NASW transcends status quo for members

Angelo McClain, Ph.D., LICSWOctober marks the culmination of NASW’s commemoration of its 60th anniversary year.

Throughout the year, and extending back to 2013, leaders across NASW have engaged in a deliberative process to examine our association’s current structure and to determine ways to better position NASW for maximum influence and impact for our members and the social work profession.

This includes strengthening our collective commitment to achieve social justice for our clients and communities.

The board of directors decided in June to take action to modernize and revitalize our association structure. Its vision includes:

  • Realigning resources to allow more focused attention on maximizing the value of membership for our members;
  • enhancing local and national programs and benefits offered for our members;
  • creating administrative and operational efficiencies by aligning resources for increased effectiveness and sustainability;
  • streamlining our governance functions; and
  • creating a more unified and consistent approach to engagement locally and nationally for our members.

Since the board decision, chapter executive directors and national office staff have begun to operationalize the board’s vision. The implementation planning process involves 15 functional teams, composed of chapter and national office staff, charged with designing the operational details.

The planning process employs a participatory leadership approach that is indispensable in obtaining the critical insights needed to proceed with implementation.

Recently, I attended a presentation on managing change and transformation.

The core of the presentation pivoted on understanding the difference between change and transition — change being the technical and operational aspects of the desired outcome, and transition being the adaptive nontechnical aspects of the change that, when implemented correctly, result in innovative transformation.

The presenter, a renowned organizational change management expert, shared data showing that about 70 percent of organizational change efforts fail to reach their original objectives. This happens frequently, because organizations experience difficulty getting beyond the status quo.

As I reflected on the presentation, I wondered, “Why do so many organizations go through extensive planning processes and spend big money on organizational and strategic consultants? And then nothing happens.”

Research shows there are myriad reasons organizations fail to take the actions necessary for transformative change.

Some organizations overemphasize effective performance in one or two realms of operations but fail to recognize opportunities to increase their overall organizational effectiveness.

Others conclude that the change is too elusive or they become hesitant to move forward, relying too heavily on their historically good reputation.

It’s a conundrum as to why organizations decide — despite extensive planning processes and clear evidence documenting the need for change — they don’t have enough information or haven’t had enough reflection to justify moving beyond the status quo.

Leaders within these organizations frequently are unable to inspire individuals within their organization to rise above self-interest for the good of the organization. Whatever the rationale, the result often is settling for the way things are.

As NASW proceeds on its transformative journey and pursues this golden opportunity to strengthen the association, we will use a variety of transformative social work management and leadership tools and leverage technology.

We will employ a “broaden-and-build approach” that allows us to thoughtfully approach the change effort in stages and phases over the next 30 months.

Our collaborative implementation model centers on encouraging novel, varied and innovative ideas for determining the right strategies in the right combinations that capture the diversity of interests and views of our members — and are the best fit for the association.

I want to extend my appreciation to chapter presidents and executive directors for their thoughtful input throughout the planning process.

Kudos to the NASW board for boldly approving the carefully vetted proposal offered by the workgroup — accepting their advice, suggestions and strategies with appreciation, enthusiasm and genuine commitment to pursue these new paths.

The board’s vision for a more vibrant and sustainable association embodies the very best of the charismatic leadership, and the ideological and social justice values of social work.

The vision includes an association with increased sustainable capacity to provide transformational leadership and advocacy, individualized attention, intellectual stimulation and professional growth for our members.

In essence, the board decided that “now is the time” to transcend the status quo.

Contact Angelo McClain at