Ethical Standard of the Month: 6.04 Social and Political Action

One of the primary factors distinguishing social work from psychology, psychiatry, and the other mental health professions is its commitment to social justice. — Allan Edward Barsky

c) Social workers should promote conditions that encourage respect for cultural and social diversity within the United States and globally. Social workers should promote policies and practices that demonstrate respect for difference, support the expansion of cultural knowledge and resources, advocate for programs and institutions that demonstrate cultural competence, and promote policies that safeguard the rights and confirm equity and social justice for all people.

d) Social workers should act to prevent and eliminate domination of, exploitation of, and discrimination against any person, group, or class on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical disability.

The charge set forth in the sixth section of the NASW Code of Ethics, "Social Workers’ Ethical Responsibilities to the Broader Society," is not limited to certain social workers practicing in certain contexts, such as advocacy, policy, government, or community organization. This charge applies to all social workers in all practice settings.

Standard 6.04 (c–d) requires social workers to respect cultural and social diversity, and to work toward preventing and eliminating exploitation based on discrimination, whether in their locality or on the other side of the globe.

Today, with the proliferation of available information, countless opportunities present on a daily basis to exercise these ethical obligations. So where to start?

There is no right or wrong way to engage in social and political action. The Code does not prescribe which causes or activities social workers should undertake. Barsky (2010) laid out several considerations that can assist with deciding on the best way to contribute. Social workers should select a way to take action by considering their areas of expertise, interests, and/or based on issues that they are impassioned by. The main thing is to do something.