In late February, the Encyclopedia of Social Work released a new article on the Grand Challenges initiative, as well as articles on two of the challenges. Authored by Marilyn L. Flynn, PhD, MSW, Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, Edwina Uehara, PhD, MSW, and Michael Sherraden, PhD, MSW, all founding members of the initiative’s executive committee, “Grand Challenges for Social Work” describes the initiative’s origin, strategy, and achievements. The article will also appear in the print edition of the Encyclopedia of Macro Social Work.
Grand Challenges for Social Work
Marilyn Louise Flynn, Richard P. Barth, Edwina Uehara, and Michael Sherraden
The Grand Challenges for Social Work (GCSW) derived from a commitment to strengthening society through science and has identified 13 grand challenges through an iterative process. The GCSW has, in turn, developed 13 grand challenge networks that bring together researchers and practitioners and focus their capacities around achieving innovative solutions to these challenges. These networks develop and disseminate interventions at all levels (including university-based interdisciplinary grand challenge entities), giving productive focus to the work of social work and our allies. The Grand Challenges for Social Work are helping to galvanize policy developments that draw on expertise from across the profession and exemplify social work’s scientific and pragmatic traditions and its capacity for broader societal impact.
Reducing “Extreme Economic Inequality”: A Social Work Grand Challenge
Laura Lein, Jennifer Romich, Trina R. Williams Shanks, and Dominique Crump
The Social Work Grand Challenge to reduce economic inequality is one of 13 Grand Challenges guiding future practice, research, and education. This article on the Grand Challenge to reduce extreme economic inequality documents the problem, probes the mechanisms by which inequality continues and deepens, and proposes approaches for addressing this problem so interwoven into our economy and society. This article describes economic inequality in the U.S. context as well as social work–oriented responses. It briefly compares the inequality level of the U.S. with that of other countries. It explores the distinctions between poverty and economic inequality and the particular ways in which economic inequality is maintained and grows in the U.S. It also explores the kinds of policy and program initiatives addressing this grand challenge, the barriers to and potential benefits of such ideas, and the roles for social workers and the social work profession in reducing extreme economic inequality in our society.
Margaret Sherrard Sherraden, Jin Huang, and David Ansong
In a context of financial insecurity and inequality, exacerbated by a global pandemic in which many people are struggling to survive, financial capability has become increasingly important. Financial capability combines the ability to act with the opportunity to act in ways that contribute to financial well-being. Improving financial capability requires improved lifelong access to appropriate and beneficial policies, financial products, and services, along with financial education and guidance. Historically, social work played a key role in building financial capability through interventions in households, organizations, communities, and policies. In the 21st century, despite significant developments, social workers must do more to eliminate systemic and persistent economic, racial, and political barriers to financial well-being.