Members Needed To Help Shape Policies

From the President

As we move into the new year, I want to extend an invitation to NASW members to consider taking on a leadership role within the association.

Kathryn Conley Wehrmann, PhD, MSW, LCSW

Kathryn Conley Wehrmann, PhD, MSW, LCSW

As I write this column, I am thinking about the elections coming up for Delegate Assembly, an important part of our governance structure that involves delegate members who are charged with reviewing and voting on the policies NASW adopts and uses to shape its public responses to social issues and proposed legislation.

Delegate Assembly is the means through which members exercise their ultimate responsibility for professional and public policy and program priority determination of the association. 

Delegate Assembly is charged with the responsibility to:

  • Determine the association’s position on broad public and professional issues.
  • Determine three- and nine-year program priorities for the chapters and national office.
  • Review the board of directors’ triennial stewardship report.;
  • Make final approval on amendments to the bylaws and the Code of Ethics.

As your professional organization, NASW is at the forefront of monitoring and responding to social policy issues that arise on both the federal and state levels. How those responses are developed comes from a process that is as old as our organization is.  

The NASW Delegate Assembly is the process that reviews and adopts the policies that serve, along with our Code of Ethics, as critical measures of the positions we take as an association.  

The Delegate Assembly’s work is particularly valuable at a time when the need to respond to emerging issues demands constant vigilance and the ability to respond rapidly with a statement that reflects our best thinking as a profession. Although the format of the Delegate Assembly has evolved — moving from a live to a virtual format in 2008 — its intent and impact has not changed. 

The opportunity for greater numbers of us to participate in the review of policy has been greatly expanded.  

With the move to a virtual format, thousands more members are able to participate in the review process associated with Delegate Assembly. This has resulted in allowing NASW to realize its full potential to tap into the collective thinking of members involved in every aspect of social work practice, research and education.  

Although final voting on policies is done by 200 democratically elected delegates, more than 100,000 members can actively participate in the review.  

Delegate Assembly itself is much more than a one-day meeting to approve policies. In fact, to ensure that our social work policy positions are timely, on an annual basis, delegates and other members consider revisions of current policy statements and propose new policy statements through online policy panels and public comment periods.

The elected delegates give final approval on policies through an online voting process after the policies have been thoroughly reviewed. Conducting our policy work in this way allows for maximum participation and ultimately ensures that the policies that have been developed are attentive to the needs of society and the greater social good.  

Once approved, the new and updated policies that come out of Delegate Assembly are published in the reference book, Social Work Speaks, a compendium of all the NASW policy statements. Background information is provided for each identified issue along with an issue statement detailing concerns.

The policy statement itself lays out the position NASW endorses, making Social Work Speaks an invaluable tool in our efforts to advocate from a strong professional perspective informed by our expertise and value base. The 11th edition includes 24 updated policies that were approved in the Aug. 4, 2017, Delegate Assembly and represents the thoughtful consideration of hundreds of committed members.

If you would like to be a part of NASW’s policy formulation work, I encourage you to explore the process for running to be a delegate, think about contacting your NASW chapter leadership to express your interest, and find out about next steps.   

You may also visit the NASW website to learn more about the DA process, and how to get involved as a member to review and comment on policies. We are a navigating highly charged political landscape that demands all of our consideration and willingness to take action on important policy issues.  

As a committed NASW member, your voice is needed as we all work together for a just and equitable society. 

Contact Kathryn Wehrmann at