SWSD 2018: Social Work, Education and Social Development
ENVIRONMENTAL AND COMMUNITY SUSTAINABILITY - HUMAN SOLUTIONS IN EVOLVING SOCIETIES
The conference was organised on behalf of the International Federation of Social Workers, The International Schools of Social Work and the International Council on Social Welfare.
It was opened by Mary Robinson, a former President of Ireland as well as a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and was attended by approximately 2500 delegates from across the world together to discuss social work and social development practice, policy research and education under the theme, “Environmental and Community Sustainability: Human Solutions in Evolving Societies”. For the four conference days, Dublin was at the heart of global social work and social development.
Leading practitioners, educators, researchers and policy analysts were joined by users of services to engage with the challenges that negatively affect numerous people across the world in these days of austerity, war and climate change, amongst other themes. Participants included experts in the field from Europe, the USA and Canada, Australia and the Middle and Far East, to ensure that the global reach was significant.
The discussions consisted of lectures, oral presentations, workshops, symposia, poster rounds as well as exhibition space. There were also field visits to various community projects, including the opportunity to visit Northern Ireland social work services in Belfast – ably supported by our colleagues in BASW Northern Ireland who did a fantastic job.
This is the first time I’ve attended let alone presented, at global a conference. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was initially a bit overwhelmed by the sheer size, range of presentations, countries represented and not least, the opportunity to see as well as hear, Mary Robinson (a hero of mine since I was a law undergraduate) speak so eloquently about the challenges that affect us all - whether we live in Sierra Leone, Mexico or Wales.
It was inspiring to see experience the global nature of our profession first hand, we speak of social work as being a global profession and celebrate world social work day every year, but it can be hard in your job as a front-line social worker to feel connected. So, what stood out the most was meeting international colleagues that we’ve been developing links with over the last year some of whom were inspired by our boot-out-austerity walk and anti-poverty activism. This really brings home the connectedness between the local and the global, that issues of poverty and inequality which we face in Wales, are being experienced in communities throughout the globe. It also reminds us that we can inspire, support and motivate one another to make changes, that the only way we will truly have an impact and change the world for the better, is to collectivise our responses. As the late Anita Roddick said, “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito”.
As a member led organisation it’s important that we support members to attend important global events and one way this was achieved was to sponsor 21 social workers via the international fund, to attend the conference. It was a joy to meet them all, including David, a PhD student at Cardiff University. It was also a real surprise to realise what an international group they were, coming from countries as diverse as Africa, North America and Australia! Each of these social workers is practicing in the UK and bringing with them their knowledge, skills and experience to enhance and deepen our own.
As each day passed, the numbers of people I spoke to and the numbers of countries they represented grew and I have subsequently shared several emails with new friends and collaborators from New Zealand, Sierra Leone, Palestine, North America, Canada, Australia and Argentina. I also took the opportunity to make important links with our friends and colleagues in the Ireland Association of Social Workers who worked so hard to host a fantastic event - their graciousness as hosts is a model for us all. I will explore how we can collaborate further with our Celtic neighbours.
Instead of sharing power-points of the key-note speeches and symposia, incredible illustrations captured what was presented.
A copy of my presentation on ‘Human Relationships at the heart of the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014’ can be accessed by emailing Wales.
The next global conference will be held in Calgary, Canada in 2010…