“What draws me into social work is that I feel it has a very applied piece to it,” Kevin Shafer, Ph D, who works as an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Brigham Young University, told Online MSWPrograms.com, “I feel that my studies might actually get applied in clinical or macro settings and might help people.” Dr.Shafer believes that the field of social work research is distinct from other disciplines because of its practical significance and its adherence to the mission of improving the well-being of individuals and families within their communities.Social workers who work as policy advocates and analysts typically raise awareness of systemic problems that lead to individual challenges, and work to develop macro-level strategies to address large-scale social issues.
In an interview with Online MSWPrograms.com, Amy Beaulieu, LCSW, who is a licensed clinical social worker and program development specialist in Bloomington, Indiana, described her program development responsibilities in her past role as a Policy Associate for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
“I helped develop ideas for systems improvement initiatives alongside managers at DHHS based on needs assessments that I helped to conduct or that were done by their own staff,” she told Online MSWPrograms.com, “Priorities for program development were often in line with funding priorities and federal program improvement guidelines.
“[S]ome of the specific things we do to develop and implement law and policy reform strategies include identifying and researching systemic trends impacting our clients, conducting background literature reviews, investigating agency and placement procedures and conditions through record reviews, site visits and interviews with residents, monitoring compliance with settlements by reviewing records, following up with our staff to see how client services have improved or not, and meeting with providers to raise concerns,” Ms. Social work policy advocates and analysts can work at nonprofit organizations, including humans rights groups, think tanks, and pro-bono law firms.
They often are part of an interdisciplinary team, and can interact with other human services organizations to effect social and legislative change. Warner explained to Online MSWPrograms.com, “[My colleagues and I at The Legal Aid Society] also participate in many citywide initiatives and coalitions, provide internal and external trainings, developing testimony for city council hearings, and write letters to the governor.” Social workers who are community and human services specialists may work in government public health and/or human services departments, housing and relief aid agencies, and organizations that provide education, resource navigation, and other support services to veterans, immigrants, the homeless, people struggling with disabilities or addictions, and other vulnerable populations within the community.
I have also co-developed and administered quality assurance tools to measure vendor performance, which makes their services more efficient and beneficial to clientele.” Program development specialists typically design, implement, and evaluate the effectiveness of human and social services programs.
They can work at universities, government public health departments, community health centers, social services agencies, human rights groups, and other organizations that address social problems at the local, state, national, and international levels.
The process of conducting social work research involves identifying a problem in society, applying for research funding, and collaborating with an interdisciplinary team to collect data, run tests if applicable, and evaluate and publish the results.
Social work research differs from other types of academic fields in that it focuses specifically on issues that directly impact the well-being of people in society, and how social workers and other professionals can address these issues.
Current and prospective macro social work students should keep in mind that position titles for macro social workers tend to vary and may be hard to categorize, as they are often not as concretely defined as clinical/micro social work roles.
For example, while a clinical social worker who works in a psychiatric setting will typically be called a psychiatric or clinical social worker, a macro social worker who designs and manages human services programs and initiatives might be called a human services specialist, community specialist, or program development specialist.