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Featured Research

Jason A Ostrander, Shannon Lane, Jennifer McClendon, Crystal Hayes & Tanya Rhodes Smith
Journal of Policy Practice
Volume 16, 2017

Collective Power to Create Political Change: Increasing the Political Efficacy and Engagement of Social Workers

Because social workers are called to challenge social injustices and create systemic change to support the well-being of individuals and communities, it is essential that social workers develop political efficacy: belief that the political system can work and they can influence the system. This study explored the impact of an intensive political social work curriculum on political efficacy and planned political engagement among social work students and practitioners. The findings suggest this model of delivering a political social work curriculum effectively increases internal, external, and overall political efficacy and that increasing political efficacy has promise for increasing future political engagement.

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Jason A Ostrander
Doctoral Dissertation
University of Connecticut
School of Social Work

To Participate or Not to Participate, That is the Question: A Critical Phenomenological Study of Clinical Social Workers and their Political Participation

This qualitative study examined the political participation of clinical social workers, identifying how socio-political forces impacted their levels of political activity. A critical phenomenological methodology assisted in understanding how the concept of power influenced the broader societal forces affecting individual's level of engagement or inclination toward the political process. A review of the social work literature revealed no studies assessing clinical social workers’ political participation.

Several major findings were discovered in this study: a gender gap existed between male and female clinical social workers’ political participation, with most female clinical social workers viewing themselves as unqualified and unknowledgeable and possessing low levels of political ambition and political confidence to engage in political participation; many of the female participants described the challenges of achieving a work-life balance between their professional careers and traditional gender-based roles; clinical social workers’ level of exposure to various forms of political participation during their early lives, social work education and post-MSW careers, influenced the development of their professional identity and integration of political activity in practice; and most participants found it unethical to intertwine any form of political participation into practice, but acknowledged how policies and laws directly impacted their personal and professional lives.

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