to focus energies on increasing the percentage of macro-concentration social work students to 20% by 2020.

Download MP3 [50:18]



Jonathan Singer: Hey there podcast listeners, Jonathan here. Did you miss me? I missed you. But I haven’t forgotten about you. I’ve been working hard behind the scenes to get some amazing content for you.

Today’s interview is the first in a series of podcast episodes focusing on the macro side of social work. In 2017, Steve Burghardt, a professor from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College in New York City, reached out to me and asked, “why aren’t there more episodes focusing on macro content?” This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked why most of my episodes focus on micro practice. The answer is simple – my clinical and research expertise is in micro practice – the work with individuals and families that I reference all the time on the podcast. I know how what practice issues are important, I know how to frame the issues, I know the experts, and I know whether my guests know what they are talking about. I don’t have anything against macro practice. I’ve worked as a community organizer. I’ve lobbied representatives. I’ve been involved in writing legislation. But I’m less confident in knowing how to be the arbiter of what you want to hear about regarding macro social work. And then Steve did something beautiful. He didn’t just point out what’s missing, he offered to help fill the gap. Not by being a guest, although we will have Steve as a guest on the podcast soon. Steve’s expertise is in macro social work. He knows the issues. He knows the people. Steve offered to help me come up with topics, guests, and some of the information necessary to set the stage in my introductions. I took him up on it.

Over the next few years we’ll be bringing you episodes that explore the macro side of social work. Why? Because whatever affects the pond affects the fish. I was going to call this the Macro Social Work Podcast, but I was too late. In August 2018, Stephen Cummings (not to be confused with Steve Burghardt) started the MacroSW podcast as part of the amazing #MacroSW Twitter chat. You can learn more about that at https://macrosw.com/podcast/ [NOTE: domain offline, link no longer points to an active site. In 2021 Marthea Pitts, MSW started the Macro Social Work Your Way Podcast].

To kick things off we have two giants in the field of social work, Dr. Darlyne Bailey, former Dean and now Professor of Social Work at Bryn Mawr College and Dr. Terry Mizrahi, past president of the National Association of Social Workers and professor at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, City University of New York.

In today’s episode, Darlyne and Terry will introduce The Special Commission to Advance Macro Practice in Social Work. They serve as Co-Chairs of the Special Commission's Leadership Committee. They will be talking about how the Special Commission came about, and what it seeks to accomplish over the coming years. Here’s Darlyne describing the origins of the special commission. [transcript forthcoming]

If you want to learn more about the Special Commission, please head over to the ACOSA website at acosa.org. ACOSA is the Association for Community Organization and Social Administration, a membership organization founded in 1987 for community organizers, activists, nonprofit administrators, community builders, policy practitioners, students, and educators.

And now without further ado, on to episode 121 of the Social Work Podcast. The Special Commission on Macro Practice: Interview with Dr. Darlyne Bailey and Dr. Terry Mizrahi


Darlyne Bailey: There was a survey that was put out by ACOSA, the Association for Community Organization and Social Administration as it was known then, to faculty members documenting the lack of support for macro content and also pointing out that there seemed to be a diminution of attention paid to macro specializations or concentrations.  This resulted in Jack Rothman putting out what we call affectionately the Rothman Report, and he recommended the establishment of the Special Commission to redress the imbalance between macro and micro practice, with both of them being direct practice: with macro being directly focused on organizations, communities, and policy, and micro focusing directly on individuals, families, and small groups. The goal here is for us to increase our professional ability to influence and shape policy, increase leadership in social services, and to enhance community well-being in general. We believe that in so doing we would be furthering not only the efficacy of the entire profession, and the students that are prepared in our schools and programs, but ultimately better serving the clients as well, be the clients individuals or organizations – or policy practice as well.

