“We are all in this together“

Internationalisation in Social Work

Global crises cause long-term changes to societal structures, social conditions, and Social Work. The way how the effects of climate change, the coronavirus pandemic, structural racism and discrimination, and the economic crisis are dealt with affects mainly marginalised groups and exacerbates social inequalities. It is thus vital to face these new challenges, abandon existing patterns, find news solutions, cross national borders, and exploit the potentials of digital and internationally organised Social Work.

In addition to managing the effects of crises, it is of paramount importance to search for impulses to implement long-term changes of social conditions and societal structures with the goal of achieving social justice for all.

At the symposium “We are all in this together1“ – Internationalisation in Social Work, we seek to address current challenges according to the basic understanding of Social Work as a human rights profession (IFSW). How do global developments and crises change the conditions for the scope for action in Social Work? What are the resulting challenges for practice, training and research?

We invite social services users, practitioners, researchers, students, lecturers, civil society representatives, and representatives of marginalised groups, politicians and Social Work professionals to critically reflect on existing patterns, discuss new ideas, share findings of empirical research and best practices with each other, and use this opportunity for networking. Together we seek to advance theoretical and practical approaches to international Social Work.

[1] These words were spoken by Eva Holmberg-Herrström (President of the International Council of Social Welfare (ICSW)) in her opening speech at the IFSW Global Conference 2020 when speaking out for global solidarity in this context.

Topic areas

Expectations vs. Reality

  • What role do ethical principles of the profession (codes of ethics, human rights) and strategies of international organisations such as the IFSW Global Agenda play in practice, training and research? To what extent is it acceptable to question ethical principles of the profession?
  • How are human rights integrated into the concrete practical realm? What role do structural framework conditions, resources, personal attitudes, political/institutional missions, etc. play? How can these challenges be met in the concrete practical realm? Are there any examples? Which conditions are needed?
  • To what extent are the international and global dimensions of Social Work included in curricula and teaching? Where can international perspectives in training be found?
  • How does the global responsibility of the profession (standing up for social justice) manifest itself on a local level, in group and community work, or in the context of individual cases?

Fighting Causes or Mitigating Symptoms?

  • How does the way how global crises are dealt with exacerbates socio-economic inequalities and discrimination when it comes to access to work, education, healthcare, etc.? Which concrete developments make this visible?
  • Which global approaches and ideas exist on making climate, social and healthcare policies more just for everybody? What is the potential of concepts such as universal basic income, universal healthcare, green Social Work? How can these be combined with short-term measures for the improvement of living conditions?


  • How does global Social Work address alternative forms of knowledge and methods of knowledge creation and practice, which have not been established (yet)? How can we translate, e.g. “Ubuntu“, the first topic on the Global Agenda, into a western context of Social Work?
  • What are concrete approaches to anti-racist Social Work?
  • What does decolonialisation of Social Work mean with regard to our understanding of human rights?
  • Which fundamental agreements, common principles and framework conditions does global Social Work need? How can global Social Work organisations contribute to this end?

Normativity and Diversity

  • Which basic normative attitudes shape Social Work? To what extent should they be conveyed accordingly already during training? How much difference and diversity is possible?
  • What role do institutional forms of organisation such as trade unions play at the national and international levels? What kind of relations should be maintained with political movements? How much political involvement can and should be expected?
  • To what extent do professional laws represent a useful instrument towards strengthening professional identity and maintaining ethical principles?