In our efforts to continually translate knowledge into social action and intervention, schools of social work know the necessity and value of being rooted in places and communities in enduring ways, and of collaborating with those embedded in social dilemmas. Not only do these partnerships give us a distinct advantage in responding to critical social challenges of our day, but they also offer opportunities to draw upon different disciplines to help solve complex problems.
In being place based, we develop professional empathy and a keen insight into the social dilemmas confronting individuals, families, and communities. In understanding the complexity of the social challenges, we also recognize the strengths and limits of social work to adequately respond. Such introspection should lead us to collaborate with other cognate disciplines and those experiencing the problems to gain new insights, design interventions, and evaluate their efficacy.
By being rooted in communities, we privilege the problem and not our disciplinary orientation. This opens the door to collaboration and transdisciplinary inquiry, which leads to a deeper understanding and greater likelihood that our research and practice interventions translate into social impact.
At the Boston College School of Social Work, we are working in various transdisciplinary ways. To build upon the research and courses already underway, this fall we welcomed three new faculty members: Theresa S. Betancourt, Praveen Kumar, and Vincent Fusaro. Each of these scholars works with and across various disciplines—global health, political science, environmental health, and child development, to name a few—to address complex social issues through evidence-based interventions. They also work closely with communities. Professor Betancourt, for example, has conducted research on children with community and agency partners in Sierra Leone for over a decade.
In our first joint project with our new partner, the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, we are working in collaboration with local government and non-government organizations from seven different states in India. Here at home, our team is comprised of individuals from the School of Social Work as well as from other schools of Boston College, including a faculty member from the Connell School of Nursing and several undergraduate biology and business majors.
Engaging in place-based work and transcending disciplines to tackle complex social problems amplifies and strengthens the contributions of the School of Social Work. When we are in partnership with communities and with scholars from across our universities, our work not only has translational impact, but solutions to the world’s most complex problems are within closer reach.