Public Education Campaign

The National Social Work Public Education Campaign is a multi-year outreach effort led by the National Association of Social Workers and the NASW Foundation to educate key stakeholders, including American citizens, the media, policymakers, employers and social workers about the importance of this profession.

In 2004, NASW worked with Crosby Marketing Communications to complete Phase I of campaign development-public opinion research. We conducted several focus groups of social workers and average citizens in three cities: Anaheim, Calif., Atlanta and Baltimore. During these sessions, we found that the general public holds social workers in higher esteem than we initially thought. They recognize the intense pressures social workers face in their difficult work and agree that most are underpaid. In general, social workers are viewed as valuable to society.

What most people in the focus groups didn't understand was how diverse the social work field is and that social workers are highly trained to do this complex work. Furthermore, few middle-class Americans believe that they or their families will ever need the assistance of a social worker. They think most social workers are employed in child welfare departments and other government agencies that only help disadvantaged families. The general perception is that social work services are limited to those in dire circumstances -- and few people want to anticipate themselves being in these situations.

The goals of the public education campaign are to (a) increase awareness and respect for the social work profession; (b) educate the public on the depth and breadth of social work practice; (c) expand perceptions of who can benefit from social work services; (d) attract young people to the profession; and (e) improve employment opportunities for professional social workers.

Over the years, NASW has produced national and local advertising, conducted research, launched consumer-facing websites, secured countless media stories, engaged celebrity allies, educated TV producers, and raised millions of dollars to promote social workers. 

To continue gaining support for the social work profession, we must build upon the campaign that began in 2005 to further educate American citizens, the media, policymakers, and employers. Changing perceptions and behaviors is a complex process, and it takes time and significant funding to build awareness for our cause.

Hollywood big brains — executives, producers, directors and writers — seem to recognize only three occupations when they develop dramatic television series: doctors, lawyers and police officers. Hollywood needs to look to social workers for heroes. Gregory Kane, Columnist, Baltimore Sun
While social workers are often featured in magazine and newspaper lifestyle and feature articles as credible subject experts, television news programs and other hard news media frequently limit coverage of the social work profession to negative child welfare cases. Media audit, 2004
We've spent years helping others; we don't help ourselves. It's time for us to tell our own story — the story of social work. If we don't, who will? Gary Bailey, MSW
Past NASW President

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NASW: 65 Years of Advocacy

Since 1955, NASW has been an advocate for social workers, social justice and social welfare.