Social Workers Effecting Change: Legislative Advocacy
by Influencing Social Policy
Social workers can bring a human face to policy by taking what they witness in direct practice and bringing it to the political arena. Get some real world guidance about how to effectively advocate for laws in your state.

In the fourth video in the series, Policy Affects Practice, we take an in depth look at how social workers can be effective advocates in their state legislature. As a lobbyist, a social worker’s role is to represent and empower disempowered populations. Social workers can do this better than most because they see the effects of laws every day in their practice, and those who enact laws can be moved by the important stories social workers have to tell.

Social workers already have many of the skills needed to advocate for their clients in the legislature, but what does it take to be truly successful and effective in policy advocacy? The video explores eight principles that can assist any social worker in lobbying their legislative body:

1. Identify the issues and set goals: What do you want to see happen?
2. Get the facts: You need to understand the procedures of the legislative body.
3. Get to know the decision makers and their staff: Remember, relationship building happens here too—not just with clients.
4. Plan strategies and set tactics: A strategy is a broad blueprint, while tactics are the day-to-day actions.
5. Supply leadership: Organizing, providing direction, and speaking in public are all examples of leadership skills that are needed to be effective.
6. Be persistent and be prepared to compromise: Advocacy takes time and there are many competing issues that are lobbying for attention.
7. Build coalitions: A social worker can’t do it alone!
8. Evaluate your efforts: Learn from your campaign—even if you didn’t get what you wanted, discover how to learn from a “good loss.”

Social justice is central to legislative advocacy and social workers infuse all that they do with the core values stemming from the National Association of Social Worker’s Code of Ethics. This video will demystify the legislative process and show how even a social work student can begin to become an effective advocate for policy change.

In Depth
Many social work students are understandably overwhelmed when thinking about becoming a public face for social policy. Fears of not knowing enough, not understanding the political systems, and the idea that their primary role is working with clients has often meant that social workers’ voices are not heard when laws and policies are written. Policy Affects Practice is a six-part series that demystifies the legislative process and the many ways social workers can engage with it.

From a student’s perspective, the videos explore budgets, the legislative process, and the importance of coalitions.

After watching this series you’ll be able to:

  • Describe how a budget is formed.
  • Understand the legislative process and describe the steps for enacting legislation.
  • Understand the importance of building coalitions with other social workers and learn how to do this effectively.
  • Explain how direct practice experience can be an effective tool when advocating on the macro level.
  • Illustrate the ethical dimensions of lobbying Congress for social workers using the National Association of Social Worker’s Code of Ethics.

Length of video: 00:19:48

English subtitles available

Group ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-489-4

Group ISBN-13 #: 978-1-60124-489-5

ISP is the only national membership organization dedicated exclusively to promoting social work’s involvement in policy and policy practice. Now a 501(c)3, it was created in 1997—in the wake of welfare reform–to address concerns about devolution. Comprised of social work educators, students, and practitioners, its expanded mission seeks to increase social work efficacy in influencing policy at all levels of government by educating students in policy and policy practice, and engaging students and faculty in the policy-making and political processes.

Visit their website for more information.
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