How might social work be different in the future?

Let’s have an imagination session!

Think about how different a “typical social work job” was 50 years ago. That would be the year 1972. And imagine how different it might be 50 years from now – the year 2072. What will the world be like? What will our global and local challenges, opportunities, strengths, crisis, dynamics and possibilities be at that time? What might we realize then that we don’t realize now? What will we have accomplished….and what will we be up against? The “future of social work” is of course, much bigger than social work. We’ll be whatever we are in relationship to a changing world. What are different “futures” you might imagine for what comes next for our profession based on the questions below? Which futures excite and inspire you? Which futures worry and trouble you? Which future do you want to see happen? What are things you can do today that make that more or less possible? Of course, no one really knows what the future of social work will be…we are strangers to that future. But the more we use our imaginations to consider possibilities, the more likely we are to not only adapt more successfully, but realize our aspirations (McGonigal, 2022).

In futures practice, it is a common adage that the future we want doesn’t “just happen” on its own. It requires connection, collective will, cultivation…and imagination. The process of thinking about, imagining and exploring possible answers is the process of “using the future” to do three things at the same time: 1) have a clearer understanding of the histories we share, 2) give us a different and more useful footing in the present, and 3) help us envision the futures we most want, as well as the ones we don’t…giving us clues to priorities to attend to now to get where we most want to go.

For additional imagination stretching about what jobs might look like in the coming years…come play or browse “Social Work Jobs of the Future” on this site!

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