What we are trying to do here, our intention – it’s rather ambitious, we’ve been told – we have a campaign of 20% by 2020. Our goal is to increase enrollment in a macro concentration or a method, or programs that identify a specialization, to 20% of all Master’s level students country-wide by the year 2020. Our second goal is to ensure the curricula of all BSW, Baccalaureate level social work programs, and generalists Master’s MSW programs include a more equitable balance of macro and micro content. Essentially, we’re looking to promote our profession’s social justice ethos, especially given the present-day society’s increased inequities and inequalities economically, our deteriorating community relations; looking again at historical as well as the rise of institutional racism, sexism, heterosexism, and all the isms that are so ingrained in all of us, as well as looking at our environmental challenges. So, the time has come – in some ways the time has long been here – for [the] Special Commission to enhance macro practice in social work. Clearly, we’ve got a mandate and we’re hoping to gain even more attention and impact.

Jonathan Singer:
We’re going to get to the rest of the episode in just a minute, but I wanted to say that if you want to learn more about the Special Commission, please head over to the ACOSA website at acosa.org. It’s a membership organization that was founded in 1987 for community organizers, activists, nonprofit administrators, community builders, policy practitioners, students, and educators.

And now, without further ado, on to episode 121 of the Social Work Podcast: The Special Commission on Macro Practice: an Interview with Dr. Darlyne Bailey and Dr. Terry Mizrahi.


Jonathan Singer: Darlyne and Terry, thank you so much for being here on the Social Work Podcast and talking with us today. Both of you have had these really amazing careers in social work and I think everybody is curious: how did you move from working with individuals and families, to working on these larger systems, issues, organizations, communities, and policies?

Darlyne Bailey: Well, thank you John and this is Darlyne speaking. I know I can speak on behalf of Terry and myself in saying that we are thrilled to be with you and everyone that’s listening today to talk about the Special Commission to advance macro practice in social work. We actually can talk about this through the language of moving from a moment to a movement; and to start, like good social workers know, you start where the client’s at. So right now, Terry, why don’t you tell your story?

Terry Mizrahi: I have a story as a young social work student, with a wonderful family that I was asked to help. This family, whose name – I’ll use the pseudonym of Mrs. Torres – and her five kids. When I made a home visit, it was after school. They were all watching television and I said, Gee, five kids under the age of eight were watching television, which she said was her salvation: that was her tranquilizer. The kids were fixated on the TV. I realized the oldest one, little Louie we called him, needed something more than everyday coming home from school and watching TV. And I found out as an enterprising young social work student that there was a settlement house a few blocks away – a community center that had great after school programs. “Why, Mrs. Torres, aren’t you using that program?” and she said, “Because I’m afraid. I don’t like the streets.” She was afraid of the streets; it was a dangerous neighborhood, high crime, and she felt her kids were vulnerable. After some persuading, little Louie went to the settlement house with me and her, but she still was afraid of moving him – getting him home. And so finally, it dawned on me, that we had to go from what we call case to cause. You know, we had to go from the individual to the bigger picture. If little Louie wasn’t going there, why weren’t other students, other young children, going to this settlement house? And we found out that they [the settlement house] didn’t understand it either. They thought the mothers were lazy, or they didn’t have enough gumption… they just couldn’t understand why and so what we realized, when you ask the clients and when you talked to the staff, we found out that they were afraid to walk their kids home – winter time, 5 o’clock, and it’s already dark…

So, I helped them develop an escort program with young teenage volunteers. So it got teenagers involved in helping the younger kids walk home. The program doubled in numbers, and little Louie enjoyed his afternoons at school, and Mrs. Torres was very happy that she had him out of the house in a safe place. So that was how I went from, in a sense, a case worker as we were called then, to a community organizer. I realized you had to do more than just the individual advocacy, which social workers are wonderful at doing. They are great advocates. But they sometimes don’t connect to the larger picture.

Jonathan Singer: Well I was going to say, that’s such a great story because it talks about the assumptions that people have about why people are getting services, maybe the values of those services. But you really saw it as: this is a larger systems issue. And unless we address that, then the amazing programs that are available aren’t going to mean anything. And so, I love how you said “case to cause”. That’s a really interesting way of saying that.

