Intent on Lighting New Paths for Members and the Profession
By Kathryn Conley
Wehrmann, PhD, LCSW
Five years have
passed since former NASW board President Jeane Anastas appointed a group
charged with the task of charting a sustainable course for our professional
At the time, Dr.
Anastas and the NASW board knew organizations that fail to reinvent themselves
to meet the challenges of changing resources, technology and membership demands
to stagnate or disappear
In the face of that
a task group of 12
members—including chapter presidents, chapter executives, and current and past
board members—came together to review demographic and professional trends and
new models of serving a diverse and dynamic membership.
They carried out
their charge with the mission of seeking to assure a sound financial foundation
for NASW and respect for its history of service to social work practitioners
and the goals
of the profession.
The task force
to imagine a new platform from
which to launch needed initiatives, explore new professional frontiers and capitalize
on opportunities to support meeting the professional needs of today’s social
workers, and to carry out advocacy efforts on a greater scale than ever before.
After two years of
hard work, the task force presented a plan
for change to the NASW board for consideration. After thorough review
and deliberation, the board voted to support what it saw as the association’s
best course for
a promising future.
As a member of the
board at the time, I recall that the decision to move forward with the plan was
accompanied by the realization it would represent a great deal of change and a
fair amount of discomfort. It would mean leaving behind the familiar in favor
of moving to a more united organization, developing greater capacity to serve
This plan for change
was shared with chapter executive directors, chapter presidents and
presidents-elect at the Annual Leadership Meeting (ALM) in 2015. To say the
plan was met with complete enthusiasm would be untrue.
Rather, like anything
representing a departure from the “usual” way of doing things—the comfortable
way—it was met with criticism that included in-depth discussion but also
glimmers of hope and faith that the plan might be a course worth investing in.
It was what we, as
social workers, view as a healthy process—that is, key stakeholders encouraged
to voice concerns, ask questions, and offer ideas for modification. Many of the
recommendations for modification were adopted, either in whole or in part.
I was present for
of the process and I think the discussions at the 2015 ALM, as well as
the nationwide conference calls held with presidents and executive directors,
were valuable in moving us forward with the work of reinvention that was truly
of NASW leadership throughout
What a difference a
few years and dedicated effort have made. While there are still areas we are
working on, our redesigned NASW is intent on lighting new paths for the social
work profession, shining a light on where more social workers are needed, and speaking
out on issues like immigration and gun violence.
The original task
and the two subsequent work groups associated with our reinvention
met the challenge of creating new opportunities. This rejuvenation led to NASW
having much more powerful branding through our uniform look; increased ability
to promote and benefit from cross-chapter pollination of promising ideas and
practices; more effective use of our collective national impact; and greater
ability to orchestrate initiatives on multiple levels using a variety of
platforms—and ultimately greater responsiveness
to its members.
We have also
our Code of Ethics through our
Delegate Assembly process to be more aligned with the realities of today’s
practice with its inclusion
Chapter and national
leadership, in partnership with volunteer leaders, have made these
accomplishments possible, and their amazing work is much appreciated.
We have all been
activists for our profession and all the potential it holds for creating a just
society. I am looking forward to the new year and the opportunities it will
bring to NASW and our members old and new, those who left us and should return,
and those we have yet to recruit.