BCSSW Alumnus Named National Director of Disability Services in Chile

Daniel ConchaThis past July, BCSSW alumnus Daniel Javier Concha Gamboa was named managing director of the National Disability Service of Chile (SENADIS) by Chilean President Michelle Bachellet.

Concha received his MSW from BC in 2003, graduating with the Matthew L. Pisapia Award for academic excellence and leadership. He also holds a degree in theology from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology/BC. 

In this Q&A with BC Social Work, Concha discusses some of the major goals he hopes to accomplish vis-à-vis inclusion for people living with disabilities in his home country, his career leading up to this important appointment, and what his BC education has meant to him throughout his career.

Tell us about your new appointment as National Director of the National Disability Service. Give us a broad sense of your responsibilities in this very important role. 

DC: I was chosen by the president of Chile, Michelle Bachellet, to be the Director of the National Disability Service (Servicio Nacional de la Discapacidad – SENADIS), an office that sets national standards for equal opportunity and the social inclusion of people living with disabilities. Its goal as a national service is comprehensive to all sectors of society: We advocate for inclusion to be incorporated into various realms of public life, such as public health, welfare, transportation, communications, culture, and education, among others.

My main responsibility as national director is to promote the right to equal opportunities for people with disabilities, so that they may obtain better social inclusion. We also seek to eliminate all forms of disability-based discrimination. In my role, I am called to design, implement, and evaluate related policies and programs on a national level.

What are some of the major goals you hope to accomplish in your new role? 

DC: Some of our principal, broad-based, strategic goals include:

  • To update information about the prevalence of persons with disabilities in Chile, in order to generate relevant and effective databases towards developing a public policy of inclusion for all.
  • To start an ongoing and comprehensive participation process, engaging the community with both the private and public sector, towards designing a Policy and National Action Plan for Social Inclusion.
  • To promote and protect the rights of people with disabilities and contribute to their participation in society, eliminating all forms of discrimination.
  • To promote the social, educational, and workplace inclusion of people with disabilities.
  • To optimize access, opportunity, and the quality of products and services for people with disabilities through a continuous process of improving upon available public resources.

Tell us more about your career leading up to this position, and how you were chosen. 

DC: Since I graduated from the School of Social Work at BC, I have been working in various institutions – public, private and NGOs – on diverse projects. I’ve worked at Banco Estado Micrompresas designing financial products for microentrepeneurs; I’ve served as a professor at the School of Social Work at the Universidad Santo Tomás, teaching courses in social policy, social ethics and community organizing; and most recently, I directed a foundation for adults with learning disabilities, providing, and advocating for, special training to help them to find jobs with fair wages.

I’ve also continually taught courses in public policy and epistemology at two universities, and I’ve designed coursework towards a master’s degree in labor inclusion for persons with disabilities.

My mind, soul, and heart have long been focused on trying to solve the historical exclusion of persons living with disabilities in my country. This is why I decided to apply to be director of the National Disability Service; I was chosen from 200 candidates. I went through a very difficult selection process, consisting of interviews and psychological tests. After four months of what seemed like an endless application process, I was nominated to a list of three candidates, which were presented to the President of Chile.

Undoubtedly, my formation at the School of Social Work at Boston College helped me throughout the selection process, and now it’s helping me to face the national challenge of making inclusion visible in all sectors of Chilean society. It is a great professional and ethical challenge. However, I feel ready for it, thanks to my experience and my education.

Give us more of a sense of your time at BCSSW and what it meant to you. 

DC: My time at BCSSW was an important part of my life. It was during this time when I really began to think about my own life and how I wanted to live it. Thanks to BCSSW, I no longer view my academic achievements merely as goals in and of themselves but, instead, I see them as means to better the lives of others.

My teachers at Boston College helped to further instill in me a real love of learning, even now that I am no longer in school. I am always reading some book or article in order to better understand what is going on in the world. I love studying politics and social policy, especially so that I can better understand the socio-political and economical problems of Latin America. I share my knowledge and passion for the poor in Latin America with others and I like to discuss with others my point of views, convictions, and reflections. I try constantly to look for the common good, and I strive to empower others to challenge themselves in the Ignatian way, as men and women for others.

I would love to be able to form a partnership with BC moving forward, inviting School of Social Work students to our country to better understand the realities of people living with disabilities in Chile. I’d also love to return to BC in the future, and would be happy to speak about my experience in public life, and what we, as social workers, can do to mold more just policy.

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