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
Just loved this list of qualities of good questions from Kelly (2016). Good questions are the key to being ready for new futures and ultimately, when executed well, the most human of our strengths. I’ll post a fuller review of the book (which I liked very much!) later, but until then, here’s one from the web. Consider these and add more! Thinking about this “what are the most important things for social work to do to be ready for a dynamic, unpredictable and turbulent future?” I think part of the answer…is challenging ourselves to ask better, deeper, more disruptive questions with courage and creativity…!
“A good question is like the one Albert Einstein asked himself as a small boy ‘what would you see if you were traveling on a beam of light?’ That question launched the theory of relativity (E=MC2) and the atomic age.
A good question is not concerned with a correct answer.
A good question cannot be answered immediately.
A good question challenges existing answers.
A good question is one you badly want answered once you hear it, but had no inkling you could before it was asked.
A good question creates new territory of thinking.
A good question reframes its own answers.
A good question is the seed of innovation in science, technology, art, politics and business.
A good question is a probe – a ‘what if’ scenario.
A good question skirts on the edge of what is known and not known, neither silly nor obvious.
A good question cannot be predicted.
A good question is one that generates many other questions.
A good question may be the last job a machine will ever learn to do.
A good question is what humans are for (pp. 288-289).”
Kelly, Kevin (2016). The inevitable: Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future. New York: Penguin Books.
I’ve posted a number of articles and reports on artificial intelligence (the most indepth which is here). Recently, I’ve been searching for more specific information about projections and possible remedies to potential job loss and economic impacts of widespread job elimination. Interestingly, I found only a few things – but will keep a lookout for additional information.
Artificial development and human development (2018). This is a report from Canada delving deep into the individual, social and economic impacts of artificial intelligence expansion (including a thoughtful section about the need to prepare for mass retraining of workforces).
Slate has been doing a creative series on the future of work (and of bureacracy) which has some interesting and provocative ideas related to future possibilities in this area. Four articles can be found here. (2019)
Closer to our own world of social work, here’s an article about how artificial intelligence is increasingly entering health systems/services – watch this space and imagine how social work might be impacted in the future. (2018) . Here’s another quick piece on artificial intelligence in health care called “The Robot Will See You Now.” (2017) Pieces like this make it clear that social work would be wise to think about ways to partner with these tools – and be clear about what essential roles we play that are not replaceable. While the piece doesn’t specifically address possible job loss, it is a thought provoking couple of articles.
Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Disaster Relief
Hackathon’s are places where creative and tech-friendly folks come together to solve problems through partnerships between tech and other resources. It has been suggested that hackathon’s are important places for social workers to explore and participate in to contribute our knowledge and skills to the mix . Here’s a great brief video introduction to the culture and practice of hackathons! (2013) Here’s a few more resources to get you started if you want to learn more:
Thought I would take the opportunity to pull various resources I’ve previously linked to on this blog on the topic of Afrofuturism together to amplify how important, creative and relevant this movement is to futures work. I would suggest that social work could benefit enormously by exploring how these emerging scholarly, artistic and literary resources might enhance social work education. Let’s imagine new ways of learning about culture, history, voices, power and what is possible for the future.
Recently, I was asked to develop a futures game for Deans and Directors of Social Work (NADD) around the United States. This is a group I’ve been proud to be part of for the past six years, but will soon be exiting as I end my deanship at Portland State University (for a sabbatical to explore/work on several futures projects and then returning to my faculty position!!)
Gaming is increasingly being used as a method for engaging, educating, focusing and energizing people to work on common goals – it is moving way beyond ideas of “winning and losing” from a futures perspective. While now a few years old, well-known gaming futurist Jane McGonigal has a classic TED talk on this topic – which you can see (and read this accompanying summary) here.
To stretch social work students, faculty and practitioners’ minds to consider possible future trajectories and what it means to be “ready” (as much as possible) for alternative futures.
To develop specific “next steps” in futures readiness planning.
To serve as a tool in “foresight” capacity development individually and collectively for social workers and social work educators.
To develop our collective agility, creativity and intelligence as a profession regarding the challenges we will face in our shared future.
This is a “beta” version which is to say that I’m planning on making adjustments and will probably add additional scenarios in the future. For now, I invite you (especially if you’re a social worker, student or social work educator) to explore the game and use it in a setting that it might be useful! If you do, please keep me in the loop and share your feedback and ideas about how I can make the game even more relevant and helpful!
Here’s to using gaming to build a better world in social work! Have fun!!
Special thanks to Dean Goutham Menon at Loyala University for the invitation to develop and pilot this game, to Dean Nancy Smyth at University of Buffalo for development consultation, and to the participants of the Spring 2019 NADD meeting for participating in the game for the first time and providing invaluable ideas and encouragement.
What would high school look like if it were reimagined to prepare students for the most likely scenarios related to the future of work? This article considers this topic – with a few examples of innovative high schools experimenting with new approaches.
Activism, resistance and the right to engage in our democratic process of holding our government (and other elements of our community) accountable is among the most important of our ideals as social workers. These ideas and practices show up in our core mission statements, our codes of ethics and beyond. And if the present moment suggests anything…it suggests a future that will involve deepening need and hopefully commitment by able activists to keep causes moving forward.
Clearly, the work we do is taxing. Movement work can engage and challenge us beyond our limits, requires us to risk, stretch and practice our ideals in often less-than-ideal circumstances.
Sometimes people leave the effort – and sometimes people explain why that happens as “burnout.” If our movements are going to endure, succeed, and advance – and if we have a future that involves true progress…we need to imagine and consider all of the elements we can control that contribute to the loss of key people so important to social justice efforts.
Is social justice work burnout a real thing? Will it impact the future in negative ways if good people don’t stay engaged with social movement efforts? I searched for the ideas of smart folks in this work – to best anchor some of this thinking in my own pursuit of futures frameworks for social work practice.
It is likely that our challenges will increase, that our movement work will get more complex, and that easy solutions to injustice will not be readily apparent. If we are in it for the long haul…what does that mean? How do we best care for each other in our work? And why does that matter for a social work future?
Here is an ongoing list of ideas that I found in the literature related to this topic. These go well beyond the idea of simple “burnout” which is a term recently called into question for being an oversimplification of a much deeper structural set of barriers to well-being. I found these pieces really inspiring – hope you do too! Join in the conversation – and let’s do all we can to build a vibrancy, equity and health in our very demanding work!
How do we build a future with a liberatory lens embracing gender and gender identity? Building upon and with great respect for the queer justice movements in the past and present, I’ve gathered some preliminary thinking related to this issue for us to consider as part of this proposition. A review of these ideas reveals multiple and not always intersecting perspectives among these authors (and among other scholars working in this space). This is a rich area sure to continue to develop in the years to come. How do we come together to queer the future in brave and creative ways? These authors, activists and artists are leading the way (and have been doing so for some time). Let’s learn from them in our broader social work practice as we consider the best ways to think about and prepare for futures that are affirming for all. Queer science fiction is highlighted and the end of this post. Will add things as I find them!
**From the above link…be sure to see the actual short film described. It is beautiful. You can also reach it here.
The Queer Futures Collective – We are a radically vulnerable and trans centered multimedia knowledge hub/activist laboratory exploring the intersections of disability studies, feminist technoscience, queer arts, transformative pedagogies, and spiritual activisms in practices of Future Making.