Academic journal article Canadian Social Work Review

CONTESTING THE NEOLIBERAL AGENDA: Lessons from Canadian Activists

Academic journal article Canadian Social Work Review

CONTESTING THE NEOLIBERAL AGENDA: Lessons from Canadian Activists

Article excerpt

Abstract: How do activists know when they're making a difference? Researchers partnered with nine diverse activist groups across Canada over a four-year period to see what they could learn together about effective practice in social justice work. The objectives of the study were to learn, from the perspectives of various activists, what constitutes "success" in social justice work, to identify factors associated with those successes, and to reflect, with the partner groups, on these questions in relation to their own social justice work. The study involved in-depth interviews with 86 individuals, workshops with each group on the themes emerging from the interviews, and a closing symposium that brought the groups together to refine and deepen the analysis. The findings provide insight into the roles social workers and social work educators can play in support of social justice work.

Abrégé : Comment les activistes savent-ils lorsqu'ils font une différence? Des chercheurs ont travaillé en partenariat avec neuf groupes d'activistes au pays sur une période de quatre ans pour voir ce qu'il leur serait possible d'apprendre ensemble au sujet de la pratique efficace du travail en justice sociale. Les objectifs de l'étude étaient d'apprendre, du point de vue d'activistes divers, ce qu'est le « succès » dans le travail en justice sociale, de déterminer les facteurs de cette réussite et de réfléchir, avec les groupes partenaires, à ces questions dans l'optique de leur propre travail en justice sociale. L'étude comprenait des entrevues approfondies avec 86 personnes, des ateliers avec chaque groupe sur les thèmes issus des entrevues et un symposium de clôture qui a réuni les groupes afin de peaufiner et d'approfondir l'analyse. Les constatations nous éclairent sur les rôles que peuvent jouer les travailleurs sociaux et les enseignants du service social afin d'appuyer le travail en justice sociale.

THE CONTINUING global hegemony of neoliberalism presents a special challenge to social work. By virtue of our ethical obligation to address issues of social justice, social work is inevitably at odds with the neoliberal agenda and its exacerbation of social inequalities and negative environmental consequences. National governments, generally speaking, have been spectacularly ineffective in either challenging the neoliberal global agenda or protecting their citizens from its impacts. This failure - whether for reasons of ideological complicity with the forces of neoliberalism or constraints imposed by international financial institutions or trade agreements - has led civil society groups worldwide to move into the breach. Social workers participate in many of these organizations and movements, and they and those with whom they work are increasingly looking for means of maximizing their influence on governments and others to change policies and practices detrimental to human welfare. Yet, in spite of the growing importance of the role of civil society organizations in protecting human welfare, there is a dearth of tools to assist citizens and the social practitioners who accompany them in addressing these issues. The considerable activity aimed at influencing governments, the private sector, and the general public on these matters is carried out by groups with little guidance available to them on the effectiveness of different strategies in achieving successful outcomes.

Our underdeveloped understanding of "what works" in this area of practice formed the impetus for the study discussed here, along with two ethical obligations of social workers - the need to address issues of social justice, and the need to evaluate the effectiveness of our practice as we do this.1 In this four-year project, we collaborated with nine activist groups across Canada to see what we could learn together about effective practice in social/environmental justice work. Our objectives were to develop a better understanding of the meanings of "success" for activist groups, to learn about factors and conditions that contribute to those successes, and to support our collaborating groups in reflecting on these questions in relation to their own work. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.