Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

140 Social Innovation

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 2:30 PM-4:15 PM
Independence C (Grand Hyatt Washington)
Cluster: Organizations and Management
Stephanie C. Berzin, PhD, Boston College and Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, PhD, Boston College
With the growing complexity of social problems and the need for new approaches to emergent problems, social innovation has been lauded as a promising approach for addressing social issues. While business and public policy leaders have focused on social entrepreneurship as the cornerstone of social innovation, social work has the opportunity to make significant contributions to the emerging field of social innovation. This roundtable will explore the need for social innovation, the role of social work, the potential impact of social innovation on social services, and implications for research and practice.

Social innovation is an imperative in today's climate as social problems continue to grow and resources become increasingly difficult to obtain. Traditional approaches are often not producing desired results to many of the long-standing social problems that are addressed by the social work profession. New problems have also emerged with solutions that have yet to be articulated. This roundtable will explore social innovation as a strategy and a shift for the social sector to accommodate to this new climate.

Through our discussion, we also hope to stimulate thinking about social work's role in social innovation and potential contributions to this emergent field. While many groups have identified social innovators working to create solutions to new and old social problems, and the business community has developed and supported strategies of social entrepreneurship, these efforts represent just one part of a shifted paradigm. It is critical that these efforts continue, but it is also important that social work brings its strengths and competencies to this discussion. Social work's expertise in working with marginalized populations and understanding the complexities of social issues is critical to this discourse. Further, our experience with collaborative partnerships, knowledge of organizational and community change, and commitment to this sector makes social work's role vital to create lasting, sustainable social change. This roundtable will discuss how stimulating research that understands innovation in the social sector and practice that utilizes the processes of innovation will broaden our capacity to contribute.

Lastly, as social entrepreneurship often focuses on the development of new agencies and services, there are significant implications for traditional service providers and the sector as a whole. The proliferation of non-profits and the development of programs outside the traditional provider models will change the face of the social service sector in the future. This roundtable is one opportunity to dialogue about these changes and the impact on our field. As we train the next generation of social workers and provide the evidence-base to support their practice, we must understand how this changing paradigm impacts the core of our work. Social work has the potential to make significant contributions to the field of social innovation, but first we must have our own dialogue about this potential; this roundtable provides one such opportunity.

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