Exploring how social workers can increase their impact through futures frameworks – All content developed by Laura Burney Nissen, Ph.D., LMSW, CADCIII, Portland State University School of Social Work, Portland, Oregon, USA
(This is an accepted proposal for an upcoming “TED”-type talk I’ll be giving at the Council on Social Work Education meeting in Denver on October 26, 2019.)
Ever get the feeling that the future is coming on faster than we can make sense of it? Do the challenges ever seem like they are multiplying? In some respects they are….but so are people, communities and possibilities for positive change that are tackling these challenges in intensely creative and future facing ways. Some suggest – our very survival as a planet depends on our ability to harness “the best” of who we are to navigate and co-create the future in new ways. The truth is, being “futures literate” is an acquirable skill…and while it doesn’t mean a person can predict (with absolute certainty) or control the future, it does mean that we can enter the future better prepared to deal with whatever comes. This practice is called “foresight” and it is being practiced all over the world. Foresight is being used in a variety of private and public sectors. It is a “big tent” community full of technologists, ethicists, scientists, artists, gamers, equity workers, inventors, engineers and policy wonks (to name a few). But social work is only beginning to explicitly engage with this body of knowledge and set of practices. While in many respects – everything we do in social work is implicitly “for the future” – there is so much more possible. Our value propositions, skills and tools as social workers can enhance futures practice – and futures practice can challenge us to think bigger across our profession. Come learn about the ideas, methods and fascinating world of this global community and practice that can build collective imagination, intelligence and agility to deepen our impact, increase our effectiveness and help to build the world we want to live in. Should every social worker be a futurist? YES. We belong and are much needed in this movement and in the future (as are the people and communities we work and stand with). Come learn more!!! Let’s build a better future.
There have been lots of fascinating things (as always) floating around online to spur some new thinking and inspiration related to futures work and study!
If you follow this blog, you may know that I do regular posts about things I find that relate to areas of interest – future of government, well-being, social problem/solution-building, higher education, ethics in tech, and other related topics. You can scroll through some previous posts along these lines here. I curate this for those who are in my particular field of social work education – but also for others that may have common interests. This is a way that I personally/professionally track “signals” that I see, compare, combine and consider about what may be coming!
Excited to share that earlier this summer, I became a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, CA. I’m very intrigued and inspired by the work they do there, and the varied and diverse fields of practice that their team includes. My sabbatical should provide some needed time and space to delve into so many of the interesting projects and explorations they have in play. If you’re interested in learning more about them – they have a fantastic conference once per year (called a 10-year Forecast Summit). This year the theme is about the future of power…a timely and vital topic. Information about the gathering is here. I will be there!!
Intriguing, inspiring and important piece by the BBC on “the perils of short termism” as our planet’s greatest threat. This idea is frequently discussed in futures work – and in many respect – foresight is the opposite of, or anedote to, this limited set of perspectives.
Just finished reading “Fix the Future” by Andrew Keen. I liked a lot of things about it! Thumbs up. Here’s a review. Will probably do a review at some point.
Also just finished reading “Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code” by Ruha Benjamin. Huge thumbs up on this one! Will definitely be doing a review with strong implications for social work. I would go so far as to say social workers and social work scholars should run out and get this book ASAP. Important and significant implications for our work and scholarship. Here’s a review.
A few months ago, I did a review of the highly impactful book “The Future of the Professions” on this blog (which I continue to recommend to anyone who will listen). This past month, I had occasion to meet with an attorney who was most interested in the future of the legal profession and on her way to becoming trained as a futurist here in Portland. After getting together, I came back to do a little searching about what I could find to help her get started on her journey. Dr. Susskind is back at it with some specific scholarship and thinking about the legal profession. Here’s a talk he gave at Harvard Law School on this topic (from 2017), an article, and a review of a new book he’s written on the future of law and the legal profession. All of this has enormous implications to help other professions (and for the purposes of this blog – social work) understand how the changes occurring in the world are indeed changing and evolving professions, whether the professions themselves are attending to this or not. I found these resources to full of sparks, insights and linkages to lots of futures topics.
It was my pleasure to share my futures work with colleagues who work in the addictions field from across our region this past week. As promised, I’m sharing my slides! Please access them here! Note that the page about technology and the future of mental health care from the National Institute of Mental Health I mentioned can be accessed here. Also of interest on my blog are additional links to work I’ve done in related topics here, here and here.
Please follow along and join the coversation – you can do so here and/or find me on Twitter @lauranissen. It was great spending the morning with you this week!!
After a brief hiatus involving changing jobs (hello sabbatical!) and changing houses after 20 years (hello new house!), I’m back to share some futures items I thought were noteworthy from the past month – regarding topics I find important in my focus on the future of social welfare, higher education, the arts and more!
Amazon has announced that it is getting into the training business with some serious dollars invested in this quest. This is a short piece that lays out what is involved and the scope of their aspiration. While there are many corporate partnerships with higher education successfully operating, some express concern that this bypassing of universities altogether could be an emerging trend. What is the “purpose” of higher education beyond preparing folks to participate in the workforce? What is the difference between education and training? What is a future where folks are continuously trained but not educated? What happens to the idea of academic freedom, open inquiry, challenging multiple points of view or politically unpopular perspectives in such a scenario? These are some of the questions that such movement inspires.
Responding to challenges from its members, Pinterest (and numerous prestigious partners) recently launched a new service through its webpage to help users find resources to manage stress and anxiety. Interesting spin on “go where the people are” kind of approach rather than starting freestanding apps or services. Worth a look.
Quite interesting to read the UK’s recently released guidelines for “Data Protection Regulation” and imagine what it would look like if all countries operated openly, transparently with these such guidelines. Many countries are wrestling with this issue.
Do you ever wonder to yourself about what social scientists, social workers, app developers, related professionals and researchers are exploring with regard to what is happening with mental health technology, and how ethics are playing out in their application to urgent mental health challenges in world? Melanie Sage and I have been thinking about this very thing – and we gathered up some of our resources to share them with you here.
Being future ready, means that we have a sense of how technology, ethics and the needs of the people we work with and for – intersect. Many people are doing work in this space. Let’s contribute, exchange ideas, debate and explore.
Do you have other favorites you might want to share with us? Please be in touch – the more we grow our shared capacity to learn, develop deeper capacity and spread the best use of ethical tech in mental health practice – the better for all!