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Saturday, November 1

From the Pen of the Executive Director: November 2014

Joel L. Rubin, MSW, ACSW, CAE
NASW Illinois Chapter Executive Director

Yes, the business of social work does matter.

When talking about the business aspects of social work in the past, a number of social workers have had an adverse reaction to using the term “business”; they equate using sound business practices in a private practice or nonprofit as something that goes against the grain of social work and should not apply to our profession. As many of you know, the NASW Illinois Chapter is hosting a one-day conference on November 14, 2014, in Skokie, IL, with the theme of The Business of Social Work. We’ve received a number of positive responses to the announcement of our conference this year which is a further testament to the fact that yes, the business of social work does matter now.

In Social Work Matters: The Power of Linking Policy and Practice, immediate past NASW CEO Betsy Clark wrote: “[S]omehow, the concept of nonprofit has been mistakenly defined as nonbusiness. This is a misperception that can limit the impact of what social workers do and on the services they provide.” Business principles are rarely taught in social work programs around the country. Nonetheless whether you are part of a small or large nonprofit or a private clinical or consulting practice, one needs to have enough income and business acumen to operate. The misunderstanding that specific business principles simply don’t apply to social work has to be clarified. As our state government in Illinois continues to struggle financially, social workers are going to have to be more creative and entrepreneurial in their approaches to program development and leadership, reducing the overdependence on grants and reimbursement from the government.

The case for the business of social work relates very significantly to our colleagues in private practice, whether full- or part-time. Business plans are essential, and a strong comprehension of the insurance reimbursement process is key. Moreover diversified practices need to be developed, which include not only clinical work but also consulting, expert witness, and public speaking—all important ways of generating sources of income. Attention to changes in the market are imperative.

An article in Social Work Today stressed the importance of maintaining one’s practice. “To stay recession-proof, social workers need to recognize that the market is changing and take action to find new ways to operate profitably and ethically. Social workers offer important, sometimes essential services via private practice, and our practices need to stay viable. As we hold on to the values that define us professionally and stay true to our core philosophy in helping clients, we still need to earn a living. Continuing to receive a fair fee for our services may require a willingness to let go of old practice models that are better suited to past decades.”

At the latest NASW Social Work Congress in 2010, it is no coincidence that one of imperatives for the decade included, “infusing models of sustainable business and management practice in social work education and practice.” (LINK) The future growth of the profession is dependent on promoting this aspect of practice. Our upcoming conference will have three different tracks to help social workers start up a business, grow your business, and advance your career, as well as a variety of speakers speaking on an array of topics from grant writing, the art of negotiating, to how to work with insurance companies. You can still register for the conference which takes place on November 14, 2014, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Skokie, IL. We hope to see many of you there so we can discuss and learn more about this together.

A few additional notes:

Take care and Happy Thanksgiving to all of our members!

Joel L. Rubin, MSW, ACSW, CAE, has served as executive director of the 7,000 member Illinois Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) since October 1999. He has over twenty-five years of nonprofit management and fundraising experience including extensive work with boards of directors, committees and volunteers, and advocacy around a wide variety of social work, human service, and international political issues. Joel is a graduate of the Wexner Heritage Fellowship Leadership Program and a current adjunct professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago Jane Addams College of Social Work as well as Loyola University Chicago School of Social Work.

Posted on 11/01/14 at 08:00 AM


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