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Social Work Chats Begins Online Advocacy Series

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By: Rachel L. MSW, LMSW

On Monday Social Work Chats held the first of a series of discussions about online advocacy.  You can read the transcript from the chat here.

Those of you who were not able to join us are probably wondering what is online advocacy? Online Advocacy:

“is the use of electronic communication technologies such as social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, YouTube, e-mail, and podcasts for various forms of activism to enable faster communications by citizen movements and the delivery of local information to a large audience. Internet technologies are used for cause-related fundraising, community building, lobbying, and organizing.” (source)

Online advocacy is also known as online activism, digital campaigning, digital activism, online organizing, cyberactivism, e-advocacy and e-campaigning.

One example of online advocacy is Unite Blue who has worked to connect progressives on Twitter.  Unite Blue frequently uses Twitter Bombs to get a message out into the public sphere.   A Twitter Bomb is when you use a specific #hashtag at an agreed upon time with the goal of getting your message to trend on Twitter and thus, hopefully, gaining a wider audience for you cause.

In the past few weeks Unite Blue has used Twitter Bombs to protest the Sequester and to show support for the United States Postal Office.

Unite Blue is currently laying the ground work to organize members in Republican states to begin working on turning their state blue in the next election.  You can learn more about Unite Blue, including how to join, at their site uniteblue.com.

Online advocacy is a vast subject so we will be devoting the next few Mondays to further exploring the various aspects of this fascinating topic. On Monday March 18th we will be joined by Gary Wexler  to explore the issue of social media e-advocacy and online community organizing.  In the mean time you can read more about online advocacy at epolitics.com.

To view the archive of our previous chat click here. This is an example of some of the resources and tweets you will find in the archive:

photo credit: Rosaura Ochoa via photopin cc

Rachel L. West is the Founder of the Political Social Worker, a blog dedicated to macro social work and politics. She holds a BA in History from SUNY Stony Brook and an MSW from Adelphi University. She is a community outreach and engagement specialist. Rachel resides in New York State, and she is available as a consultant and coach. You can find out more about Rachel at The Political Social Worker at (politicalsocialworker.org).

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What are you doing for Social Work Month: #SWHelper Live Twitter Chats Are Back

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Social Work Month is a time of reflection when those in our profession intensify our efforts to positively influence change and policy shifts on the macro, mezzo and micro levels to improve outcomes for those we serve. We also reflect on how we can better create awareness and educate the public on the many facets of social work practice and education. Most importantly, it’s the time of year we become more connected together and supportive of each other for choosing a profession to serve the vulnerable, the poor, and marginalized. As a result, Social Work Helper has decided to reboot the #SWHelper Live Twitter Chats on Sundays at 3PM EST to help maintain that connectivity throughout the year.

swmlogotaglineWith any profession, we have our in fights of macro vs micro or whether licensing is better for professionalization. However, having these debates are healthy because they help to identify areas for improvement as well as identify areas working well for replication. Live Twitter Chats are just one way to help increase social work visibility in the virtual world. Whether its writing for Social Work Helper or another publication, any time a social worker weighs in on a current event or news related incident using a social work lens, it helps to add our profession to the national conversation.

The virtual world is providing social workers around the globe the opportunity to connect despite their geographically location. Live Twitter Chats allows us to remove those geographically boundaries like never before by extending the classroom, our ability to learn, and share information and resources. One of the barriers to live twitter chats is that people don’t understand twitter. Twitter seems vast with too much information and very few rules to follow.

However, these barriers are also what make Twitter the best social media platform for connection, advocacy, community organizing , and teaching. However, in order for us to extract the best uses of this social media platform, we must start with providing information to everyone on how to participate in Twitter Chats and Twitter basics.

#SWHelper Live Twitter Chats

To kick off Social Work Month, this Sunday on March 9th at 3PM EST using the hashtag #SWHelper, our first chat will cover how to use twitter, participation in chats, get feedback for topics in the weeks to come, and talk about how to increase social work’s visibility year-long. Social Work Helper has created a page on how to participate in a twitter chat.

How does a live twitter chat work? In order to participate, you must first have access to a twitter account. Then, you will need to go to your twitter search and type in #swhelper.  Depending on the number of participants, the tweet stream may flow quickly.

To contribute to the discussion, you will need #SWHelper  at the beginning or at the end of each tweet. To direct a question to and/or include the moderator in the post, your tweet will need to include @swhelpercom  and #SWHelper.  Also, Social Work Helper has a twitter chat channel in which I highly recommend because it will automatically add the #SWHelper hashtag into your tweet for you. View the Social Work Helper Twitter Channel located at www.twubs.com. To begin using twubs, simply create an account or login in with your existing twitter account. Read More

Twitter Basics

Hashtags.org has one of the easiest and most basic guides for New Twitter users.

If you’re still apprehensive whether the micro-blogging universe is really for you, perhaps you’re just experiencing stranger anxiety.

Twitter can be a pretty intimidating platform at first glance, what with all the jargon and quirky characters everyone uses (not to mention the pressure to have a throng of followers!). The anxiety is normal and most newbies find themselves stumped over what to do next after they create their Twitter account.