Darlyne Bailey: And that is Terry’s journey, that actually mirrors the journey of our entire profession. As we look historically, the profession actually went from cause, to case, to cause, to case, and we’re hoping through the Special Commission for it to be case and cause, and not an either/or, to bridge the unfortunate, usually academically induced, gap between the individual and the organizations, and communities, and policies that impact them all. So, my journey is similar, and just a little different. I started out probably not as precocious in terms of, like Terry did, […] moving right from social work school into focusing more and realizing more that systems needed to be changed, but actually helping to create some systems. So, after Columbia University School of Social Work, I started working with a population that had carried the tag of schizophrenia and set up an outpatient center for them, and then joined some other folks in setting up a community mental health center in northern New Jersey, where my responsibilities were around crisis intervention and intake 24/7. That context enabled me to realize over time that what we did in social work was usually try to fix the people to fit the structures and what I became immediately aware of is that we needed to actually change some of those structures. Again, not an either/or.

There are people that need fine ways to live in their communities, but sometimes the communities, their organizations, and a lot of the polices that they were living within and under, they needed to be changed. So, my perspective and my journey has been one of moving into administrative leadership, either in community-based organizations or in academia, for close to a quarter of a decade now. Not a quarter of a decade, a quarter of a century. [Laughter] Oh my gosh, a quarter of a decade?! So, over this period of time, while Terry moved more into the policy and community organizing arena, I moved more into the other part of macro practice, which is looking at administration, management, and leadership and working with those organizations and communities to actually help the families and the individuals.

Jonathan Singer: Again, that’s another nice example. I think folks hearing this, often times we get caught up in the everyday demands of our jobs, so if our job is to work with people with schizophrenia and to do this micro clinical work, those are the demands, right? So, a lot of times we just kind of get stuck there. But it sounds like both of you saw a larger systems issues, and you started to tackle it, which is definitely inspirational. One of the questions that I have about the Special Commission is how did this Special Commission go from a moment to a movement, just like you all said that you had a moment that moved you from case to cause?

Darlyne Bailey: Great question, and you’re right. The Special Commission actually came from a moment in time, and we credit the birthing of it from Jack Rothman’s report, now lovingly known as the Rothman’s Report. I got a phone call one day saying, would I be a part of the Special Commission, and I said yes. And then a day or two later, I got a phone call saying well, would you chair the Special Commission? And at that point, being the dean of a school – at Bryn Mawr, where I recently stepped down from, graduate school of Social Work and Social Research – as a good dean, you always say sure, if. And the “if”: I had two stipulations. One was to be able to bring on a research assistant to work with us, in this case the Special Commission and myself; and if I can have a co-chair. I don’t have a middle name, if I did it would be Co-llaborate: co- would be there all the way, and I asked if someone would reach out to Terry Mizrahi. And they reached out to Terry and thank goodness Terry said yes. So, the Special Commission was born from a moment with Jack Rothman’s report and now we’ve literally turned, over the last five years, into a movement. We’re small but we’ve actually accomplished quite a bit because of all the people that are in the Special Commission network.

Jonathan Singer: So, the Rothman Report identified these problems with the way the social work profession was not moving forward with the more macro level concerns, sort of losing ground and losing this kind of historical legacy that social work had of really championing the cause. Five years, not much time in the big scheme of things –  I mean unless you’re six. [Laughter] In which case five years is an enormous amount of time. But in adult-land, five years is not that much time. What sort of successes has the commission had?

