The current global interdependence has created new areas of responsibility, but also new international opportunities for the social work (Dominelli, 2008). We are living in a world that is both fascinating and filled with challenges. International social work is a complex, multi-dimensional concept that includes: comparative analysis, global social issues, international practices, public and private international social work, specialized inter-governmental relations, and global standards and vision (Healy, 2008).
The theme of the current issue of the Social Work Review is covering a large range of such areas of interest for the international social work. The social work’s relevance to the context of risks is revealed by Malcolm Payne. There is no doubt that social work participates in the social change and has important contributions in configuring the social structures of the XXI-st century in the larger context of globalization, all these aspects being presented by Bill Jordan. The challenges that the social workers’ community is required to answer are presented by: Bradford Sheafor and Judith Kozma. We encounter many vulnerable people and groups in the public space as victims of domestic violence, homeless people, immigrants, people with mental health issues, etc. Such analyses are presented in the studies elaborated by Steven Cutler and Lynne Hodgson, Noël Busch-Armendariz and collaborators, Christian Stark, Ramona Stone and collaborators.
The process of globalization however, implies an increasing trend toward a new social and organizational architecture of the institutional constructions, based on restructuring the welfare state, imposed by the new type of society that requires local community involvement in solving social issues. Comparative analysis and case studies on different themes of the social work practice are presented in the articles signed by Cristian Vlădescu, Vasile Gheţău, Raluca Popescu and Georgiana Toth, Georgiana-Cristina Anton.
We witness at the same time global trends, and local practices in social work, all different forms of manifestation of the profession at the international level that demonstrates the belief in the future of the social work. For example the damages and loss of human lives that resulted from the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti demonstrated the need for an international perspective in social work. Many governments, international organizations, as well as social work organizations got involved in providing humanitarian emergency assistance to the survivors (food, water, clothes, temporary housing). The global social work community had acted both through the International Federation of Social Workers, and through the local initiatives, professional associations, NGOs, volunteers of different social work institutions.
Currently the economic crisis that had affected the entire planet brings up for discussions the need to reassess the economic theories that have governed the world’s policies, but also the need to act collectively in achieving the social welfare. There are researchers that consider this approach as the only way in which the social policies can continue to be a part of the global movement for the re-instauration of trust in the social justice (Jordan, 2010). Such interest related to the role of local communities in developing community-based projects aiming to solve the local social issues are not new, and many social policy commentators have underlined the critical role of the local communities in the social development process.
The globalization phenomenon is differential and irreversible and has both advantages and disadvantages, with the most visible ones being the increased social polarization, the risks and inequities, all pointing out to the need to reconfigure the global social policies (Esping-Andersen, 2009). Thus on the streets of the big cities one may find beggars talking on their mobile phone or homeless people accessing the internet via wireless, street children carrying PDAs to check their account or driving a bicycle on which they have a GPS. The above examples, although real, are a rather exotic phenomenon in a world of trauma, loss and grief experienced by the vulnerable groups. These are challenges for the humanity, including for the social work as a profession and science. We do not know for sure where our future will bring us; it all depends on the entire world’s evolution, on the evolution of the other social sub-systems that we all depend on. There are, however, indicators that prefigure the overall social work framework and on of them is the international dimension.
The social work is adapting to all issues and all human communities. Maybe there will be no long until we will be able to read studies and research about Facebook-based social work, for example. We already have studies and research that show the therapeutic effects of the palliative care, the effects of the animal companionship in the live of the people with disabilities, as well as therapies through virtual reality. We are convinced that in the social work as well the interests and research will continue to evolve a lot in the near future, in synchrony with the evolution of the other social sub-systems. It is time now, as K. Lyons and colab. (2006) say, to re-define the social work’s mission and forms.
Dominelli, L. (2008) Capacity building in the profession: an issue for international social work, in International Social Work, 51, 4, 573-576.
Esping-Andersen, G. (2009) The Incomplete Revolution, Polity Press, UK.
Healy, L., (2008) International Social Work. Professional Action in an Interdependent World, 2 edition, OUP USA.
Jordan, B. (2010) What’s Wrong with Social Policy and How to Fix it, Polity Press, UK.
Lyons, K., Manion, K., Carlsen, M. (2006) International Perspectives on Social Work. Global Conditions and Local Practice, New York: Palgrave, Macmillan.