Minnesota Chapter Winter Virtual Conference Hosts Latest Research Findings for Practitioners

By Paul R. Pace

Instead of hosting a virtual conference over consecutive days, the NASW Minnesota Chapter hosted its “Winter’s Brightest Ideas” 2023 virtual conference on three Fridays in late January and early February.

The event promised to bring attendees up to speed on the latest creative and groundbreaking ideas practitioners and academics are exploring through research, pilot programs, interventions, complex systems, and diverse experiences. 

“I get a lot of academics in the field saying they are doing cutting-edge things and then I never hear from them again,” says Karen Goodenough, PhD, MSW, LGSW, executive director of the NASW Minnesota Chapter. Academics, she explains, tend to present their ideas to other academics and not to practitioners directly.

To help address this void, the Minnesota Chapter hosted its winter virtual conference on nonconsecutive days to help expand the scope of what social workers can learn.

“I wanted a way to highlight what our academics and practitioners were doing in their research and cutting-edge program development,” Goodenough says of the inspiration for the series. “That was the call we did this year—asking (potential presenters) what are the coolest, best ideas in your research? We had a fantastic response to our call. We wanted the best and brightest ideas that are out there now.”

Topics include:

  • Student Surveillance is Not Social Work: Student Monitoring and Social Work Ethics
  • Safety is Communal: Applying Polyvagal Theory Conversations about Public Safety
  • Spanked: How Hitting Our Children is Harming Ourselves.
  • Exploring the Stories of Minnesota Mothers to Improve Minnesota Maternal Health Outcomes

“People are in all different areas of practice, so they are hearing about things that don’t necessarily align with their practice, but people are feeling really inspired by what they are hearing and what folks are doing in other areas,” Goodenough says. “I like that.”

The chapter is trying to offer a different conference model, she says. Spreading out the conference for different Fridays instead of consecutive days has proved popular with attendees. The sessions are also manageable, lasting only about an hour.

“Practitioners really like it because they don’t have to take off multiple days in a row,” Goodenough says. “People are also liking that the sessions are being recorded and they can watch them later.”

“In our state, you can do your continuing education through independent study,” she says. “So, anything they watch that is prerecorded can be independent study. We have people attending from across the country, too. It’s not just Minnesota folks.”

Goodenough said the chapter may go back to doing an in-person conference or some version of that. “We have been talking with our board about doing smaller regional conferences in addition to the winter virtual conference.”

Feedback from attendees has proved the chapter is on the right track. 

“People are loving it,” Goodenough says. “We had one person say it was the best conference they have ever been to. People are loving the caliber of folks we are bringing in.”

“We are recording all the sessions and putting them on the Social Work Online CE Institute as individual pieces after the conference. That will help the chapter in terms of residual income. And it’s great for practitioners who only wanted to attend maybe one or two things that interest them.”

Visit the Minnesota Chapter website.

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