Article by Dr Patricia Fronek, School of Human Services and Social Work
Even social work technophobes are listening to podcasts or portable audio recordings. You can listen to whatever you like, whenever you like, wherever you are and no matter what you are doing. All you need is a media player (on a computer or smartphone). Listening is as simple as a few clicks of a mouse, and is even easier when smartphones download them for you.
Many different disciplines, from the media to science, have reached out to the public, professionals and students since podcasting took off in the mid 90s. US social worker Jonathan Singer, host of The Social Work Podcast, was an early pioneer who recognised the potential of podcasts and in time others followed.
Social work podcasts are great for social workers, students and the profession in so many ways. Doing social work is rewarding but can be tough. Practitioners are used to being blamed by the media and public. Workloads are beyond what is reasonable for many and access to professional development is often the first thing to go when budgets are cut. Podcasts let the people whose work we read into our homes, cars, offices – anywhere really.
What we do is important but social workers are notoriously bad at promoting how much the profession has to offer. Our education, knowledge and skills mean we are well equipped to work with communities, and people and families of all ages. Social workers are found wherever people are affected by inequality, tragedy, social injustice and breaches of human rights.
These are some of the reasons why Podsocs, the podcast for social workers on the run, was created. The Podsocs team has come to realise that social workers are hungry for content that actually speaks to them. From the beginning I have been an avid podcast listener which I suppose inspired Podsocs’ creation – why shouldn’t social work share our unique, professional contributions to social policy?
The problem was I knew nothing about how to actually create a podcast. My technological skills have developed over time but are still a work in progress. Podsocs listeners have been very forgiving! After two years of brainstorming ideas, struggling with technology and picking the brains of people with technological skills, a learning and teaching grant meant we got our website and the first podcasts were published in June 2012. Today, I source our guests from around the world, interview them, edit and publish the podcasts. Interviewing overseas guests often mean very late nights and early mornings. I am still mastering Podsocs’ Twitter, Facebookand Pinterest.
Seventy podcasts on a great variety of topics have been published so far and I aim for a new one every month. 17,000 podcasts have been downloaded from the website alone reaching people in 60 countries. Esteemed experts, skilled practitioners and people living their experience share their research, knowledge and experiences . Every new podcast tends to be my favourite until the next one comes along and each speaks to a particular area of practice. Jan Fook is popular with listeners because the capacity to critically reflect on what we do is core to social work practice. Fook talks about how using a clear, practical process of critical reflection helps social workers understand how power and domination come together in practice. Engaging in a process of critical reflection makes our work relevant and more effective.
Professional supervision helps that process and Elizabeth Beddoe talks about surviving in environments often dominated by risk management and managerialism. Lena Dominelli draws social relationships, the political, economic and physical together in our understandings of the environment and how green social work brings new and creative ways of thinking. Her approach is particularly relevant to a world faced with climate change and its negative consequences for all people.
Also of great contemporary relevance is Richard Wilkinson’s research on the importance of equality . Inequality is bad for everyone – the rich and the poor. The greater the inequality, the more social problems. Podsocs doesn’t shy away from such controversial subjects, whether political or social. For example, Maggie Walter’s podcast challenges race and dominance in social work practice. Walter explains how whiteness theory disrupts the normative white, individualistic view that race is about other people, and positions white practitioners as raced and often blind to their privileged position in practice and within the profession.
These are only some of Podsocs’ offerings. There are sixty-five more equally engaging podcasts on topics including disability, adoption, war, domestic and family violence, sexual assault, working with men, child welfare, refugees and suicide. Tell us how we’re doing and which guests you would like to hear on a podcast. If you haven’t already give podcasts a go, help us put social work on the map – listening is easy.
This article first appeared on The Guardian Social Care Network http://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2014/aug/06/podcasts-portable-resource-social-workers?CMP=twt_gu