Building the Profession’s Research Infrastructure

Betsy S. Vourlekis, Joan Levy Zlotnik, Juan Ramos, Kathleen Ell

Abstract


Beginning in 1988, the social work profession undertook a twenty-five year endeavor to enhance its research capacity and to assure greater representation of social work research needs, priorities and findings at the federal level, where major policy initiatives take place. Described here are some of the key processes, highlighting the efforts to achieve professional solidarity, and the interventions, by social workers, federal "insiders" and outside advocacy agents that carried the work forward. Details and accomplishments of this long-term, carefully sustained, and still incomplete professional self-strengthening change strategy provide insights for future collective professional endeavors.

Twenty-five years ago the social work profession began a sustained effort to strengthen its research infrastructure in support of demonstrating practice effectiveness, advancing knowledge for critical social problems, and informing national policy. The steps and processes undertaken and the outcomes achieved by this effort have been described elsewhere (Austin, 1998; Corvo, Zlotnik, & Chen, 2008; TFSWR, 1991; Zlotnik, Biegel, & Solt, 2002; Zlotnik & Solt, 2006, 2008). What we want to capture through this, our eye-witness account, are some of the nuanced and specific actions, obstacles, and decisions involved in this effort. Recreating this case study of a profession's self-strengthening change strategy – targeted both to the external environment and its own internal one – can provide insights for future profession-wide, collective efforts.

Keywords


Social work research, history, change process

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