Global Definition of the Social Work Profession approved by the IFSW General Meeting and the IASSW General Assembly in July 2014 - Melbourne
“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing."
In the recent years European societies have faced dramatic challenges. The financial and economic crisis and its’ political implications have led many European countries to implement severe austerity policies. In many countries, these measures have led to dismantling of the welfare state creating a new political and societal context for social work and for social work education. These changes affect not only welfare policy, but also create challenges encompassing many areas:
- Economic: Growing inequality in wealth and income, growing poverty and social exclusion, declining economic growth, rise in unemployment and structural changes in the nature of work (insecurity, individualization, increasing numbers of poor people in work, exclusion from paid work). The OECD initiative “All On Board for Inclusive Growth” summarizes these changes: "inequality is not limited to income but affects individuals in many aspects of their lives that affect their wellness; the persistence of high inequality has helped unravel the social fabric of communities and imposes a considerable economic cost on future growth”.
- Political: Declining confidence in the ability of political elites/governments to address pressing economic and social issues, growing xenophobia and mass populism in conjunction with the omnipresent risks created in conjunction with the risks from different forms of radicalization.
- Socio-cultural: Growing cultural divisions and the failure of political elites to foster multiculturalist policies and inclusion, rapid demographic changes, population decline and ageing, continuous technological innovations and development.
- Ecological: The disturbing effects of climate change, natural disasters and political conflicts as well as migration caused by to conflict, natural disasters and poor living conditions, are increasing severely affecting the poorest and most vulnerable individuals, groups and communities.
Simultaneously, as a human rights profession and academic discipline, social work is directed at promoting social change and development, social cohesion and the empowerment and liberation of people, by combining scientific and indigenous knowledge with principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities (IASSW, IFSW, 2014).
The changing context of practice demands of social work that it constantly reflects upon and develops an alternative vision of human beings, society and welfare, within the limits of the international definition of Social work. Social work must create new forms and methods of intervention which will be effective in enhancing individual and collective well-being. Social work educators are confronted with the need to prepare future social workers to address the above mentioned changes in a meaningful and effective manner without compromising the fundamental values of the profession. However, the current situation of social work education is bounded by a number of internal and external constraints: These include the process of reorganization of higher education structures and cuts in resources, neoliberal performance orientations; the complex and demanding relationship between professionals and educators, and the often relatively weak position of social work as an academic discipline. As often happens - particularly in resilient communities as social workers are – threats also unveil opportunities.
The 2017 EASSW and UNAFORIS Paris conference aims to provide a forum for the discussion of the above-mentioned challenges while devising and formulating new pedagogies aimed at addressing their specific implications. The conference will create a forum for the sharing of experience and knowledge between different generations of social work educators and researchers, as well as with social work professionals, students and service users. It will offer an opportunity to bring together a wide range of perspectives on the emerging issues in social work education in Europe, thus challenging boundaries and promoting a sustainable future. Rooted in the growing body of social work research and internationalization of the profession, the conference aims to facilitate the emergence of recommendations regarding quality standards for social work education in Europe and consequently strengthen social work education community
The main themes
In the light of the changing practice environment described above, communications will be welcomed in the four following areas.