Terry Mizrahi: So, I would like to use, continue to use our alliterations, moment to movement, case to cause; and I would say that I want to talk both about “process and product”. So, we really began with a group of kindred spirits. ACOSA, some of your viewers, your audience may not know that ACOSA stands for The Association for Community Organization and Social Administration. ACOSA, A-C-O-S-A, had a small group that always met at the Council on Social Work Education, known as CSWE for some of your listeners. We had a small group, and that group, we started to strategize as good organizers of how do we rebalance micro and macro in schools of social work and a second goal, that became a primary goal for us for a while, called “20 by 2020”. And “20 by 2020” is 20% of all schools of social work nationally that have specializations or concentrations in their programs would have a macro concentration or specialization. So, 20 by 2020 seemed like a long way away, Jonathan, back in 2013. But, it was, as you said, a short time; we’re now in 2018, and we’ve grown some. We’ve actually grown from a core group of about 30 kindred spirits – meaning mostly faculty, field instructors, some practitioners around the country – to a network, we call it our Special Commission network, of about 500 of those kindred spirits now working in multiple arenas to both rebalance micro and macro in those programs that we call generalist or advanced generalist programs and then to move to schools highlighting and increasing their macro specializations.

One thing I just want to say about this, the vision and one of the dispelling of myths that I think that we will continue to do and need to do and talk about a little later, is the self-fulfilling prophecy. So, what do you hear from the deans and directors and chairs of departments? They don’t want it, they don’t want it. Who is the they? Students don’t ask for this; therefore, we don’t offer the program. Well I can’t imagine, that’s such a self-fulfilling prophecy. How about if you offer the program and see if people come? So, what we tried to do is create the awareness that CO and macro more generally exists; that there are jobs out there, multiple jobs; that we had at that time 11 congress people that were social work trained; that we had the heads of the biggest organizations in the country had social work degrees; and sadly some people were hidden. They did not identify that they had a social work degree, even though [they] were doing the kinds of things Darlyne mentioned: leadership, policy, working for political leaders in the business community and so on. The process was building the number of people involved in each of the schools of social work, and there are over 700 of them at the BSW and MSW combined. Putting those folks together in a process of collaboration and developing, looking to those specific goals over time; and that’s what we’re in the process [of], and Darlene and I can talk a little more specifically about some of the products that we’ve worked on and that are continuing.

Jonathan Singer: Well, I think that would be great actually, to hear about some specifics, what some of these specific things are and what some of the wins are that the Special Commission has had.

Darlene Bailey: Great. So, we have various entry points for current students, alums; we even have an entry point for folks that may not immediately identify as social workers but are, as Terry said earlier, kindred to what we are hoping to accomplish: in accomplishing the profession’s ability to influence and shape policy, to increase leadership in our social service agencies, to executive directors, supervisory or even board positions. Overall, enhancing organizational and community well-being. There are lots of opportunities for people to come on board. So, Terry mentioned the fact that we started out with about 30 strong and they were called commissioners. We then created another way for people to come on board and we called those folks allies. And that would be one entry point for folks that wanted to be involved, to join one of what we now call ([we] called them initially carrier member or action cluster) our working group. That’s right. Now we’re at the action clusters. The nomenclature changed but the work still remained. And we’ve got folks that are heading up five or six of these focusing on specific areas.

We also have individuals and organizations, largely organizations, largely our schools and departments and programs in social work, that are contributing not only people to be part of this movement but also dollars. And if time had allowed, we would do a shout-out to the 60 plus that are with us these days, that are keeping us going. They’ve been able, through the person power and the financial input, what we’ve been able to do would include just a couple of things. Would include our ability to speak at political venues, such as the Social Work on Capitol Hill days that are sponsored by CRISP (Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy https://crispinc.org/) and an opportunity to speak. Terry and I recently came back from Israel, at two conferences over there with colleagues that wanted to know, how can I start a Special Commission over in Israel? As well as in our local neighborhoods, we’ve been working with the Department of Labor, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to find ways to make their social work entry actually mirror what’s going on in the real world, because macro was starting to disappear from there. And finding ways to convene: convene the leadership of some of our professionals, our larger and major professional groups such as our Baccalaureate programs, the National Association of Social Work, Council on Social Work Education, to name just a few. And we’ve also gotten together with the different, slightly smaller but just as impactful organizations influencing social policy, the Network for Social Work Management. What we have seen ourselves doing is not only being in this movement, not only being advocates but also being conveners of important conversations.

