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About Us

The majority of our members--now--live in New York City. However, we have people connecting to us daily from different parts of the U.S. and world, which we hope continues to grow.  We work with people and communities facing different circumstances and forms of oppression. We provide support in various ways and a variety settings including: trauma counseling, child welfare, youth development, the criminal “justice” system, hospital social work, mental illness, community organizing, private practice, welfare benefits, homelessness, the tenant movement, LGBTQ advocacy, education, herbalism, and healing.  If interested in finding out more about or getting connected to members of the group, please email us,or email one of the working groups listed on Welcome page.

History

In December 2008 several social workers began meeting monthly to see what could be created together that supported out-of-the-box social work. We began calling ourselves the Radical Social Work Brunch Group (later dropping the word brunch once we found out dinner was more fun.)  Over that time, we discussed a great deal, such as the themes we presented on at the RISE conference in 2009:
  • While Strength-based practice was an advance in our field, we are unwilling to settle for merely helping our clients to adapt to an unjust world. So, what’s next?
  • What is transformable in the context of agency constraints? What kinds of interventions/conversations are possible in our daily lives/work which do not function to keep clients (or anyone else) in their place? (new)
  • Where do we get stuck? What kind of conversations do we have? What kind of conversations do we need? What kind of structures will help us advance our work?
  • Explore the relationship between radical social workers and relating to our clients/communities as revolutionaries.
Since then, we've continued to grow - with a list serve of now over 500 people - and have pursued a number of projects over the past 3 years:
  • Establishing a structure of Working Groups and Support Circles (see here for details)
  • Presented at several conferences, including the Social Welfare Action Alliance and RISE conferences, in the summer and fall of 2011, respectively
  • Mobilized in support of Occupy Wall Street rallies
  • Supported the campaign for Justice For Maxine King (a social worker and mother assaulted by NYPD for questioning their "stop and frisk" practices in Dec 2011
  • Mobilized in support of the "Stop Stop and Frisk" campaign
  • Rallied in solidarity with the family of Ramarley Graham, an unarmed 18 year old killed by NYPD in the Bronx in Feb 2012

Mission

We are a group of activist social workers--a term which we broadly define. It includes folks doing social service work, volunteers and others who aim to confront injustice to transform our society (through radical social work practices.) We are intentionally inter-generational and multiracial--we are challenging the 'isms' within and between us in order to create a space for honest and effective reflection directed not only towards our growth as practitioners, but also and always towards social change; we are committed to developing a praxis for radical social work.

Community Agreements

  • Step Up / Step Back - When gathered as a collective, members of the group will monitor themselves, and hold each other accountable for either stepping up and contributing their thoughts, ideas, opinions, resources, etc. or stepping back and refraining from OVER contributing, particularly if it is contributing to the silencing of traditionally under represented voices (people of color, women, folks who are differently abled, etc.).
  • Oops / Ouch - If in a gathering someone has been offended by a statement / action of another member, they can say "Ouch!" to indicate their reaction. The person who initiated the comment / action can respond with "Oops!" to indicate if they committed the action or made the statement in error / without intending to be offensive.
  • One Mic - One person speaks at a time and members of the collective refrain from hosting side conversations while someone else is speaking. All members are invited to share their thoughts with the larger group or to recommend a different speaking arrangement / form of contribution if they don't feel comfortable sharing with a large group.
  • Stacks - if a few people try to enter the conversation at the same time and another person gets the floor, the facilitator keeps track of the people who have tried to speak.  The facilitator prioritizes participation of traditionally under-represented voices as well as voices that have been less present in the meeting and informs the group the order of speakers.
  • Guardian - One person is designated to ring a bell in periods of transition or perhaps if something seemingly negative is going on. At the sound of the bell, people take a moment to 'check themselves' .The facilitator designates the Guardian for the evening.
  • Respect the facilitators - When we agree upon facilitators, we allow them to perform their roles; if other members have feedback or suggestions, we will make them while refraining from attempting to fulfill those roles ourselves
  • Decision making - We will develop a decision making process in accordance with our values and abide by it
  • There is a leader in every seat - Offer ways to help the group move forward when it seems stuck. Offer constructive criticism to support the group's growth as needed. Take responsibility for how the group is growing, shaping its actions, determining its functioning, and purpose. If something appears to not be happening enough or at all, step up to make it better or offer suggestions to the larger group.
  • Commit to principled political struggle as conflict emerges - If we disagree, let's dive into it in while still respecting each other, the community agreements, and any group member's right to different points of view.
  • Keep It Real - As we reflect personally, and grow and struggle with each other, we will commit ourselves, and hold each other accountable for, bringing our full voice, opinions and thoughts into the group in a way that, as much as possible, fully reflects our true thoughts / feelings.

Points of Unity

Values

  • Anti-racist, anti-oppressive social work practice that challenges the institutions of which social work is a part.
  • Being accountable to the people we work for, to eachother, ourselves and the planet. Being allies.
  • We struggle to go beyond being “anti” to working towards the creation of something
  • Basing our work on the common values of human rights and social justice.
  • Moving beyond our fears and being independent of the institutions that use social work and social workers as a means of control.
  • Creating a world view that doesn’t box people in.
  • Creating a space free of coercion; respecting one another’s self determination: politics, identify and choices
  • Creating a practice that really respects human beings as human beings.
  • Honoring culture, ethnicity, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, “crazy”/ “not crazy.”
  • We are committed to a true democracy (and what that might mean or look like); transparency
  • We understand that there’s a fight to be had within social work schools to transform the field and combat conservatism.  
  • We will not reduce human beings to “cases” to be “managed”, manipulated or coerced, or ourselves to mere “workers.”

What we do

(see here for current Working Groups and Radical Support Circles)

  • Taking actions to dismantle oppressive institutions and injustice
  • Doing what we can inside these systems to change how those systems have historically worked
  • Doing work that goes to the roots of problems and changes them there and not just from the outside.  
  • Connect, collaborate and draw inspiration from each other