College of Human Sciences

World Social Work Day: A shared future for transformative change

On 19 March 2024, social workers celebrated World Social Work Day under the theme, “Buen Vivir: Shared Future for Transformative Change”. In this article Dr Sandile Dhludhlu, Senior Lecturer and Chairperson of the Scientific Review Committee in the Department of Social Work, College of Human Sciences, notes that this theme emphasises the need for all social workers and social service practitioners to adopt innovative and community-based approaches that are grounded in indigenous wisdom and harmonious coexistence with nature.


Dr Sandile Dhludhlu, Senior Lecturer and Chairperson of the Scientific Review Committee in the Department of Social Work

A "shared future for transformative change" gives expression to a vision of collaboration between individuals, groups, communities and societies to bring about significant and constructive changes in many facets of daily life. This concept entails cooperation, diversity, and a commitment to tackling important issues such as economic disparity, environmental deterioration, social injustice, and technological innovation in a way that is advantageous to all parties involved.

The phrase “shared future for transformative change” encapsulates a number of key elements and ideas, including the value of collaboration and partnerships between diverse stakeholders, such as governments, businesses, civil society, non-profit organisations (NPOs), research institutes, universities, and private individuals. In addition, it points to inclusivity and equity, which aim to ensure that every member of society has an equal opportunity to actively engage in and benefit from the transformative changes occurring, irrespective of their circumstances or background. Furthermore, it suggests sustainability, which is a fundamental theme, focusing on long-term resolutions that safeguard environmental, social, and economic resources for future generations. Lastly, it expresses the importance of embracing innovation and being adaptable to change, which is critical for attaining transformative aspirations. This could involve changes in societal norms and behaviour, new business models, or technology developments.

Social workers steer significant change utilising a bottom-up approach, and this requires the empowerment of people, organisations, and communities via education, information access, and resources. Building resilience at individual, group, community, and systemic levels makes it possible to navigate the fears experienced during the process of transformation. To build a more just and equitable society, we need to erase systemic inequalities and uphold human rights principles. The global viewpoint is also important, in view of the interconnectedness of all people in the world today. Overcoming global concerns requires a global perspective that acknowledges the interdependencies between communities and areas. A shared future for transformative change is a collective vision for a better world where all individuals, young and old, participate in order to understand and create outcomes that are to the benefit of all countries and societies.

As an academic undertaking research in the discipline of Social Work, I would encourage the state to implement integrated services in social work with the potential to significantly enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of support systems for individuals, groups, and communities. Integrated services involve bringing together various agencies, professionals, and resources to fulfil the varied needs of individuals, groups, and communities in a comprehensive way. This approach could streamline access to support, reduce duplication of services, and promote holistic solutions tailored to the unique circumstances of each person. Government can facilitate this by fostering collaboration among different sectors, providing funding and resources for integrated service delivery models, and establishing frameworks for coordination and information sharing among agencies.

All social workers need to remember that a great social worker is one who possesses a combination of essential basic and advanced communication skills, and the ability to understand and empathise with the experiences, feelings, and problems of service users. Good communication skills, making it possible to listen attentively and effectively, convey information and advocate for clients, are vital, and sensitivity towards and awareness of diverse cultural backgrounds, beliefs, and values lays the foundation for respectful and inclusive practice.

My message to all social workers, particularly those rendering services to rural communities, is that your dedication and commitment to supporting individuals, groups and communities in rural areas are invaluable. Your work takes you to the heart of communities, where obstacles may be unique, and resources limited. But remember that your presence and efforts nevertheless make a significant difference in the lives of those you serve.

It has always been my wish and dream to be a social worker, and in this I have been motivated by a desire to help others, more especially vulnerable groups. It has been my aspiration to eliminate inequalities, advocate for marginalised populations, and promote fairness and equity in society. In serving vulnerable groups, our profession contributes to the greater good of society. I would like to conclude with the words of the first black President of the Republic of South Africa, Dr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”

* Submitted by the Department of Social Work, College of Human Sciences

Publish date: 2024/03/27

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