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Currents - January 2012 - Message from the President
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Message from the President


Professional Activism


Susan Nayowith

One year and a half into my two year presidency at NASW-NYC I find I am thinking about what I have learned. My familiarity with NASW-NYC began in the late 1990’s where I spent two terms on the Chapter Board, one as an Executive Committee member. To prepare for my new role, I did what we learn to do in our work. I started by gathering information to make an assessment. I connected with Bob, our current Executive Director, many past presidents and active board members from NASW-NYC as well as colleagues, friends and community leaders with knowledge of board leadership roles. I took time to read about board roles and responsibilities. 

What have I learned?
NASW is our professional association for social workers. NASW-NYC is one of 56 Chapters of the National Association of Social Workers. NYC and NYS represent the only state with two chapters totaling about 20,000 members. Some chapters are comprised of two or more states. Both National and the 56 Chapters have their own Boards of Directors and Chapter staff. Our bylaws are based on national bylaws and many of our employment policies and organizational procedures are outlined in the national Personnel Standards for NASW Chapters. There is a Delegate Assembly made up of representatives from across the country. Some members who have attended throughout the years believe participation and input has waned over the years since the meeting has become virtual and each chapter participates via web connection. When we pay our dues to National NASW they send half of the money paid to the local Chapters. Many of the decisions made by NASW are made by our National Board and their chapter staff.

Why is this important?
The NASW-NYC Board is comprised of a very active, strong, knowledgeable and committed group of professionals, similar to the social workers we represent. We have educated ourselves and our newer members about our roles and responsibilities. We have taken seriously our commitment to you, our members, to ensure the Chapter reflects our values and goals. Our major responsibilities are to protect the public’s interest by shaping and keeping informed about the strategic direction and activities of the organization, carrying our fiduciary responsibilities and the employment and supervision of the Chapter staff. I think we have done a good job. However, over time, what has become clearer and clearer is barriers we have confronted reflect confusion about the role the National NASW Chapter plays in the organizational life of NASW-NYC, and most likely other Chapters in relation to personnel and policy issues. Some of the confusion stems from the history of the organization and some from interpretation. One basic question we have yet to have answered is whether or not we are an Advisory Board or a Governing Board.

Why do we want clarification?
I believe the work of Board members is time consuming and difficult. Volunteers make a huge commitment when they agree to serve, therefore, I believe when recruiting Board members we need to be clear about what their actual roles and responsibilities will be. I believe as members and donors to NASW-NYC, as in other organizations, we all have a right to know what goes on in our membership organization and who makes the decisions about what happens in our Chapter. I believe we need to make sure every member of NASW and every local and national Board member understands the roles and responsibilities of their respective Boards.

How have we tried to address this confusion?
Our Board reached out to Jeane Anastas, the President of National NASW and Betsy Clark, the Executive Director of National NASW. Both have shown interest in looking at governance issues with us towards a goal of making NASW as representative and responsible as possible. We had a productive conversation in the summer and are looking forward to another meeting this winter in Washington, DC. We have reached out to other Presidents and Chapters to learn about their experiences. We hope to keep the conversation going by educating one another and keeping ourselves informed.

Why Now?
Over the past couple of years as the funding for social services has contracted and our profession has changed, we have had to adapt to some things and been able to change others. The example of the Occupy movement for us is that this can be a good opportunity to show how social workers change futures by working together with National NASW and other Chapters on governance and professional issues. Please contact me for further clarification or with any comments or questions at I look forward to working with you in the New Year.

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