Session: Assessing Scholarship on Social Work and the Environment: Definitions, Trends, and Future Directions (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

16 Assessing Scholarship on Social Work and the Environment: Definitions, Trends, and Future Directions

Thursday, January 17, 2019: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Golden Gate 1, Lobby Level (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: Sustainable Development, Urbanization, and Environmental Justice (SDU&E)
John Mathias, PhD, Florida State University, Amy Krings, MSW, PhD, Loyola University, Chicago, Susan Kemp, University of Washington, Lisa Reyes Mason, University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Sarah Bexell, University of Denver
Contemporary environmental problems like climate change, natural disasters, pollution, and environmental degradation compound many of the social and psychological problems addressed by social workers. Moreover, recent research finds that the social effects of climate change, such as displacement and resource scarcity, have precipitated or exacerbated collective violence around the globe (Levy, Sidel, & Patz, 2017). Many of these social impacts of environmental problems disproportionately affect already marginalized populations, including women (Nelson, Meadows, Cannon, Morton, & Martin, 2002). The Grand Challenge “Create social responses to a changing environment” calls for social work to take a lead role in addressing these challenges. To do so effectively, the profession has a clear need for a strong body of research on the social impacts of environmental change, effective interventions to address these impacts, and strategies for the prevention of new threats. With these challenges in mind, this roundtable assesses the current strengths and weaknesses of the emerging literature on social work and the environment and identifies promising areas for growth and collaboration.

Structure and focus: The foundation for this roundtable are three recent systematic reviews of the emerging social work literature on the environment, each of which assessed the literature using different methods and approaches to delimiting the field. The roundtable brings the authors of these distinct studies into dialogue to explore convergences and tensions between their perspectives on the field and, in conversation with the audience, to construct a more complete analysis of where we stand and where we should go from here. One focus of conversation will be the diverse values and conceptual frameworks that have been used to define and delimit social work's engagement with the environment. How much conceptual unity does a “young” field need? A second focus will be on how scholars can best target their research to support practitioners in bringing about change. Given the interdisciplinary and inter-professional nature of efforts to address environmental change, where can social work make the most impact? The roundtable will tackle these definitional and pragmatic concerns together, seeking to clarify how the nascent subfield is taking shape and chart a course forward.

Methods: Four participants will briefly present key findings from the three systematic reviews of the literature as well as any questions that emerged from the study. A fifth participant will serve as discussant and facilitator, identifying cross-cutting themes and facilitating discussion of the two major focuses of the roundtable (conceptual frameworks and promising directions for research).

Engagement/Implications: After initial discussion among roundtable participants on these two topics and any additional topics raised by the discussant, the audience will be invited to pose questions and give comments. Fifteen minutes will be reserved at the end of the discussion for identifying concrete “next steps” for strengthening the field.

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