Different horizons and perspectives: the importance of lifting one’s head from the immediate tasks from time to time

By Cath Holmström

As I write this blog I am aware of all that I am not doing instead: all the paperwork that I am a little behind with and the meetings that I have not yet prepared for. I am aware of the immediately pressing needs that appear as ‘reminders’ on my computer screen (so long as I have filled in my online diary correctly!) and am are of the unanswered emails in my inbox.

World social work day/week has reminded me of the need to lift my head from time to time from the more tangible and immediate tasks and to re-connect with the global agenda and the values and priorities that are shared across very different contexts. This week is a good reason, if one is needed, to re-examine what we are individually and collectively contributing to the global debates and how we are responding to global, as well as local, needs.

It is only 3 months since I had the fortune to travel to Taiwan with a colleague (see blog at: http://sussexswsc-taiwantripdecember2012.blogspot.com/) where I experienced the very different social work (and social work education) context, but where familiar debates and priorities were being discussed. Being in the position of  (a very welcome) ‘outsider’ and confronted with the unfamiliar provided me with a much needed reminder of what was shared across two very different contexts. In particular, a commitment to systemic approaches to practice and a genuinely relationship based approach to preparing students for practice were topics for lively discussion. I have vivid memories of being exceptionally well hosted (the lunchtime banquet was superb) with lively discussions about the importance of student-led group work and the importance of process-learning for social work students, often despite student protestations about the time this involves etc. So starting with the familiar and shared was comforting and may lead to future collaborative and comparative work.

However, more challenging for me was moving from the excitement of seeing the autonomous way in which their social workers were practicing (memories are of the outreach Karaoke service that also provided basic medical care/information and the University specifically for older people that ws co-located with dementia care facilities) to the reality of much of UK social work provision whereby our students will not generally be responsible for setting up community initiatives and interventions …. or maybe they will in the new horizon that promises significant changes ahead.

One thing that the visit left with me, and that is reinforced when thinking about what world social work day means to me is how important it is for us to develop a collective sense of professional pride and ambition within social work and to support our students to find their own way through this challenging territory.


March 13, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . World Social Work Day.


  1. Imogen Taylor replied:

    I so agree with about the value of lifting our head beyond the confines of social work education and research in England. Our systems regrettably reinforce a preoccupation with the local and the national, although ther eis more discussion now about the international and global. It is confused and confusing though what we mean by this and how to conceptualise it. For me it is about building on the local (and in some countries the ‘indigenous’) and acknowledging the global context which increasingly affects us all. How do we build the ‘global’ into our programmes in a way that has meaning?
    I have just come back from a very exciting and interesting visit to the Tata Instite for Social Sciences, invited to join them to celebrate their Platimum Jubilee Conference (75 years – 25 years older than Sussex!) This was my second visit in the past year and I am very much looking forward to building a strong collaborative relationship in research and teaching with the very impressive social work colleagues at TISS. I hope that by forging these collaborations we will start to gain a different understanding of what the collaborations will mean for those of us in the global north working with the global south.

  2. ermintrude2 replied:

    Thanks for sharing your reflections on the trip. I’ve only ever practised social work in the UK and think there’s so much we can learn from other countries but it gets too easy sometimes to get self-obsessed. Looking out to broaden our horizons seems very positive. I love learning by proxy!

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