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Science for Action

Symposium series tackles social work’s grand challenges

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When it comes to taking on big challenges, the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) isn’t one to sit on the sidelines. So, since the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare launched its 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work, GSSW jumped in.

On Oct. 31 the school will launch its latest effort, the Science for Action series, which will address three grand challenges each year for four years, inviting co-leads from each of social work’s grand challenges to provide progress reports and inspire action. The first event — Ensuring Healthy Development for Youth in Colorado: The Power of Prevention — will celebrate the significant gains made in advancing practices and policies aimed at promoting healthy youth development. Professor J. David Hawkins of the University of Washington, co-lead for the Grand Challenge to Ensure Healthy Development for All Youth, will deliver the inaugural plenary address.

“GSSW uniquely pursues science for action that is also the essence of the Academy’s social work grand challenges. Our series is a national platform for dissemination of high-impact, evidence-based practice,” says Amanda Moore McBride, the Morris Endowed Dean and Professor at GSSW.

Jeff Jenson has been one of the faculty members leading the grand challenges charge at GSSW. He is a grand challenges co-lead with Hawkins and leads Science for Action. He also serves as editor in chief of the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, where he’s published a special section and planned a forthcoming special issue devoted to the challenges.

“We created these 12 challenges that can make a difference in the lives of people, but if research doesn’t embrace the grand challenges initiative, it will die on the vine,” says Jenson, Philip D. and Eleanor G. Winn Endowed Professor for Children and Youth. “The task is for the profession, the schools and the researchers to pick up these grand challenges and begin to work on them. This series is a way to implement the broader initiative.”

“We want people to be proactive — not just listening to a talk, but taking what they learn and infusing it through strategies in policy and practice. Let’s use evidence and put it to work in our communities.” Jeff Jenson, Philip D. and Eleanor G. Winn Endowed Professor for Children and Youth

It’s also a way to elevate awareness of the grand challenges among practitioners and the public, and to invite them to collaborate in the work to solve some of the nation's toughest social problems.

Hosted in Denver, the Science for Action series is free and open to the public; it will be available via LiveStream for those who cannot attend in person. The Oct. 31 event will include expert panels who will lead a discussion about Colorado prevention initiatives, strategies to increase infrastructure support for preventive interventions, and implementation of the Communities that Care prevention initiative in Colorado. In interactive working sessions, attendees will discuss Communities that Care implementation progress and strategies to build Colorado’s prevention workforce. “Participants will leave armed with knowledge to inform action,” McBride says.

Other upcoming Science for Action events include:

  • February 15, 2018 — Professor Carrie Pettus-Davis from Washington University in St. Louis, Grand Challenge to Promote Smart Decarceration
  • April 25, 2018 — Professor Benjamin Henwood from the University of Southern California, Grand Challenge to End Homelessness

“We want people to be proactive — not just listening to a talk, but taking what they learn and infusing it through strategies in policy and practice,” Jenson says. “Let’s use evidence and put it to work in our communities.”

Learn more about the Science for Action series.

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