‘4 Reasons Why Only Social Workers Can Solve Social Problems’

While we are preoccupied with our own lives, an array of social problems are constantly occurring all over the world. But how does something become a social problem?

Essentially, people with money and high social status get to legitimize what people generally view as a social problem.1 By my definition then, a social worker is anyone who is compelled to address social problems. Formally, “The primary mission of social work is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty.”2

Only social workers (people who are addressing social problems) can solve social problems for four reasons: 1) we won’t stop until the job gets done, 2) we can adopt different perspectives, 3) we recognize that there’s more to the problem than the problem, and most importantly, 4) we treat people like people.

1)  We won’t stop until the job gets done.

Social situations transform into social ills/problems from a lack of collective action. Social movement leaders are drawn to being social workers. We have experienced life in a way that has resulted in our unique perspectives for creativity and innovation. To us, “no” means “not right now, try again later.” No matter how bad a social problem is or how bad it gets, we don’t stop our efforts to mobilize other people as a means of social transformation.3 We realize the great demand to take action on our vision(s) that wake us up early and have us going to bed late at night. We invest time and money even when people laugh at us or tell us to give up. We face disappointment and distractions but never separate what we’re focused on doing from who we are.

Accordingly, our vision to better the quality of life for everyone protects us as well as incites us to bring about change. As a result, social workers’ responsibility to serve others is of paramount importance. In our minds, “good work” must always be better than the last time, therefore we are not handicapped by fear; it gives us a rush of pleasure as an indication that we are experiencing a positive transformation. People are drawn to us because of our energy and we are constantly provided with opportunities to continue changing the world. To that end, everything happens for a reason and there is no such thing as failure. Moreover, our commitment to changing the world positively stems from the belief that we do big things based on our ability to be whatever we want regardless of where we begin.

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2)  We can adopt different perspectives.

Social workers are constantly trying to make sense of why things happen. Understanding that everything happens for a reason requires a big picture vantage point (macro-level), a detail-oriented lens (micro-level), and an understanding of someone’s feelings from their perspective. For example, one cause that I am passionate about is violence prevention. Some people refer to the seemingly constant killings of young Black men as “senseless.” From a macro-level perspective, the biological, psychological, and social pressures on particular groups of people causes them to make bad decisions. At a  micro-level focus we would examine the rampant community violence that pressures someone to obtain a gun. Furthermore, the pervasive unemployment pressures this individual to resort to illegitimate sources of income, such as robbing others. Understanding someone else’s perspective, this individual would decide to shoot someone to rob him/her because this individual knew that s/he had no other legitimate way of providing for his/her family.

In this above-mentioned example, I am in no way relieving violent perpetrators of the lack of value for life reflected in their poor decision-making under pressure. However, if we are to address social problems, we must first diagnose their underlying issue(s), similar to the treatment process of physicians for physical ailments. Intuitively, we must learn more about what doesn’t make sense to us at first glance. Human learning occurs because our brain is designed to grow the necessary brain areas to accommodate our ability to process new types of information.4 When we don’t intentionally adopt different perspectives, we get stuck in giving old answers to new questions and relying on old ways of thinking about new topics. As a result, no progress is made and our stagnance only helps to maintain whatever issue(s) we don’t understand. Social workers understand the importance of recognizing there are multiple perspectives to perceived problems/social ills.

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3)  We recognize that there’s more to the problem than the problem.

We can observe unemployment, crime, and poverty. However, what we cannot observe, and which is far more oppressive, is poverty across generations, people learning to be helpless, policies and procedures that are meant to maintain the social hierarchy, higher education only for those who can afford it, and lastly our morals being dependent on entertainment. Consequently, to the extent of some people deciding to video record violence, and natural disasters instead of intervening. Yes, we recognize that there are multiple influences to everything that happens. Social workers are slow to judge and quick to act to benefit people, to transform family histories, and to end the diffusion of responsibility that’s understood as “Well someone else will intervene.” To which I always will respond, “You are that someone.”

We must change our approach from giving charity through the isolated philanthropy of a few people, to the mindset of intentionally removing existing policies which create the conditions we wish to eliminate. Social transformation requires more than just getting mad about the prejudice and disinvestment that is reflected in downtrodden communities. Poverty is a condition that is the result of others’ intentions, it is not happenstance or a mistake. Policies and laws have created and maintained social injustice. For example, when U.S. laws were unjust toward women, social workers organized and mobilized people to enact change. As a second example, when U.S. laws were unjust toward African-Americans, social workers advocated until laws were changed and were replaced with satisfactory ones. Community development begins by articulating the vision of its concerned community members by voting for politicians who will satisfy their needs. All in all, we must use people as resources that are available within communities to effect change.