So those are just a couple. Most recently what we’ve been doing is working to strengthen the Council on Social Work Education’s policy and procedures around accrediting schools of social work. It’s called EPAS, the Educational Policy Accreditation Standards. We’re into the era of 2015: we had been invited to the Council on Social Work Education to actually produce a guide on how can our schools and programs find smart ways to actually better help us reach this goal of 20 by 2020. 20% of all schools, excuse me, all schools would have 20% of their students actually leaning into, if you will, macro, and see themselves as feeling more competent. So, this guide is going to actually provide the resources in terms of questions they may want to ask themselves, projects they may want to undertake, books, articles, videos like the one we produced – we have video ourselves that is out on YouTube as well. That’s one; and Terry and I are also in conversation about starting, putting out, with Oxford Press and the National Association of Social Workers, an encyclopedia: the very first encyclopedia for social work, macro social work. As this guide will be the very first on macro, even though it’s the fifth in the series from the Council on Social Work Education.

Terry Mizrahi: So let me just add, going back to the combination of the process we engage in as we do this outreach as well as the product. So, Darlyne mentioned we now have over 60, what we call macro investor schools, who’ve contributed financially and that’s the only funds we get. This is a labor of love for both of us. Darlyne, as you heard earlier, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and the rest is history. But the history continues. So, in addition to those 60, there are, once we had the CSWE request to produce this curricular guide that can shape all this curriculum of every single school of social work should they adopt it, we ask the schools of social work to name a faculty member and let – basically, donate a faculty member’s time, to invest it in working on what this guide would conclude. As a result, we have 75 schools of social work or programs; 75 schools took advantage of it, the largest group that CSWE ever had. And so together between the financial contributions of social work programs by the deans and directors, and the contributions in kind of faculty, we now have more than 90 schools of social work invested in macro. And we are now asking them to put their money where their mouth is and begin to demonstrate the data: show us the data that will prove – the evidence, if you will – that will demonstrate that we are making a difference, that the numbers are growing.
We’ve already gone, officially, from about 8% of schools now to close to 11%. We think it’s even higher than that. One last thing I’ll say that I think would be fun for the audience to picture if they haven’t ever been to the CSWE conferences and we invite them. The next one is in Orlando in November. We had a theme each year, so as organizers we wanted to get the 2,500 or so faculty who come to the CSWE meeting to know about us. So, we had a button campaign. Every year we have a different button in a different color, and the first one had a big “Ask me why macro matters” and we had […] to convince 2,500. Everybody was wearing the buttons. We ran out of buttons, and we wound up auctioning the buttons and they became a hot item. This is an organizing tactic right here. You have to do things interesting and innovative and novel to attract people to your cause. The next year we had “now that you know that macro matters, now make macro matter” and we had a whole list of ways: 30 ways you can make macro matter. Two years ago, it was “It’s time macro matters” was the button. And then last year it was “United for Macro”, and Darlyne mentioned these different organizations that have come together under a banner called United for Macro.

Darlyne Bailey: With that Jonathan, I think it’s important to say that the other organization that is on our banner is the Macro Social Work, the Twitter chat collaborative. And the other piece, which actually will directly address your question about how can students be involved, hopefully seek out your faculty members and help your faculty members if they’re not jumping up and down saying, “we need to do more macro here.” But if there are students
that interested, they too can set up a macro social work student network chapter. So, all of this information is on the ACOSA website: that’s our partner, that’s the birthplace, and continues to be our partner. And they go to the ACOSA website, which it would be great if we could find a way to get that out. I can tell you right now, it’s www.acosa.org and that will get them close enough and then they’ll see in the upper, I think it’s the left hand corner, it’ll be the Special Commission. We’ve got a list there of the most recent commissioners. We’ve got what we call our two pager, that gives some of the information we’re referencing now about some of the products that we have been able to accomplish. And folks will have an opportunity to contact either the two of us or anyone else that’s on this Commission to actually become even more active. We are looking for more folks, even though we’re growing exponentially: this is not a flash thing, it’s truly a movement that’s been started.

