The Time is Right for a Common Conceptual Framework
Kentucky Conference on Social Work Practice and Education
Feb 8-10, 2001 - Lexington, KY
Richard Ramsay
University of Calgary
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Dedicated To . . . .
 Harriet Bartlett
 Jim Billups
 William Gordon
 Dorothy Miller

Bartlett’s Concern . . . .
 “. . . the lack of adequate words, terms, concepts to represent the important facets and components of the profession’s practice as a whole”     Bartlett, 1970, p. 46.

Bartlett’s Dream . . . .
Graduates will leave schools of social work with “an initial grasp of social work’s full scope and content”          Bartlett, 1970, p. 83.

Wakefield’s priority . . . .
 “. . . The conceptual analysis of social work’s purpose should be high among the profession’s intellectual priorities”     Wakefield, 1996, p. 210.

Begin with Conclusions

Common Conceptual Framework
Aligned with holistic worldview
Based on a common organizing framework
Utilizes Nature’s minimum whole system
Allows for co-existing opposites
Displays entity-relationship constellations
Highlights relationship-centered focus

Common Organizing Structure

Common Conceptual Framework
 Core Components
Domain of Practice
Paradigm of Profession
Domain of Social Worker
Methods of Practice

Common Conceptual Framework

Revisiting the Working Definiton and Conceptual Framework Meetings

1958 Working Definition

Strengthen maximum potential in individual, groups, communities

Common Values
Interdependence of elements
Social responsibility for one another
Common needs; diversely unique
Right to realize full potential; expectation of active participation
Societal responsibility to prevent barriers

Government and NGOs
Legislation, standards, code of ethics
‘Safety net’ profession
‘care for’ profession
Social assignment
Dependency problems (Popple, 1985)
Minimum distributive justice problems (Wakefield, 1996)

 Human development
 Giving and taking
 Group processes
 Cultural heritage
 Social services

Orderly systematic mode
Disciplined use of self in relationship
Practitioner is facilitator of PIE interactions
Includes observation, assessment, plan of action
Aided by techniques and technology
Technical expertise to use knowledge

1st CF Meeting: Is there a Common Conceptual Framework?
Commissioned papers
Pincus and Minahan
Resources, interaction, objectives, tasks and activities
Political philosophies cannot be ignored
A “caring for” profession
A professional mechanism for inducing change
Problem-oriented models that can be tested scientifically

Madison Meeting: Is there a Common Conceptual Framework?
Reaction papers
Over emphasis on knowledge to do clinical work
The basis for a common framework; time is not right
Absence of a well articulated conceptual framework
Past dichotomies reconstructed and repeated

O’Hare Meeting: Purpose and Objective

O’Hare Meeting
 Beliefs reworked
 Purpose reworked
 Functional objectives added
 Direct practice articulated
 Identified unit of attention targets
 Silent on relationship-centred focus
 Silent on indirect practice

Moving in the Direction of a Common Conceptual Framework-Definition

Bartlett’s Common Base

Beyond the Working Definition
Practitioner action, directed to a purpose
guided by values, knowledge and methods
Values and knowledge
interact in determining professional goals
removed as a basic definer
Central concern of social work
not in WD, nor recognized as needed
Social workers
not taught to think holistically

Beyond the Common Base: Systems Informed Models
 Pincus & Minahan
 Middleman & Goldberg
 Comptom & Galaway
 Geraine & Gitterman
 Sheafor et al
 O’Miley et al

Post Madison and O’Hare Meetings
 1982, IFSW international definition
common base elements
 2000, CASW National Scope of Practice
domain, preparation, practitioner, method
 2000, IFSW international definition
purpose, focus, knowledge, values

Can We Do What We Came Here To Do?