But, fear not! For a smooth start, you only need to get a handle of the basic principles of Twitter use — and, fortunately, it’s not rocket science.

Here are the 10 basic guidelines for Twitter Beginners. Read Full Article

Also, University of Alabama at Birmingham Social Work Professor, Laurel Hitchcock wrote an excellent post entitled How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Twitter Parts I and II.

Collaborative Twitter Chat

Also, Social Work Helper has joined a collaborative effort Live Twitter Chat which will occur on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month at 9PM EST starting March 13th on the Rothman Report using the hashtag #macrosw. This collaboration includes the University of Buffalo, Network of Social Work Managers, Association of Community Organizers and Social Administration (ACOSA), University of Southern California, and Karen Zgoda.

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LGBTQ

CSWE Virtual Film Festival Series: The LGBT Community “Insights to Strength”

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by Deona Hooper, MSW

Service Woman abused by a Fellow Soldier

This week’s film maker being highlighted is Jen Ackerman who created a documentary on the challenges and barriers that members of the LGBT community face in being open about their sexuality. Her film “Insights to Strength” has been nominated in the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE) Virtual Film Festival 2013. Jen was able to capture some heart wrenching stories in her documentary. One interviewee was a service woman in our armed forces, and she recounts how a fellow soldier who suspected that she was a lesbian forced her to commit sex acts in lieu of turning her in for being gay in the military which could result in charges under military law.

Someone’s sexuality should not be a predisposition to abuse and predatory behavior. By ignoring and protecting those who prey on the LGBT community and other vulnerable populations, we involuntarily become complicit actors.  I had an opportunity to interview Jen about this project and why it was important for her to tell these stories from the LGBT community, and here is our discussion.

SWH: Tell us a bit about the background of the film maker(s) who worked on this project. 

Jen: This film was developed and completed as part of a documentary workshop I signed up for at the University of Central Florida. At the time, I was in the University’s Social Work program but still wanted to explore film. During the same period of time that I joined this workshop, I also decided to do an undergraduate research thesis. Originally my plan was to have the documentary and the thesis compliment each other. I wanted to keep the same subjects and themes. However, in the end, my thesis focused more on social work students and their comfort level with gay and lesbian families, while my documentary became a profile of the strengths perspective through the lens of LGBT community members in Orlando and Tampa, Florida.

Through the development/ planning stages all the way to the shooting and editing, I worked on this film a majority of the time alone. I received much guidance from classmates and of course the workshop instructor, Dr. Lisa Mills. But this project was a chance for me to learn everything by doing and that was what I did. On a couple of interviews I had a friend or my brother help with audio, but that was the extent of others working on the film, at least on the production side. The art in the film was done by a high school friend of mine who worked with me to create the vision in my mind. The art piece took about four days to complete and it was filmed in my apartment with black sheets hanging from the walls. And there is of course, the men and women I interviewed for the film. They are the heart of this project!   The background of finding the interviewees for the film is best explained by the snowball effect. I asked a few people and they recommended others and it spread. At the end of filming I completed around twenty interviews and had over twenty hours of footage.

SWH: What attracted you to the CSWE Virtual Film Festival, and what are your thoughts on your film possible influencing the education of future social workers and current practitioners in providing services to vulnerable populations?

Jen: I was attracted to the CSWE Virtual Film Festival because I strongly believe in the promotion of the film medium as a tool for learning and education. The power of film is illustrated time and time again when a person watches a film and that film makes them think about something they otherwise wouldn’t have. I loved the idea of a social work film festival because I feel so many of the core values in social work need to be highlighted and praised. I always knew I wanted to make films but when I found myself in film classes I felt something was missing. I was not learning how to create change. When I finished my first social work class it was very clear to me that the foundation I wanted for my films was based in social work theory and practice. Now that I have finished my BSW, I am not the same person and I no longer see the world the way I did previously.

There is something very special and very strong about the way social workers think and function. I find it to be revolutionary and brave. I respect all social workers and it is an honor to think that my short film could possibly influence a social worker. I am excited by the thought of my film influencing the education of future social workers and current practitioners. It is vital that we never stop learning, especially in our changing society. The LGBT community is a currently on a roller coaster of progress with hills and valleys all over our country and the world. If my film can open a few minds or at the very least start a few conversations I accomplished my goal. I only wanted to show others that the strengths perceptive can always be present, even in a place of unfortunate circumstance.  People can survive and it is beautiful. I also hope that this film shows social workers that there is room for art, even in our field. The beauty surrounding even ugly situations should be acknowledged. The art in my film in subjective. The face can be different for anyone watching, but what is important is that it is there and its’ presence cannot be ignored.

SWH: What would you like to accomplish with your film making, and what advice would you give to aspiring film makers who want to tell other’s stories?

Jen: I hope to continue creating films with social work themes. I want to give others a view of social work that they have not been exposed to before. It is important to me that society understands the remarkable men and women who become social workers. The advice I would give to aspiring filmmakers is to not be afraid. I think it easy to be intimidated in the film field or realm. But the thing is, everyone has a valid story and when it comes to making films it is about being uncomfortable and learning. There is so much about filmmaking that I do not know yet, however I decided not to let that stop me from continuing in this field. When you think you have a story, tell it and get it out there in a way is has not been told before!