Jonathan Singer: One of the things that micro focused faculty and students are always complaining about is that there is never enough time in the curriculum to get all of the micro content that they want. And what you’re saying is actually we want more opportunities for macro content, and I think that this speaks to a conceptual divide that most people in theory would say is a false dichotomy: either micro or macro; and yet, it persists. And in fact, the whole point of this episode is to emphasize the importance of macro. But could you talk about some concrete steps that schools and programs can take to increase this balance between micro and macro in programs? Either at the programmatic level, or even what individuals can do.

Darlyne Bailey: And I think you are a hundred percent right that, as I said in the beginning, academia has made this artificial divide. But some of our generalist programs that are looking at the connections, they’ve got this down. They already know how to do it and the other place for students to be able to really see the micro-macro bridge is right there in their field placements. Field has been doing this forever. While we may have a field organization, social service organization, that works primarily with individuals and families, [it] doesn’t get involved in the advocacy and working with policy. [However,] they too know that if you ignore the community in which a person lives and if we turn a blind eye to the policies that are impacting these individuals, the best policies are those that work because they’ve paid attention to where the people are at. And the best organizations are those that pay attention to the needs of the people: not only who they serve, but the people that make up that organization. So that if we can find a way to go back to real life and look at this as a continuum, and look at it as an entire client system, we wouldn’t have to worry so much about not having enough time. The examples and opportunities, the richness, is right there in everyday life.

Terry Mizrahi: I have a couple of examples to build on that, and for example if you […] have five clients and the last four weeks you had to make five calls to Medicaid to get somebody a benefit, or to the landlord who was evicting somebody, doesn’t it make sense, from your own personal self-interest, to bring those five people together; or to say, maybe we should have a talk with the landlord, or maybe can we set up a meeting with the Medicaid administrator. So, this vision of, it’s not a whole different animal out there. We sometimes […] do say that: “I admire community organizers. They’re great. I couldn’t do it.” Well, they do do it, because they are connecting with systems; they are connecting with management; they are connecting with their public officials; they do work with media; they do go to other departments and do interdisciplinary work. They don’t often label it, or name it. So, a lot of what we’re doing is kind of naming it: that’s what we mean by community organizing, not just mass protests downtown at city hall or in Washington. That’s part of it: that’s a tactic, right? Social action tactics. But the goal is to create, as CSWE and NASW say in their code, to create well-being for individuals and for the society. So, we are a unique profession and we love our social work profession because we deal with person-in-environment. Right? We call that PIE. It’s not person and environment, or person or environment. It’s person-in. They’re inextricably linked. You may raise one up or the other, but that’s what we mean by that integration or the rebalancing, if that’s helpful.

Jonathan Singer: That’s very helpful and you know, I love this example of the case worker who is interacting with what we think of as kind of a more macro level, the Medicaid or housing, or it could be another system, juvenile justice or child welfare, any of the systems. So, the individual work that we do interacts with these larger macro systems. I guess it would be helpful for me to hear of other examples of things that folks should think about or could think about as ways to integrate the micro and the macro, kind of like that one. And I’ll just say one other thing about that is that I think that the challenge, of course, is that we don’t talk about how do you do your job as the case worker maintaining confidentiality et cetera, et cetera and then still get paid to do a community organizing function, if that’s not your job in the agency?

Darlyne Bailey: You know Jonathan, one of the things that I think is important to realize is that we’re always going to lean, we’re always going to feel more comfortable in, one space or not. And we’re not saying that people shouldn’t want to be clinical micro practitioners or people shouldn’t want to be identified as macro practitioners working directly with organizations or communities or working directly in policy making. What I’m trying to say is that it’s okay to say, “I’m going to specialize in, I’m going to focus on, working primarily with individuals, and the office down the hall is going to focus on working more with the small groups and working with organizations at large.” But it would be remiss and horrible and actually detrimental, to not only to our profession, but to everyone that we serve, if folks graduate not understanding the larger context.