Reworking the Working Definition
 Yes! A common conceptual framework is possible
 No! We don’t have to repeat dichotomies
 Yes! Bartlett’s dream of a comprehensive professional model can be achieved
We can do it!Make the WD elements an integral part of the conceptual framework

Common Conceptual Framework
 based on minimum whole system constellation
 informed by Bartlett’s common base
Social functioning, broad orientation, intervention repertoire
 informed by Wilber’s domain-method criteria
Identifiable domain/area of practice
Refutable method/intervention process
 informed by Kuhn’s paradigm criteria
Common values, rules and standards of practice of a like-minded group

Common Conceptual Framework

Domain of Social Work Practice
 Defining Purpose/Organizing Value
Informed by tensionally connected moral imperatives
Contains clear vision and mission
Guides the use of diverse repertoire of methods
 Functional Objectives
Guided by defining purpose vision and mission
 Informed by:
Diverse knowledge bases

Paradigm of Profession
Practice Options/Decisions
Modes of delivery/programs
Social assignment
(Popple) (Wakefield)
Governments and NGOs
Embracing and/or limiting
Corporate world

Domain of Social Worker
 disciplined use of self
 personal-professional integration
 ability to rise above personal beliefs

Methods of Practice
 Intervention repertoire
 Phase-like processes
Mixture of linear and non-linear dynamics
 Intervention-specific theories

Think Conceptually
Practice Specifically

Common Conceptual Framework

Back To The Conclusion

Futurist Vision
“How do we make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or the disadvantage of anyone?” R.Buckminster Fuller

End of Paper

Response to Responder

Working Definition Issues
Working Definition    Re-worked Definition
 individual concern
 worldview base
Divided whole
Equilibrium health
 linear-circular causes
 social functioning
Quality of life
Strengthen max potential
dual purpose
 worldview base
Undivided whole
Far from equilibrium health
 linear-non-linear patterns
 social well being
Just and civil society
Distributive justice
 unifying purpose

Working Definition Issues
Working Definition    Re-worked Definition
 Change focus is entity-centered
 Intervention target is abstract entity
 empowering methods
bestowed outcome
 dichotomous opposites
 theory that links method and purpose
 change focus is relationship-centered
 Intervention target is entity-centred
 enabling methods
Co-empowered outcomes
 co-existive complementarity
 conceptually clear purpose; methods to pursue purpose

Working Definition Issues
Working Definition    Re-worked Definition
 person-in-environment (PIE) domain
 2 practice options
Client and target
 science derived knowledge
 no organizing framework “house”
 person-environment network (PEN) domain
 4 practice options
Client, target, action, c.a.system
 science-indigenous derived knowledge
 nested in a common organizing framework “house”

Say It Again Sam!
Lest We Forget

Appendix 1b
Common Conceptual Framework

Working Definition: Context, Essence (What it is), Function (What it does)
The professional boundaries and global scope of social work and social work practice are governed primarily by sanctions and constraints of educational preparation, ethical principles, social work statutes, legislative regulations, code(s) of ethics, standards of care and local case law, or some combination of the aforementioned.
The extent to which the scope of social work can be practiced in a given society or setting is ultimately governed by societal sanctions, moral imperatives, organizational constraints and precedent requirements in statutory laws or other regulatory systems

Working Definition: Context, Essence (What it is), Function (What it does)
Social work is the science-profession of social well being functioning. Social work has a distinct “person-in-environment” domain of practice and defining purpose that is directed to social well being, individual and communal.
The central focus of social work is on societal relationships that advance distributive justice and well being for all.
Value-guided and evidence-based knowledge and methods of enabling others that are derived from the sciences (including social work), humanities and human experience inform the function of social work.

Working Definition: Context, Essence (What it is), Function (What it does)
The practice of social work employs two kinds of dialogical process-guided social well-being/distributive justice activities/interventions.
One is directly with individuals and families in their contextual environments. Psychotherapy, psychosocial counseling, group work, and social support methods of social caring principally aid this kind of practice.
The other is indirectly with contextually relevant environment systems, including societal validators, institutional structures and social support resources, and their distributive justice/social well-being impact on individual and communal social well-being. Community development, social policy and social justice methods of social change principally aid this kind of practice.