Social work, NASW grow together

Darrell Wheeler, Ph.D., MPH, ACSWIt was my intent to address one of our colleagues’ astute observations following my last column that not all social workers are liberals but my “editorials have a definite liberal slant.” I was asked to “write with a more balanced approach.”

However, given that this column will be published in June, I decided to use the opportunity instead to address three time sensitive matters. I will explore the other topic in a future News column and welcome your feedback.

The three items I think merit immediate attention this month include: the future of our association and social work; NASW’s efforts to stay current with ever-evolving trends and demands for professional associations; and the critical need for all social workers to remain connected to and validated by the powerful work and impact of our profession.

The Next Generation

May and June typically mark graduation season at our nation’s colleges and universities. To our newest professional colleagues, let me say congratulations on achieving your degrees and welcome to the profession of social work.

If you are reading this, I hope that is an indication that you value NASW as a resource and will continue to find ways to remain connected throughout your career.

An important part of this “connectedness” with the larger profession is to assure that NASW keeps your ideas, values, needs and interests at the forefront of what we do as an association. To make this happen, we must create effective methods for communicating the work we do and provide timely feedback to members when they have suggestions for organizational improvement.

As a longtime member of NASW, I was first introduced to the association by my graduate faculty and professional mentors. This personal touch (push) had great power and significance for me.

In the spirit of reaching back to build forward, I encourage our more experienced NASW members to use this time of the year to reach out to new social work graduates and encourage their participation in local and national NASW projects. I also encourage those of us who are financially able to consider sponsoring a one-year membership for one of these new colleagues.

Your loyalty encourages future social work leaders to belong.

Future NASW

Most of us make important decisions about the ways in which we will spend our time and our financial resources. Joining NASW is, after all, a choice.

In making this decision, our members should expect to receive a positive return on their investment. Delivering value for participation is precisely what our chapter and national staff and leaders strive to do each and every day.

Organizational decisions about programming, product development, social justice and political action, educational opportunities, and administrative structures help NASW assure long-term viability and enhance professional membership.

In the past two years, our association has been engaged in a deep examination of its administrative and governance structures. This process led us to actions that are now framed in the Modernization and Revitalization Initiative.

These efforts, while not without their moments of tension, have resulted in great advances for the association as a whole, and I believe will continue to produce positive returns for our membership, the entire profession and those we serve for many years going forward.

You can learn more about these efforts on

Social Work Identity

The last issue I want to address is that social workers do make a difference.

At this moment in our society’s evolution, our social, economic, environmental and political spheres are replete with opportunities to apply the best skills of our profession.

Wear proudly the title of social worker and speak broadly and boldly about the ways you, individually, and our profession, collectively, can produce solutions for these complex problems.

People want to hear new options for hope and advancement, and they will seek help from those skilled at navigating the chaos.

Professional social workers will have numerous opportunities to weigh in on a number of fronts and demonstrate the profession’s value in many new ideological spaces.

I encourage you to be active, be engaged, and be present!

Contact Darrell Wheeler at