Anthony Cymerys, Colby Snow

4)  We treat people like people.

No college degree can teach someone how to be passionate about eliminating the causes and effects of poverty and social injustice. Our disagreement with someone’s upbringing or viewpoint does not physically handicap us from helping them. Only people can be involved in every area of problem-solving for social issues that are affecting other people. We are only as effective as our ability to recognize what other people need from us without muffling them with the bells and whistles of our fancy professional titles and credentials. Just because you do not have a college degree stating you are a social worker does not mean that you cannot solve social problems. People simply need other people to respond to their needs with compassion and love.

Social problems do not go away because people do not care enough about other people. When confronted with opportunities to stop social injustice, we must not assume that someone else will intervene. When you observe wrongdoing(s), you are obligated to intervene to make things better.5 Our fullest potential, the purpose of our gift or talent, does not exist or function without helping others succeed. All people are human. This is sometimes forgotten when we believe that someone has low social power or status.6 For example, people who are homeless are often discriminated against or mistreated in inhumane ways. Investing to benefit other people is the only way to ensure your success and that of others. As a final point, when we treat people like people and help to satisfy their needs, our physical and mental health is literally enhanced.7 So if you’re feeling sad or upset, you will feel much better by focusing on others’ needs by volunteering through a local charitable organization.


  1.  Blumer, H. (1971). Social problems as collective behavior. Social problems, 298-306. 
  2. National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. Washington, DC: Author 
  3. Blau, J. (2004). The Dynamics of Social Welfare Policy. New York: Oxford University Press. Chapter 6 – Social Movements and Social Change – p.174-219. 
  4. Taubert, M., Draganski, B., Anwander, A., Müller, K., Horstmann, A., Villringer, A., & Ragert, P. (2010). Dynamic properties of human brain structure: learning-related changes in cortical areas and associated fiber connections. The Journal of Neuroscience, 30(35), 11670-11677. 
  5. Medoff, P., & Sklar, H. (1994). Streets of hope: The fall and rise of an urban neighborhood (pp. 245-287). Boston: South End Press. 
  6. Yzerbyt, V. Y., Dumont, M., Mathieu, B., Gordijn, E., & Wigboldus, D. (2006). Social comparison and group-based emotions. Social comparison processes and levels of analysis: Understanding cognition, intergroup relations, and culture, 174-205. 
  7. Post, S. G. (2005). Altruism, happiness, and health: It’s good to be good.International journal of behavioral medicine, 12(2), 66-77. 
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‘5 Ways To Brand Your Successful Company Before You Have One’

Distinguished_black_businessman

“5 Ways To Brand Your Successful Company Before You Have One”

 1. Write

Writing for blogs, websites, newspapers, and journals is a great branding technique. In addition to the readability of your worldviews, online and print media typically include a blurb about the author. Contributing authors can provide a compelling snapshot of their personal and company/organization brand within the guidelines of their character limit. Writing also allows authors more time and flexibility to organize their thoughts and to plan their communication style to others. During in-person conversations, we must have both nonverbal and verbal communication acumen. For example, someone’s mouth may be conveying one idea while his/her folded arms may be saying something else.

In addition to branding through communicating one’s thoughts, professionals must be bilingual by speaking the language of business people – writing. Many, if not all, information is saved and transmitted through digital and print methods of communication. In addition to legal transactions and proceedings, business people are required to provide documentation of any text, images, or concepts that constitute one’s brand.

Altogether, writing is important to create your brand and to communicate your brand to others.

 

2. Get Active on LinkedIn

LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) is a compartmentalized, user-friendly, way to brand yourself and your company/organization. In my opinion, LinkedIn is the most professional social media platform for your resume/professional accomplishments. With features such as being able to endorse and recommend your LinkedIn connections, there are several ways to facilitate your strategic branding. One way to increase your brand visibility is to endorse your LinkedIn connections on their  “Skills”, especially those areas that are low in number. People will view your LinkedIn profile based on your endorsement on the “Skills” section of others’ profiles. Moreover, when there are less endorsements, your page visibility is increased. However, the drawback is that this person’s pageviews and number of LinkedIn connections are also low since no one is endorsing them. Likewise, listing too many “Skills” on your LinkedIn profile also accounts for low endorsements. Choose five skills that are succinct, and easy to understand for viewers who checked out your page. Simply put, the more endorsements that you have, the better. The less skills you list, the more endorsements you will have since it will take less effort to validate your know-how.

