Objectives and Structure: Within the overarching focus on two key constructs-- critical consciousness (Freire, 1968) and research as praxis--the five panelists explore approaches to social work science aimed at racial justice and liberation.
The first panelist will discuss the Critical Transformative Potential Development Framework (Jemal, 2021), which grew out of critical consciousness scholarship. The framework challenges problem-solving and solution-building efforts to focus beyond the marginalized persons' behaviors and target the conditions that shape the behavior as the intervention point. It also incorporates praxis within the research process by promoting the process of reflection, action, evaluation, revision, and trying again, understanding that the aim is progress rather than perfection. CTPD is a journey to convert radical imagination into action for discovering alternatives that require testing.
The second and third panelists will discuss insights from their emerging shared praxis in two universities to reorganize Advanced Research Methods and Program Evaluation courses as liberatory spaces, not traditionally perceived as such, by centering critical consciousness. Their lessons focus on the process and content of research courses, modeling research as praxis that advances racial justice and liberation.
The fourth panelist will discuss critical ethnography and arts-based research methods, using examples from their research and pedagogy. Critical ethnography (Madison, 2020) makes "accessible the voices and experiences of those whose stories are otherwise restrained and out of reach," contributing to "life sustaining knowledge and discourse of transformative justice." Similarly, arts-based research (Leavy, 2017) subverts Eurocentric post/positivist ways of knowing by emphasizing imagination, using the body (e.g., painting, singing), and privileging subjective experience as truth. Both move social work practitioners and researchers from observing the current context to considering different futures.
Finally, the fifth panelist will draw from more than a decade of experience building the Newark Community Collaborative Board. This community-based infrastructure includes researchers, students, community members, and people with incarceration and substance use disorder histories living or working in a predominantly Black and low-income community. Together, they conducted numerous research projects, received over six million dollars in federal research funding, and developed and tested an intervention designed to reduce substance misuse through critical dialogue and action that centers on the role of racism, classism, and sexism.
Significance: By presenting a continuum of ideas spanning theory, methods, pedagogy, and research infrastructure building, we aim to engage participants in re-envisioning social work science as a praxis to eliminate structural racism-a root cause of complex problems social workers strive to solve-and contribute to growing life-affirming worlds.