We have – talking about being remiss – there will be a special issue of the journal Reflections  that’ll be coming out that will actually look at different ways that many of the authors have used, authors of the articles that contributed to this special issue, […] to actually bridge this divide. And again, it’s a person divide and it’s an academic divide; it’s not a real-world divide. All we’re asking is that more people are educated in a way that will allow them to actually understand the interconnections and the interdependencies. The vast majority of good clinical practitioners are promoted within the first or second years of their practice into supervisory and then often times even into higher management positions. And imagine how much more they’d be able to do if they came out with a little bit more of a grounding, even, in terms of appreciating the whole client system.

Terry Mizrahi: So, let me just add to what Darlyne just said about language and reframing things. Because again, I think as we’ve all said now, in the real world people are providing training, and they’re organizing conferences, and they have to do outreach, and they have to involve their constituencies and they often call on them – their clients or their community member – when things are in crisis. And of course we know that that’s not enough of a time to say, “please go to bat for us.” Right? “Please go to Albany or please go to the state capitol. Please go to Washington or to your city hall to advocate. You think we’re doing a good job; okay, yes, you tell us that, but you have to tell them.” So I’m always telling social workers the politics of thank you; this is what I call it. The next time you’re thanked – and they all are thanked: privately, they get cards, they put letters up – I said, “who else needs to know that you were thanked?” And I will even go as far as, I started this with President Bush: does he know? Does President Obama? Some will have to say, does President Trump and his administration know the valued contribution you are making? And I think that’s where social workers need to come out of the woodwork, if you will, because the titles for macro jobs aren’t always social work; there may be a policy analyst, or a community coordinator, or a program developer.

And so, we talked to students and to faculty as to feature on their website the alumni from the schools who’ve moved into or are doing macro practice. And we have gotten many schools now to put videos together to show – and here’s the quote – “This is What Social Work Looks Like.” And when you click on “This is What Social Work Looks Like”, or, “I didn’t know you could do this in social work”, quote-unquote (which we hear very often: they didn’t know about these macro level opportunities in the profession). Click on here and you’ll see your wonderful alumni doing wonderful things. Many of the schools have done that. So, I think that reframing, of yes, that is community organizing; yes, that is part of macro practice: to be a public speaker, to give testimony, to bring your clients and organize them, to teaching and so on. And one example about the bigger, bigger picture Jonathan, since we might be ending soon, on what society does: American society, by design, proudly identifies itself (since I teach policy as well) as an individualistic society. So, if a society that values the individual, and that goes with liberty and freedom, and the herd would be seen – as Darlyne said – the herd would be seen as oppressive. You know, it’s the difference between […] is it a web – is the network, you know, a web, or does it liberate you? And so even the term “self-help groups”, to move the analogies: we talk about self-help groups, and I say to students, what is a self-help group? Well, what they really mean are the programs that are run by people who have the problem. Sometimes they’re called 12-step programs. But you know what? There’s nothing self and individual; it’s all mutual aid. So, if we call them mutual aid groups instead of self-help, realizing that people who join those groups know they can’t do it alone: they must be part of a community.  And those groups are empowering, and help people, liberate them, and help them realize that they’re not in this alone. And that’s the connection that we want to make between the individual and the community, or the individual and environment, or the individual and society.

Jonathan Singer: Well, I’m sure the Alex Gitterman is very happy that you were promoting mutual aid groups in that moment.

Darlyne Bailey: Absolutely! [Laughter] We give homage to Alex every chance we get.


Jonathan Singer: Yes, a true social work treasure. Are there any last things that you want to bring up: topics that you think are important, or not just topics, points that you think are really important for folks to understand about case to cause, moment to movement, product and process, as we think about macro social work and the profession?

Terry Mizrahi: I think the part about social work history is important, and valuing ourselves. So, this is a little more philosophical rather than pragmatic, but I think that social workers – as much as I love our profession for its humility –  I don’t think we take enough credit and I don’t think we advance ourselves enough in that more social and political and civic arena. I think people do it a lot, social workers work a lot, you know. We are the largest “mental health” provider, in crises, in the Red Cross, social worker volunteers, but they’re not told. So, I want social workers to be proud: call themselves social workers, identify themselves, explain to people that yes, we do a complex job and we have multiple clients, or as Darlyne used the term, the client system.  That we’re all connected and being connected doesn’t diminish the individual. So, I think that’s what I would sort of like to leave folks: that there’s a home and a community, and the macro end of social work is an integral part of it, and that we have a proud history that I think we need to bring to the fore.

