National Association of Social Workers

New Challenges, Renewed Commitment


Dear NASW Member,

Many of us enter 2017 with a strange mix of pride, anxiety, fear and hope. How we choose, individually and collectively, to manage these conflicting emotions during exceptionally challenging times will shape and define the narrative and legacy we pass along to the next generation.

January 20, 2017, inauguration day, marks the beginning of NASW’s next chapter. In all good stories, there are challenges to overcome, as well as great adventures. We look forward to making choices and taking actions in the coming months and years that will leave a legacy of strength, achievement, and enduring impact for social workers.

Since 1955, the National Association of Social Workers has been the clearest and strongest voice for social work in the United States. Working with all sectors of the profession through its membership, NASW has ensured that social work earned a prominent seat at decision-making tables, locally, nationally, and internationally to help address critical social issues affecting our nation and our world. NASW has also used its formidable advocacy efforts for more than 60 years to make licensure, career growth and leadership opportunities available for all social work professionals. Workforce excellence has been, and will continue to be, a hallmark of our commitment to the profession.

As our country moves through uncharted territory this year, we believe that our members can help shape NASW’s vibrant narrative in new and substantial ways. Here’s how:


  • ADVOCACY. Following the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president, the United States is undergoing major shifts in public policy and possibly civil rights protections. We won’t know the full impact of these decisions immediately, but we do know that the NASW Code of Ethics requires social workers to advocate for the well-being of all people, especially the most vulnerable. Working on our clients’ behalf, we will need to forge new alliances, strengthen partnerships and vigorously oppose discrimination and disenfranchisement of all types. We are strongly committed to continuing social work’s proud tradition of speaking truth to power and demanding equality for those who are perceived as voiceless and powerless.
  • MEMBERSHIP. For NASW to continue its socially transformative work, social workers must choose to join and maintain membership in their professional association. Over the years, a substantial portion of social workers have been active NASW members at any given time. As a result, NASW has grown to be one of the largest professional societies in the United States. While currently more than 120,000 social workers contribute directly to local and national advocacy for the profession, we know that many others benefit from this work every year without participating in or contributing to the Association. Your influence and example is essential in encouraging other social workers to engage in our work. Sharing your testimony about NASW’s value with other social workers in your community and network is our best membership recruitment tool. Your membership helps our Association grow and makes the social work profession stronger.
  • LEGAL CHALLENGE. Currently, NASW has more than 3,000 volunteer leaders; approximately 250 serve at the national level and the remainder make important decisions every day to serve members through 55 chapters. However, a lawsuit was filed last spring by six current and former chapter leaders who disagree with certain structural changes to the Association, under the modernization effort. This lawsuit continues to divert significant time and resources away from member engagement, programming, and policy issues. Our strength lies in our ability to channel diverse opinions into collective action that propels the organization and the profession forward. We hope to resolve the concerns of this group and come together for the benefit of all our members.



  • COMMUNICATION. NASW has significantly expanded its communication capability through multiple websites, social media, blogs, email groups, and more. As new technology demands constant enhancements, we are excited to be working on a major redesign of the NASW national website ( this year. Following the new site launch, we will quickly begin work to integrate other NASW websites—such as those for chapters, the NASW Foundation and the NASW Press—into a similar digital platform so you can quickly access the information you want on any device. We will need your feedback throughout the year to make these online improvements successful.
  • MODERNIZATION. We are already seeing benefits of the modernization effort, despite expected and unexpected challenges during the first year of implementation. Through modernization, we are realigning NASW's staffing and governance structure to improve the Association’s operational capacity. In July, chapter staff became employees of the Association as a whole. This change allows all 200 staff nationwide to enjoy the same suite of human resource benefits and protections, while providing chapters with additional management and administrative support. Increased collaboration this year in areas such as programming, finance, technology, branding and advocacy will also result in improved systems and services for members. Our goal is to ensure consistently valuable member experiences in all of our chapters.
  • WORKFORCE. NASW’s push to develop more online service offerings last year will continue in 2017 with the addition of a full NASW Virtual Conference this June, and more virtual career fairs and grad school fairs. A state-of-the-art online continuing education resource is also in development. We expect to introduce an innovative members-only platform that allows for more organized online networking, as well as a new series of tools and tips to guide the work of professional social workers in a variety of practice settings in this new era. And our chapters continue to deliver an amazing range of live networking, educational and advocacy events.
  • DELEGATE ASSEMBLY. As we prepare for the culminating meeting of the 2017 NASW Delegate Assembly this August, please take time to visit the Delegate Assembly website to review and comment on the proposals for the Association’s program priority goals, changes to the NASW Code of Ethics and, on a recurring basis, revisions to many of our public and professional policy statements found in Social Work Speaks. Greater input from members on matters before the elected delegates improves the work of the Assembly overall.


We know that our members will face unprecedented challenges to their work in the coming year; NASW has renewed its commitment to providing as much support as possible for social workers as we navigate the road ahead. During these difficult times, we are counting on you and your colleagues to help us stand up for our collective goal to help our nation achieve greater social, economic, and environmental justice. Thank you for your membership – your membership supports the NASW mission and the clients we serve, and helps advance the social work profession.


Happy New Year!


Darrell Wheeler, PhD, ACSW, MPH

Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW
Chief Executive Officer
National Association of Social Workers, 750 First Street, NE • Suite 800, Washington, DC 20002
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