Session: University-Community Partnerships during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Elevating the Role of Social Work in Community Practice and Knowledge Co-Creation (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

280 University-Community Partnerships during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Elevating the Role of Social Work in Community Practice and Knowledge Co-Creation

Sunday, January 15, 2023: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Encanto A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
Cluster: Communities and Neighborhoods
Symposium Organizer:
Natalie Pope, MSSW, MBA, Rutgers University
Community practice has been integral to social work since its origins and remains vital within the profession today. This contemporary relevance has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has demanded collective problem-solving by diverse community stakeholders, particularly in the context of a decentralized U.S. national response. Moreover, the civil protests in support of Black Lives Matters and other historic events of 2020 provide a unique opportunity to advance knowledge on how networks of community organizations, groups, and leaders allocate resources toward individual, collective, and environmental well-being and equity. This symposium presents four papers rooted in long-standing university-community partnerships that made possible quick-action social work community practice and research in response to the events of 2020 and beyond.

The first paper provides a case study highlighting how the diverse skillset of macro social work was critical in pivoting a rural university-community partnership to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper describes how this skillset positioned social workers to convene multi-sector partnerships addressing issues, such as food insecurity, PPE, and evictions, and to serve as evaluators assessing the response six months into the pandemic.

The second paper presents a qualitative case study of one university and school of social work's response to the COVID-19 pandemic that prioritized public-problem solving and deeply sustained, ways of collaborating with longstanding community partners. This paper demonstrates the role of macro social work competencies in university-community engagement and in furthering collaboration with community partners to address mental health, housing, and digital access needs that were exacerbated by the pandemic.

The third paper explores how an ongoing, multi-year action study among university-community partners yielded mutually beneficial knowledge development during the pandemic. This paper reports on the social work researchers' participation in a network of age-friendly community initiatives (AFCIs) in northern New Jersey, emphasizing a qualitative descriptive analysis of semi-structured interviews from the AFCI leaders during the pandemic. This study identified the roles AFCI core teams played in enhancing community capacities and COVID-19 responses.

The fourth paper describes a student-led partnership with the Boston city government that leveraged local resources to address unmet resident needs. Students and faculty at the Boston University Schools of Medicine and Social Work partnered with community organizations and the City to develop an outreach call center linking COVID-19 patients with local resources. Pre-existing relationships facilitated the team's ability to collaborate with partners to address social determinants of health, including food insecurity and housing instability.

These papers demonstrate the vital roles that social workers hold within university-community partnerships, especially during periods of crisis. The manifestations of these roles are diverse and responsive to the needs and contexts of their partnerships. Specifically, the studies highlight how social workers advanced university-community partnerships in their respective geographies by simultaneously serving as community practitioners and knowledge generators during the COVID- 19 pandemic. These papers illuminate how social workers can shift the power relations between universities and community partners from unidirectional to community-engaged practice that advances collective action and knowledge co-production during acute and chronic societal challenges.

* noted as presenting author
Community Engaged Scholarship during a Pandemic: Moving Beyond "Helping" to Public Problem Solving
Mary Ohmer, PhD, MSW, MPIA, University of Pittsburgh; Aliya Durham, PhD, MSW, MPIA, University of Pittsburgh; Alicia Melnick, MSW, University of Pittsburgh; Carrie Finkelstein, MSW, University of Pittsburgh
A Shift in Power: Problem-Solving Community Needs during COVID-19 Crisis
Dorlisa Minnick, PhD, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania; Sonja Payne, MSW, Shippensburg Community Resource Coalition
A University-Community Action Partnership to Generate New Insights on Age-Friendly Communities during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Althea Pestine-Stevens, PhD, Rutgers University; Clara Scher, MSc, Rutgers University; Emily Greenfield, PhD, Rutgers University; Natalie Pope, MSSW, MBA, Rutgers University
The Thrive COVID Call Center: An Interdisciplinary Student-Led Collaboration to Advance Community Health
Linda Sprague Martinez, PhD, Boston University; Berit Lindell, Boston University; Divya Satishchandra, Boston University; Kirsten Mojziszek, Boston University; Katy Janvier, Boston University; Cindy Tao, Boston University; Noelle Dimitri, PhD, LICSW, Simmons University; Pablo BuitrĂ³n De la Vega, MD, MSc, Boston University
See more of: Symposia