And I think that’s what we’ve done when I was president of NASW at the turn of the century – I say the turn of this century, I sound so old! [laughter] –  but I was president from 2000 to 2003, seems like a long time. We brought a summit together of all the social work organizations. It’s all about making these connections that build the strength and the base of social work in the larger arena. Come back to what I think I said in the beginning: a report just came out this week by CSWE called The Future of Social Work, or The Futures, and if you look at that along with something called The Grand Challenges (and these terms are if one Googles them, they’ll come up with this, with what these are in more detail), but The Grand Challenges [and] The Futures in Social Work is all about macro involvement, macro related practice. So, we think that it’s already kind of rebalanced. I think we need to find ways to recognize that we are all one big family and hopefully we’ll become one big happier family.

Darlyne Bailey: I would agree with everything that Terry said. I would close, personally, by saying that we always say start where the client is at. We never say end where the client is at; and I think that is important for us to keep in mind. If we look at what has moved society, our country, if we look at other countries, what has moved us globally: well, Mother Teresa did it one person at a time. Mother Teresa touched a lot of individual people so that she actually started a movement herself. And what we are hoping to do is to shine a light on the fact that one person’s important, and more than one person – other people – that we are all interconnected: actually create a movement. And that’s what gotten our society, our world, moving forward.

If we’ve got one person that’s been violated, either by her family or by a societal policy, we’ve got human trafficking, et cetera et cetera, we don’t pay attention to that until we realize that it’s affecting more than just one person. What goes on with one person, nine times out of ten, almost a hundred times out of a hundred, will actually be infecting other people as well. We’ve got Black Lives Matter, we’ve got the #MeToo movement, we’ve got DACA: we’ve got all that’s going on now that were triggered by individuals. But the power – Occupy movement, the gun control – it’s triggered (no pun intended there at all, please forgive me) by the fact that people have recognized that we can’t do it alone. One person can’t do it alone.

We’ve got to do it together, we’re interconnected, we’re interdependent. The power of our multiple voices, what we call the multivocality of our speaking out, is what gets the attention and what begs and advocates for the change. As we said at the very beginning, we’ve only just begun and we’re looking for more people, more kindred others out there that are excited by the opportunity to actually do what they do best: be it focusing on individuals, or focusing on families, or focusing on organizations, focusing on communities, working on policy change, to actually join up with the Special Commission. We need you, and everyone we serve deserves you.

Jonathan Singer: Beautiful. Darlyne and Terry, thank you so much for being here on the podcast today and talking with us about the Special Commission, about macro social work, and about all of the connections in the classroom and out in the field. I really appreciate you taking the time.

Darlyne Bailey: Thank you, Jonathan. Thanks so much. Take good care.

Jonathan Singer: I’m Jonathan Singer and thanks for being with me today for another episode of the Social Work Podcast. If you missed an episode or have suggestions for future episodes, please visit socialworkpodcast.com. [Please follow us on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/socworkpodcast and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/swpodcast. To all the social workers out there: keep up the good work. We’ll see you next time at the Social Work Podcast.

Transcription generously donated by Katherine Person, California State University, San Bernardino MSW Student, Breast Cancer Previvor; and Rebecca Robertshaw, Think Ahead/University of York Masters in Social Work programme (UK) 

APA (6th ed) citation for this podcast:

Singer, J. B. (Producer). (2018, December 11). #121 - The Special Commission on Macro Practice: Interview with Dr. Darlyne Bailey and Dr. Terry Mizrahi [Audio Podcast]. Social Work Podcast. Retrieved from http://www.socialworkpodcast.com/2018/12/specialcommission.html

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