Policy Practice

Policy Practice: Social Welfare
Policy Session 1
Michael A. Dover
Policy Practice
This is a policy practice course. The first course in
the social welfare policy sequence, which focuses
upon social work and social welfare history, the
nature of poverty, and the impact of oppression,
dehumanization and exploitation and the struggles
against them on the nature of the social welfare
system. It was not a policy practice course except
to the extent students learned the values and ethics
of social work advocacy and may have written an
initial advocacy letter.
Policy Practice
Unlike the first course in this sequence, this is a
policy practice course. As the official course
description states, “By the end of the course,
students who have completed this course will be
able to demonstrate how they have integrated the
values, knowledge and skills which they acquired
in order to ensure that their view of themselves as
professional social workers has a policy practice
Policy Practice
Among the related foundation competencies of the
Council on Social Work Education are:
PC 2.1.1 – Identify as a professional social worker
and conduct oneself accordingly, for example:
advocate for access to human services and
PC 2.1.5 – Advance human rights and social and
economic justice, for example.
Policy Practice
But what is policy practice? The foundation
competency most relevant is #8:
PC 2.1.8 – Engage in policy practice to advance social
and economic well-being and to deliver effective
social work services. For example:
· identify policy issues arising from practice and
community settings;
· analyze, formulate, and advocate for policies that
advance social well-being; and,
· collaborate with colleagues and clients for effective
policy action.
Policy Practice
Policy practice is a form of social work practice
which is oriented towards intervening at the level
of the service delivery organizational or
governmental level in order to improve the laws,
regulations and organizational policies which
affect social welfare policy and social work
At least that is how I define it.
Policy Practice
The person who claims to have invented the concept
is Bruce S. Jansson, a professor at USC, who
coined the term in 1980 in a hope that “others, too,
would reconceptualize social welfare policy as a
multifaceted intervention that would help social
workers actually change policies to advance such
ethical principles as social justice.” (p. xii in
Becoming an Effective Policy Advocate: From
Policy Practice to Social Justice, 5th Ed., 2008).
Policy Practice
He defines in on p. 14: “We define policy practice as
efforts to change policies in legislative, agency,
and community settings, whether by establishing
new policies, improving existing ones, or
defeating the policy initiatives of other people.”
Policy Practice
He distinguishes this from policy advocacy, which
he defines on p. 14 as: “…policy practice that aims
to help relatively powerless groups….improve
their resources and opportunities. Thus policy
practice refers to efforts generally to change
policies, and policy advocacy refers to efforts to
help powerless groups improve their lot.”
Discussion: can we define help here?
Is this a useful distinction?
Policy Practice
I think it may be more valuable to define policy
advocacy as one modality of policy practice as an
advanced practice method which in the future may
well have 2nd year concentrations as do many
programs with other modalities of macro methods,
including supervision, administration, planning,
and community organizing. The major techniques
of policy practice as a modality include: advocacy,
formulation, analysis, collaboration, social protest,
etc.. I’m not sure, does this make sense to you?
Policy Practice
But how, then, does policy practice fit into notions
of generalist practice at the foundation level (BSW
education and the first year of MSW)?
I have developed a conceptualization of generalist
practice which distinguishes it from advanced
generalist practice and other advanced practice
models: http://tinyurl.com/yknk8q6
Policy Practice
Here, however, the organization and the community
are the highest levels of intervention. While
according to the definition of Jansson the
organization community are levels of policy
practice, there are clearly other “higher” levels.
Also, as part and parcel of one’s work as a social
work practitioner, one engages in advocacy on
behalf of client systems.
Policy Practice
In fact, the best definition of advocacy is one which
bounds, or restricts, the concept of advocacy as
something one does on behalf of an identified
client system. Robert L. Schneider and Lori
Lester in Social Work Advocacy: A New
Framework for Action (2001), define advocacy in
this way (p.65): “Social work advocacy is the
exclusive and mutual representation of a client(s)
or a cause in a forum, attempting to systematically
influence decisions in an unjust or unresponsive
Policy Practice
“Social work advocacy is the exclusive and mutual
representation of a client(s) or a cause in a forum,
attempting to systematically influence decisions in
an unjust or unresponsive system.” Not they say
or a cause. It think this is mistaken. You can’t
represent a cause, only a client, unless your client
and you make a cause out of a case or a social
problem of concern to your client.
Policy Practice
Social work advocacy is an effort as part of the
representation of a client system (individual,
family, group, organization or community) to
influence decisions or policies which are unjust or
unresponsive. (Dover, with acknowledgement of
Schneider and Lester.)
So it is useful to distinguish social work advocacy,
which is a form of policy practice as a modality
but is also a technique used in all forms of social
work practice.
Policy Practice
To repeat, social work advocacy is a technique of
policy practice and it also is a technique of
generalist practice, advanced practice methods,
etc. Policy practice itself, however, like research,
is not unique to social work. I see no value in
trying to define policy practice as a social work
method itself. Rather, like research, it is a
modality which social workers use to inform,
guide and extend their practice.
Practice Decisions
In other words, among the many practice decisions
one may make as a social worker, one may decide
to engage in research or policy practice, or one
may even be hired to do work such as research or
policy practice (advocacy, formulation, analysis,
collaboration, etc..)
Practice Decisions
What is a practice decision?
Practice Decisions
Definition: “A practice decision is something you
say or decide not to say, do or decide not to do
together with a client system.” (Dover)
Practice Decisions
What are the factors that influence a practice
Practice Decisions
What about organizational and policy related
Practice Decisions
Quote: “Every little practice decision is affected by
the organizational context.” (Miller)
Organizational contest
Policy context
Impact even the most minute present moment
between worker and client system

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