The Roles of Social Workers in Sustainable Development | What is sustainable development?

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The concept of sustainable development can be interpreted in many different ways, but at its core is an approach to development that looks to balance different, and often competing, needs against an awareness of the environmental, social and economic limitations we face as a society.

The focus of sustainable development is far broader than just the environment. It’s also about ensuring a strong, healthy and just society. This means meeting the diverse needs of all people in existing and future communities, promoting personal wellbeing, social cohesion and inclusion, and creating equal opportunity.

The Roles of Social Workers in Sustainable Development

  • The social work profession needs to actively contribute to processes and structures that support sustainable economic progress and development in communities. Social workers need to participate in initiatives aimed at strengthening and stimulating economic power in communities.
  • A basic knowledge of economics and market forces could serve the social worker well in planning and executing economic activities for the client population. Very often unemployed people have existing skills and resources. Social workers are often responsible for managing and allocating resources. Social workers are responsible for the assessment, planning and monitoring and liaising with other organizations with regard to the implementation of job creation projects and income-generating activities. The social worker needs to have a sound knowledge base of entrepreneurship to motivate the individual to direct his or her efforts to income-generating activities.
  • Social workers cannot limit their actions and responsibilities to short-term interventions. Sustained growth and improvement in the lives of poor, struggling people will ensure a better future for all.
  • A lack of knowledge regarding entrepreneurship prevented participants from initiating and stimulating business ventures as an integral part of an economic strategy to address poverty and unemployment.
  • There is a need to develop appropriate courses to enhance the economic and financial literacy of social workers.
  • The social work profession needs to actively contribute to processes and structures that support sustainable economic progress and development in communities. Social workers need to participate in initiatives aimed at strengthening and stimulating economic power in communities.
  • A basic knowledge of economics and market forces could serve the social worker well in planning and executing economic activities for the client population. Very often unemployed people have existing skills and resources. Social workers are often responsible for managing and allocating resources. Social workers are responsible for the assessment, planning and monitoring and liaising with other organizations with regard to the implementation of job creation projects and income-generating activities. The social worker needs to have a sound knowledge base of entrepreneurship to motivate the individual to direct his or her efforts to income-generating activities.
  • There is a need for more knowledge regarding sustainable development and the application thereof within the social work domain. Social workers can contribute significantly to the process of equipping people to enable them to claim their rightful place in the economy. Social workers need to recognize not only the multiplicity of causes but also the many interrelationships between and among such causes.
  • Social workers need appropriate skills and knowledge to integrate social development with responsible and wise environmental management, coupled with sustainable economic progress and growth. These are the essential components of a holistic approach for sustainable social work practice in an ever-changing society.
  • Specific knowledge regarding entrepreneurship, skills development and the creation of income-generating activities are urgently needed. The researcher is of the impression that continuing professional development for social workers in the field of community development could contribute significantly to improved services in all communities. Continuing professional development would improve the social workers’ theoretical and practical knowledge. Social workers should be empowered through continuous ongoing education so that they in turn can be actively involved in capacity building in communities. A key learning area would be to facilitate the implementation of sustainable integrated socio-economic development strategies. Social workers need to develop the skills and knowledge to integrate creative solutions and opportunities with available resources.
  • Collaboration is essential and must be reinforced. Social workers need to collaborate with established entrepreneurs and business leaders. There is a need for social workers to have a more thorough understanding of the technical and business aspects of entrepreneurship which will form the basis of improved decision making skills and innovation.
  • A system of sharing best practices and building networks of excellence in targeted research areas can facilitate the advancement of the social work profession. An enabling environment to facilitate sustainable development, require the full involvement of national and local government, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector and civil society. This will require all stakeholders to actively contribute to strengthen the “tools” in the amour of the social worker.
  • Social work practitioners as service providers are in a position to create links between various stakeholders that can be of benefit to both. It is only through supportive and continuous feedback processes that successful implementation of projects and programs can become reality. Social work practitioners need to develop creative strategies within a multidisciplinary approach to address the issues of poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment in a sustainable manner.

Akram Asgari؛ Manager of Hana Social Work Clinic | Sajjad Majidi Parast؛ Ph.D Student of Social Work, Allameh Tabataba’i University

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