Background and Rationale
Professional social work is concerned with supporting individuals, families, groups, and communities for enhancing their well-being. It aims at facilitating processes with people to enhance/develop skills and abilities for strategic use of their own and/or community resources to resolve problems and initiate solutions. Human rights and social justice are the philosophical foundations of social work practice. The uniqueness of social work practice is in the blend of some particular values, knowledge, skills and attitude. Social work applies to social sciences, such as sociology, psychology, political science, public health, community development, law, and economics to engage with client systems, conduct assessments, and develop interventions to solve social and personal problems and to create social change.
In Bhutan, social work is rooted in cultural values that originate from the philosophies such as generosity (Skt. dāna), compassion (Skt. karuna), love and equanimity and in Gross National Happiness (GNH) – the developmental philosophy of Bhutan. Generosity or Bjinpa is the cornerstone for Bhutan’s rich traditional heritage of volunteerism and social work. Guided by this timeless wisdom of helping others through the act of generosity, volunteerism and helping community members who are less fortunate have always been an inextricable part of the Bhutanese cultural ethos and everyday life, especially in the villages. The timeless value of this culture has influenced social relationships, social service, help and reciprocity, community life, and Civil Society Organisation’s (CSO) work in modern Bhutan.
Despite the deeply-rooted passion and tradition to serve the community in the Bhutanese societal culture, there is a dearth of empirical study that has investigated the philosophical orientation, wisdom, motivation and method of this unique tradition in Bhutan. The findings of an informal market study conducted by Samtse College of Education (SCE) through a series of consultative meetings with different Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the government agencies in Bhutan between April 2016 and September 2017 indicated a strong need for trained social work professionals in the government agencies and CSOs to implement numerous social development programmes and initiatives effectively and efficiently. Although, there are a number of CSOs in the country that focus on diverse social development areas ranging from poverty alleviation to preservation of the culture and environment with specific groups within communities, such as children, youth, women, and persons with disabilities, a vast majority of the employees of these CSOs need trainings to become efficient and skillful social work professionals.
In an effort to preserve the Bhutanese traditional values of social work and to provide an educational platform for social work practitioners to enhance their professional competence and efficiency, Samtse College of Education is planning to launch a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BASW) programme by June 2019. With the launching of this programme, SCE aspires to become a centre of excellence in social work education in Bhutan with the objective of providing systematic studies and courses to social work enthusiasts, professionals, and practitioners. The programme will provide high-quality teaching, research and consultancy at both national and international levels. This centre would be a space for social work educators and learners to come together and take an experiential journey of building skills, knowledge and attitude required to be a trained social work professional.
With these goals and aspirations, SCE would like to get connected with the social work academia, practitioners, researchers and youths from Bhutan and worldwide to engage in generative dialogues and to reflect on how Bhutan can bring synergy between modern social work education and Bhutanese cultural values, SCE plans to organise an International Conference on Emerging Social Work Practices and Education. The knowledge and skills gained from the conference would feed into the curricula and strategies of SCE in its endeavor to offer the professional social work education in Bhutan in the most effective and meaningful manner.
Key aims and objectives
This International Conference on Emerging Social Work Practices and Education aims to achieve the following key objectives:
- initiate dialogue on social work in the Bhutanese society and to promote professional social work education and practices of Bhutan;
- bridge Bhutan’s cultural and social work values with the professional knowledge, skills and attitude that come from modern mainstream social work education imparted worldwide;
- provide opportunity for the participants to listen to and share good practices and broaden their perspectives on social work profession and education;
- provide an opportunity for researchers and practitioners to experience the GNH infused Bhutanese perspective of social work education and reflect on its importance and to discuss the challenges of social work education worldwide with a specific focus on South Asia;
- educate and create awareness of the social work education in Bhutan and its significance on modern professional social work education;
- explore and understand how the changes of globalisation, free market, religion, regional fundamentalism, and new government policies such as devolution of powers, harmonisation and professional imperatives can be incorporated into social work curricula including theorising these changes to promote the development of new models of practice that respond to a wide range of social problems with particular reference to South Asia;
- connect different social work practitioners who would share and reflect on the contemporary social work practices to address the development challenges worldwide;
- assist SCE faculty and academics to facilitate social work education through a deep understanding of the global perspectives of social work practices and enrich their knowledge and skills in social work, thus enabling SCE to prepare a highly motivated and competent cadre of social work professionals in Bhutan;
- provide an intellectual and educational forum for social work scholars, researchers and practitioners to showcase their endeavors to influence and develop social work education in Bhutan;
- open prospects to find means to collaborate and partner with different national and international social work professionals for strengthening social work education and professional practices in Bhutan, and
- provide a future roadmap to SCE and the Royal University of Bhutan to harness the power of Bhutanese cultural values in professional social work education with contemporary knowledge, skills and attitude from global perspectives to address current educational challenges in South Asia region, thereby helping SCE to contextualize it’s social work curriculum.
This conference intends to attract and draw like-minded scholars and professionals from a wide range of areas such as:
- Social work academia
- Social work researchers and students
- Social work professionals
- Government officials of Bhutan
- CSO members from Bhutan and worldwide
- Youth and Adolescents of Bhutan
- Social work activists and NGO workers
- Parliamentarian and policy makers
- Any other relevant professionals
Themes and Sub-themes
The proceedings of this International Conference on Emerging Social Work Practices and Education will be guided by its key theme “Dialogues on new dimensions in social work practices”. The sub-themes that will help to keep the conference deliberations focused are outlined below:
- Social work education and practices in Bhutanese culture
- Climate change and disaster risk reduction – its impact on society
- Protection and promotion of human rights
- Rights-based social work
- Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and social work
- Children, youth, women and elderly
- Social entrepreneurship & self-employment
- Health and well-being
- Research in social work
- School social work practices
- Social policy
- Social work partnership