We believe that all social workers must come to understand and embrace the essential connection between civic participation and individual and community health, and work to integrate voter engagement with their professional practice.
Why Voting is Social Work
Voting is a defining responsibility of citizenship and is pivotal to the health of our democracy. There is a vital and measurable relationship between individual and community well-being and the practice of voting. When people vote, there are transformative benefits to themselves and their communities, including higher levels of civic participation, stronger connections within communities and better outcomes for the individual voters themselves, including improved health, social connections, mental health and overall well-being. We know that elected officials pay attention to those who vote and may disregard the needs of communities that are less likely to vote. As social worker and author Alice Walker puts it, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
“The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. A historic and defining feature of social work is the profession’s focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society.” (NASW, 2008) We believe that voting – making the concrete connection between voting and power for community leaders and clients – is central to social work.
Pilot Voter Education Program: Voter Engagement Training for Schools of Social Work
In 2015, the Humphreys Institute launched a pilot voter education program at the Schools of Social Work at the University of Connecticut and the University of Nevada, Reno. The work of the program centers on the development and research of educational pathways that lead to the integration of voter engagement and education practice into the core curricula and methods-based education in schools of social work. Through intensive training in nonpartisan voter engagement students develop an understanding of voting as being foundational to our professional commitment to social justice and the solving of social work’s ‘grand challenges.’ An important component of the program is the addition of nonpartisan voter engagement practice to field education, supported through training designed for field supervisors and faculty, as well as students.
Our goal is to transform social service delivery as well as community culture through the integration of voter engagement with social work practice. The Humphreys Institute provides training materials and consultation for schools that wish to add the HI voter education program to their curriculum.
The Campaign for National Voter Empowerment: Voting is Social Work
The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (CRISP), Influencing Social Policy (ISP) and the Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work are leading a national campaign to mobilize social workers to integrate nonpartisan voter registration, education and education with social service delivery and social work in communities.