Another way to increase your brand visibility is to write recommendations for your LinkedIn connections. However, I highly recommend that you practice writing recommendations before posting them to your own or others’ page. Remember other people view our brand based on what we write, say, and do. So ensure your ideal first impression by proofreading your writing for grammatical mistakes. To ensure your readability, ask for feedback at little to no-cost from a trustworthy writer that you know. Writing recommendations for your LinkedIn connections is invaluable for three purposes: 1) you get to enhance your writing skills, which are essential for every professional, 2) you increase your brand presence through someone’s LinkedIn profile and last but not certainly least, 3) people learn more about how well you work with others. So when someone requests a recommendation through those nifty pre-written recommendation LinkedIn messages, get excited about this opportunity for strategic branding. Conversely, whenever someone offers to write a recommendation to add to my LinkedIn profile, I ask myself the following questions: Can this person write an inspiring narrative to highlight my skills and expertise? Would you want him/her to do so? What is his/her reputation?

 In other words, both writing and receiving LinkedIn recommendations will increase your brand visibility.

 

3. Join a Board of Directors (BOD)

Often times, organizations will list their BOD on their company website. This is a great way to market yourself and brand your company name and mission, especially if your website is up and running and listed on the named organization’s website. In addition, when the organization has special events, BOD members are often acknowledged along with their associated company/organization. Professionals are recruited as BOD members based on their potential support of a company’s organizational vision, mission, and values. BOD members are viewed as invaluable sources of experts on particular industries, or companies/organizations. Both budding and well-seasoned professionals must take advantage of opportunities to strategically brand themselves and/or their company/organization. When I was recruited to join the Board of Directors at a Philadelphia-based public health non-profit organization called Bebashi- Transition to Hope, I asked myself, “What transferable skills do I have to offer to a successful company?”

 After I pondered over my natural abilities, I realized that the better question to ask myself was, “How do other people view me?” On a piece of paper, I inventoried the recurrent themes in my past conversations, interviews, recommendation letters, and compliments from other people. Simply put, people recognize my skills of program development, community outreach, and corporate branding. As an aside, I made sure that my LinkedIn “Skills” section was consistent with this epiphany. While we are the best experts on our own skills and expertise, our brand is the average of what others say and what we say about ourselves. I accepted a position on the Nominating Committee at Bebashi to gain additional experience that was consistent with my brand. The more active you are on a BOD, the more branding exposure you will gain. Similarly, the more you do for others, the more they will do for you.

 

4. Volunteer

Find out what you’re passionate about by volunteering at different events. Similarly, you can grow your opportunities to do the work that you’re passionate about by volunteering. Skills-based volunteering (pro bono consulting) can become a branding opportunity when you invest in refining what you do. Think back to the time before the internet (yes that age actually existed), people who achieved international notoriety accomplished this through the best method of marketing and advertising possible – word of mouth branding. Research suggests that we tend to trust who trustworthy people deemed trustful (are you still with me?). So when someone trustworthy recommends your awesome skills/services to others, voila! You are on your way to doing big things!

Conversely, non-skills-based volunteering at events that interest you can also transform into a branding opportunity. When you pique others’ interest through your reason for volunteering (i.e., your why) at said event, they want to know more about you. This is a window of opportunity to tell others about your brand, whether that be who are you individually, or the vision, mission, and values of your company/organization. Your interest in others also grows their curiosity in you, so convince people of your excitement about their passion. At best, you have solidified a new business partner, or BOD member, volunteer, or donor, if not all three. At worse, you have just used some elbow grease to initiate a conversation about you to others. In my book, that is also known as word of mouth branding.

 

5. Do the Work

There is no way around doing the big things that you say you do. Regardless of whether you are a social entrepreneur creating business solutions for social problems like I am, people want to see examples of your work. After more than three years of running my benefit corporation called WeDoBigThings, I can attest that the time will never be perfect to start impacting the world around you. Doing the work means different things for people- writing, acting, or social impact engineering. You may be wondering, “What’s the common theme among all people who actualized their dream?” – they never quit trying new ideas. I remember riding in a car listening to an audiobook of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho with a friend around the summer season of 2013. I said to my friend, “Man I wish that the voices of people who read audio books were more lively.” My friend replied, “Well why don’t you create your own audiobook then?” So for several months I organized and planned with two other motivational speakers to realize an audiobook compilation during the coming winter. Basically, we quit the plan and never released the audiobook. Often times, we set lofty goals and then quit before making them a reality.

Furthermore, the only reason that our dreams are not made a reality is if we create ideas to kill our vision. As Kevin Hart would say, the way that our minds are set up…we learn from experience. Positive outcomes encourage us whereas negative outcomes have the potential to deter us. But, we can use the power of thought to our advantage. Negative outcomes are the best teachable moments for several reasons: 1) we can become uncomfortable enough with an unfavorable outcome that we are motivated to change, 2) there are countless role models and success stories of people who “failed” until they got it right, and lastly, 3) people who have had similar pathways to their success will support the work you do by offering resources and encouragement to persevere.