Social Work Leadership Roundtable Joint Statement on DEI, Anti-Racism, and Systems Change

Published on : March 20, 2023

As members of the Social Work Leadership Roundtable (i.e., American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, Association of Social Work Boards, Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors, Council on Social Work Education, Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work, Grand Challenges for Social Work, National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work, National Association of Black Social Workers, National Association of Social Workers, and Saint Louis Group)--together, we call on social work professionals, allies, and the broader public to join us in recommitting to building healthy lives and communities and culturally responsive systems. We invite conversations and actions that advance social, economic, and environmental justice. In these divisive and hostile times, we must focus on evidence-informed change and transformation that can lead to effective systems.

We acknowledge past wrongs as well as current fears about injustice in many societal institutions including but not limited to child welfare, mental health, schools, and carceral systems (i.e., police, jails, prisons)--especially in the wake of the dismantling and systematic neglect of mental health programs over the decades. We recognize and challenge injustice in many institutions and systems while understanding we must maintain safeguards for people experiencing violence, exploitation, injustice, and oppression. We must redouble our collective efforts to intentionally and strategically rethink, reimagine, and reinvent these systems as broadly respected and effective building blocks of society that support, protect, and promote the well-being of all its members.

We must come together as a profession, guided by our professional values, to refocus the conversation and call to action on what we want to build and transform:
  • Develop common messages that emphasize building, not tearing down; being proactive not only reactive; clarifying what we stand for and what we do, not only what we oppose.
  • Respond in our respective organizations and as a collective from a common ground that can drive action in positive ways. This stance will be important for the work of service providers, policymakers, decision-makers, and community organizers.
  • Engage multiple scientific approaches and ways of knowing in social work knowledge development and its translation. This will increase representation of our diverse global communities and support existing evidence that a diverse competent workforce produces better outcomes.
  • Include diverse perspectives and consider a full range of theories and approaches, such as Indigenous, womanist, abolitionist, critical race theory, Afrocentric, decolonial, positivist, and so many others. These perspectives must be grounded in social justice, collectivity, inclusivity, collaboration—the central guiding tenets and value proposition of the profession of social work.

We invite all social workers, educators, researchers, students, policymakers, community partners, and allies to stand firmly together, using our Code of Ethics as the foundation for meaningful conversations about rethinking and reimagining our work and the systems in which we work. We invite all to join us in protecting and promoting the well-being of individuals, families, and communities in the context of cultural, economic, and demographic shifts and in answering the question: What is your organization doing to celebrate diversity, and advance inclusion, anti-racism, institutional change, and systems improvement? Together, we can achieve an equitable, just society.

This joint statement was created in response to questions on the legitimacy of conceptual and theoretical fields of inquiry within social work education and practice, and the responsibility of social work as a profession in the current political climate.