NASW Social Work Pioneers®

Authorization and Accountability

The Social Work Pioneer Program was authorized by the Social Workers’ National Research and Education Fund (SWNREF) Board at its June 1994 meeting stipulating "That a designated fund be established for the Social Work Pioneer Room"… "The establishment of a permanent fund for the Social Work Pioneer Program would ensure the Association’s commitment to and recognition of social work pioneers." After several years of significant activity and accomplishment, it is judged desirable to have the NASW Board of Directors consider a specific statement of mission and re-authorization by the SWNREF Board for the Social Work Pioneer Program.


The unique mission of the Social Work Pioneer Program is to foster the historical continuity of the profession through the pursuit of four major goals:

  1. The collection, protection and promotion of the history of the profession. The identification and systematic recognition of those social workers who have made significant contributions to that history. The provision of assistance to the professional community to further the purposes of social work as a profession as the knowledge, experiences, capacity and interests of Social Work Pioneers individually and collectively permits.
  2. The continuation of the development of the Pioneer Room and the Pioneer Program at NASW.

Time Frame

The Social Work Pioneer Program shall be ongoing.

Members, Terms and Criteria

The unique mission of the Social Work Pioneer Program shall be guided by a Steering Committee made up of individual Social Work Pioneers who wish to, and are able to participate. The Steering Committee shall determine its needs for subcommittees or other task oriented working groups. The Steering Committee shall choose its leadership with endorsement by the President of NASW.

Specific Responsibilities

The Pioneers shall give leadership and volunteer service to projects such as developing the Pioneer Room at NASW, identifying and selecting new Pioneers, collecting personal histories and historical memorabilia that inform and promote the social work profession, developing and supporting research and education activities, assuming a role in the development of revenue resources to support Social Work Pioneer activities and encouraging local groups to identify pioneering efforts and specific pioneers.


In 1994, at the request of the NASW Board, the SWNREF Board authorized a "fund" to support the recognition of Social Work Pioneers. Identification of leaders who have made a contribution to social welfare in this country has been a central task of the Pioneers. This process is arduous and on-going and seeks to centrally collect information about individuals whose contributions have made an impact on the profession as well as society and about important history of the profession which might otherwise be lost. The Social Work Pioneer Program also has given priority to the development of the Pioneer Room as the place of distinction in the NASW national office in which plaques and pictures can be displayed permanently. The Pioneer Fund, as part of the 501(c)(3) entity, has been well utilized for memorial contributions.

group of older adults

NASW Social Work Pioneers®

NASW Social Work Pioneers are social workers who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services on many frontiers. Some are well known; others less famous outside their immediate colleagues and the region where they live and work.

Learn about NASW Social Work Pioneers®

Questions about Social Work Pioneers?

Contact Kerri Criswell at