When a social worker is a campaign advisor, what social work skills are needed?

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akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think that social work and political activism draw upon many of the same skills. In social work, one is listening to an individual or a small group of individuals, trying to assist and help them help themselves.  Politics extends this into a larger context. When a social worker operates as a campaign advisor, many skills overlap.

One of the most important skills for a social worker is the ability to listen and display empathy.  When a social worker is a campaign advisor, it is critical that they impart this skill to the candidate in listening to the narratives of people they meet on the campaign trail. In large measure, elected leaders are elected because of the belief that they hear their constituencies.  As an advisor, the social worker needs to ensure that this skill is embraced by the candidate.  At the same time, they might need to display this skill to the candidate, themselves.  There are many moments on the campaign trail when difficulty arises and the need to speak to someone in an advising capacity is critical.  The social worker who is an advisor might fill this role.

I think that another skill that a social worker possesses which is essential as a campaign advisor is the need to develop resources for people who need help.  A social worker is never content with remaining in the office.  They seek to broaden community and connection with other people.  It is critical that the social work is able to develop this capacity within the candidate.  Ensuring that the candidate is able to forge connections and deliver resources which will help those in need is a vital trait of the social worker needed on the campaign trail as they advise the candidate.

The career of Senator Barbara Mikulski is an example of how the social worker traits are evident on the campaign trail.  Mikulski started her career in public service from the ranks of social work.  She was a community organizer and brought that focus to the campaign trail.  She advocated ideas where people's voices were heard such as the call for minority rights and advancement at a point where few were addressing such realities and for campaign finance reform in the need to "avoid the curse of big money."  Mikulski demonstrates how the social work skills of listening to people, and displaying advocacy should never leave when making the pivot to politics.  The social worker as a campaign advisor must ensure that the skills that helped them find success in one realm can be transferred to another where more people can be hopefully assisted.

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hermy27's profile pic

hermy27 | Student, College Senior | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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In order to be an effective social worker, one should possess the ability to see outside of themselves in order to properly relate to those he or she is attempting to help.  For example, a social worker who happens to be of Buddhist faith would need to have a solid understanding of other world religions in order to work with clients from a strict Catholic background.  A fourth generation US citizen would need a background in world cultures in order to work with clients who recently emigrated from a small town in Saudi Arabia.  Being able to identify with the various differences among a wide-spread client base is key to a successful career in social work, just as it would be in running a campaign.  Being a campaign adviser means one would need to understand their target audience, reference certain aspects of the audience's background in order to gain acceptance and relativity, and use that sway in order to gain votes.  Having a background in human behavior and psychology is always an advantage when dealing with large groups of people.

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