Economic Development and Social Work

Social work and

Chat transcript

Economic and community development are important arenas for social workers to be practicing.  Economic development is one way that the world attempts to combat poverty.  Yet, it is usually a linear process, simply put, of building infrastructure, increasing jobs and income.  As social workers, we rarely engage in economic development work except as service provision to help clients be financially savvy, to teach them to gain employment, or in the myriad of anti-poverty efforts.  While these are important services to have, social workers have not been at the table for economic development.  We rarely have been working alongside communities and economists to explain what assets communities already hold and what they bring to development, nor what would improve their well being.

Using strengths based and asset work, we need to provide social justice in places where economic development occurs.  In doing the social justice work, we enable communities to have a voice both for what they bring to the development table and what they lack/need.  In this bottoms-up approach, we allow for communities to take the pieces of economic development that will further their needs while providing them a platform to use their strengths.  If economic development is to combat poverty then we as social workers need to be part of the conversation and the action.  Today, I would like to have a convo on how we, as macro SWers, get involved!


1. What does economic development do?
2. In what ways is economic development relevant to the work we do as social workers?
3. Which populations are left out of economic development?
4. Why are social workers not sitting at the planning tables or having conversations and actions around economic development?
5. What can SWers do to better understand economic development and begin to build our seat at the planning tables?

Guest Expert: Kelly Gross, LMSW @kjgross1

Kelly Gross is a licensed social worker whose practice has included macro and clinical work with inner city, immigrants, Native Americans, border and interior work in Mexico, CBPAR, and small business development work.  More recently, she is working on a Ph.D. with a research interest in economic and social development including informal networks using PAR and SNA.

Hosted by Chat Contributor, Alyssa Lotmore, LMSW – @AlyssaLotmore


Alyssa is employed at the University at Albany’s School of Social Welfare, where she earned her BSW and MSW degrees. In addition to her main role working with alumni, she has been co-hosting The Social Workers Radio Talk Show on the University’s FM radio station (WCBD 90.9 FM) since 2013 (Twitter – @socialworkersfm; website – Alyssa created the course Media Savvy Social Work, which allows students hands-on practice in using the medium of radio for advocacy. She has given multiple presentations on the topic, including at the National Association of Social Workers National Conference in Washington, DC. Through all of her projects, her focus is on seeing the public as client, and using different forms of media to reach individuals who may never has considered seeing or using a social worker. As social work professionals, she believes that we need to be media savvy in sharing our expertise and raising awareness about issues that we care about.

Listen to this week’s podcast!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.