Hi, I am Dr. Aaron Kates. I am a clinical social worker and an independent evaluation consultant from Northwest Indiana. I am a recent graduate of the Interdisciplinary PhD in Evaluation Program at Western Michigan University.
In this post, I will be sharing the valuable contributions social workers can make to your evaluation team. I see the main contributions of social workers in an interdisciplinary team aligned with the following:
- Interpersonal competencies
- Systems thinking
- Interdisciplinary collaboration
- Knowledge of barriers and limitations
Social workers hold cultural and interpersonal competence in the highest regard. Social workers have specialized training on how to interface with people of all religious, ethnic, socioeconomic, and other backgrounds. Adding a social worker to your team would be a valuable asset for the determination of values differences that may affect the implementation of your evaluation project, as well as the interpretation of the results.
Systems thinking is a hot topic amongst evaluators. To social workers, however, it is old hat. To the well-trained social worker, thinking this way should be a basic impulse. Social workers are trained to not see people and groups as distinct entities, but as part of a larger system upon which they have an effect, and by which they are affected. Ask any family therapist to riff on possible interpersonal dependencies and contingencies, and you might be sorry you asked.
Social workers regularly operate in interdisciplinary contexts. They are well aware of the ins and outs of the work of physicians, psychologists, attorneys, educators, and policymakers. Their work regularly is touched by and touches all of these professions. Adding a social worker to your team will significantly increase your level of interdisciplinary literacy.
Knowledge of Barriers and Limitations
Ask any social worker who has ever worked as a case-manager or a therapist to describe what barriers their clientele faces, as well as the barriers to delivering the best services, and you might, again, be sorry you asked. Because of this, social workers involved in a program or type of program you are evaluating will likely be the first to tell you why your evaluation plan will fail. They also may be the first to offer a solution.
For more information as to how adding a social worker to your evaluation team could benefit your work, take a look the NASWs documentation of social worker competencies as they relate to various settings and types of work:
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