Join us for a Live Twitter chat on August 15, 2013 at 8PM EST using the hashtag #SWunited to discuss the barriers and challenges of the LGBT community with Jen Ackerman as our guest.

View “Insights to Strengths”:

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Education

CSWE Virtual Film Festival Series: Exploring Interracial Adoptions in “A Season for Dancing”

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Welcoming Party for MeseretFamilies such as Brad Pitt and Angelia Jolie has really thrusted interracial adoptions into the forefront of public discussion. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, interracial adoptions or another similar term transracial adoptions occurs when placing a child of one race or culture with the adoptive parents of another race or culture.

I had the opportunity to interview Moges Tafesse the film director of “A Season for Dancing” which documents a father’s journey in helping his adopted child connect with his heritage. “A Season for Dancing” has been nominated as one of the finalist in the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE) Virtual Film Festival. Moges describes the film as journey “toward personal healing, the restoration of relationships with family and childhood friends, the redemption of his cultural identity, and his first steps toward achieving his dreams for the future.”

The debate over interracial adoptions has been a difficult one within our country’s history and within the social work profession. The major concerns relating to interracial adoptions have always been whether the adoptive parent would have the ability to be culturally sensitive to the perspective adoptee’s racial and cultural identity. In 1972, the National Association for Black Social Workers  raised concerns about African-American children being adopted into Caucasian homes based on circumstances where both Black and Indian children were being acquired as laborers for the home.

When I started working in child welfare, one of the first films I viewed was of Richard Cardinal who was an Indian child removed from his reservation and placed into foster care with 18 different Caucasian families. Unfortunately before his 18 birthday, Richard committed suicide, but he left behind a diary that gave valuable insights into a broken child welfare system. I believe that it is important for us to learn about Richard’s story to prevent making the same mistakes, but it is also important to look at successful models of interracial adoptions in order to learn how to educate and develop programs for perspective interracial adoptive parents.

Now, I want to share with you my Mogese Tafasse’s thoughts on “A Season for Dancing”.

SWH: Can you tell SWH Readers about your background, and your film making role?

I acquired both a MSW and PhD in Social Work and Social Development. As the director/writer of this film, I consider myself to be a socially responsible film maker in Ethiopia while running a small production firm engaged in the production of short films, documentaries, and TV programs.  Previously, I worked in a adoption organization that connects Ethiopian children with families in France, and I observed the plight of adoptees who were disconnected to their  family, culture and language. I observed children coming back to Ethiopia to see their family and culture, but they ended up desperate and aliens. During my MSW and PhD courses-Practice with Children and Families, and Action Research, I sensed the gravity of the issue of inter-country adoption and thinking  of an opportunity to make one short documentary film on adoption with the principles of action research as an approach for my documentary films-to bring a change while filming.

SWH: What attracted you to the CSWE Virtual Film Festival, and what are your thoughts on your film possible influencing the education of future social workers and current practitioners in providing services to vulnerable populations?

MT: A professor of Emeritus, Nathan Linsk, from Jane Addams college of social work at University of Illinois, Chicago, advised me to submit my documentary for CSWE. He knows my interest in media and social work. On the issues I raised on the film, I believe the film can influence social work education and practice by putting the famous social work approach-person in environment in an Ethiopian context and making it more practical and tangible.  Following a person- in- environment approach as opposed to person in problem or pathogenic approach, the film show that the psycho-social, biological and spiritual aspects to be considered during social work intervention.

The lead character before returning to Ethiopia had a negative experience. When he come back to Ethiopia he confronts all those hidden part of his life and make meaning out of it and reconnected his background, then went to his place with a healed personality.  What is interesting to me in this documentary is also after we done the research we highly participate the lead character to the level of assistant director in a way the film story match with the findings of the study.  in a sense it is participatory video that we see a challenges and solution of an adopted child form his own perspective but that is related with a prominent social work model of intervention.

SWH: What would you like to accomplish with your film making, and what advice would you give to aspiring film makers who want to tell other’s stories?

MT: Currently I am running an independent production firm, Synergy Habesha Films and Communications (www.synergyhabeshafilms.com). As a social worker studied at PhD level I am bringing my social work knowledge with media as a tool.  I have great aspiration to produce more films on diverse issues on vulnerable part of Ethiopian community particularly women and children. I have also an aspiration to make feature documentary film. Currently I am writing a script about an Ethiopian women who was sold as a slave concubine for an Atomoan Arab, who was rescued by her mate after 15 years of search (The Concubine).  My advise for others who would like to make films is to do a research on the subject matter and the approach of the film to be used to frame the subject matter. During production valuing the participants to a level that they are story tellers and the film makers is a learner/listener is also a great way to find great stories from the character. Last but not least is determination and persistence and believing in once’s contribution is very important.

Join us for a Live Twitter Chat on August 8, 2013 at 8PM EST with Film Director Moges Talfese to discuss his film and thoughts on interracial adoptions. @swhelpercom will be moderating the chat using the hashtag #swunited.

View “A Season for Dancing” below:

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