BCSSW Faculty Seek to Influence Policy through Grand Challenges Initiative

Jim (center wearing brown jacket) is pictured with fellow members of the Grand Challenges Executive Committee. Photo by Sid Hastings / Center for Social Development

Jim Lubben (center wearing brown jacket) is pictured with fellow members of the Grand Challenges Executive Committee. Photo by Sid Hastings.

Earlier this month, five BCSSW professors and one school staffer took part in the Grand Challenges for Social Work Policy Conference held at the Brown School, Washington University in St. Louis. They included Stephanie Berzin who presented on Policy Recommendations to Harness Technology for Social Good, and Ruth McRoy who led a discussion on how to Achieve Equal Opportunity and Justice.

Last year, the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW) announced the launch of its Grand Challenges, an initiative designed to “chart an agenda for social innovation in the 21st century” and engage a next generation of best and brightest in the task of solving some of society’s most pressing social ills. This conference was the latest opportunity for those involved in charting out the Challenges to specifically address opportunities to influence policy through various networks within the community.

“The presidential election season offers opportunities for policymakers at all levels of government to consider new directions,” wrote conference directors Michael Sherraden, a professor at the Brown School, and Richard P. Barth, president of the AASWSW. “The Grand Challenges for Social Work policy conference has the potential to inform policy debates during the election period and beyond. This conference brings together national experts and scholars to discuss innovative, evidence-based solutions to some of the nation’s most difficult social problems and look to the potential for positive social development. The Grand Challenges for Social Work initiative frames the discussion and provides direction. This policy conference is not just a conversation; it is, rather, a means to identify steps toward positive action.”

Ruth McRoy (second from left) and Rocío Calvo (center) pictured with other attendees to the Grand Challenges Policy Conference.

Ruth McRoy (second from left) and Rocío Calvo (center) pictured with other attendees to the Grand Challenges Policy Conference.

In addition to Berzin and McRoy, professors Erika Sabbath, Rocío Calvo, and James Lubben attended the conference. Lubben is a member of the Grand Challenges Executive Committee, and played a key role in devising and launching the initiative. Calvo and Sabbath, as well as Carrie Johnson, assistant director of Boston College’s Hartford Center of Excellence, wrote concept papers for the Challenges (check out a full list of BCSSW papers, with abstracts, in BC Social Work Magazine). Jacquelyn James, co-director of BC’s Center on Aging & Work, was also in attendance.

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