Organizations Can be Agents of Social Change
March and April are big months for agencies to engage in Minnesota’s legislative process and to address policies that impact the clients they work with. Throughout these two months there are numerous “Days on the Hill” where organizations and individuals can engage in discourse and explore what legislation is out there to increase support and decrease barriers around a particular issue. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of these events were online but this didn’t stop people from going to these events and participating in social change.
For Social Work Day on the Hill, April 14th, the National Association of Social Work Minnesota Chapter’s legislative agenda included increasing awareness of the draft legislation on how to connect with legislators. One of the other topics on this year’s agenda was the need for policies to continue to protect and provide assistance to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Social work clients around the state have struggled with housing stability, job loss and unemployment, food security, mental and physical health, education etc due to the pandemic. COVID -19 legislation is just one of the various policies that impact clients on a daily basis. As a social worker and social work organization, it is important to work with coalitions, advocacy organizations, and organizations with similar goals to identify legislation that will impact clients and then advocate with legislators for policies that address those areas.
As an organization, advocacy is sometimes overlooked when the primary focus is on working with clients one-on-one. However, as I’m sure you’ve seen, with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is broad impact on loved ones and the whole community. Broad impact is what legislative policies address and why it is important for organizations to be involved and bring their voice to the table. While many policies are introduced into the legislation session at the beginning of each year, organizations can engage with policies, legislators and other organizations to talk about social change throughout the year. Understanding how policies can impact the work of an organization and the lives of clients are important reasons for organizations to engage in legislative advocacy and be agents of social change.
There are multiple policies that Daily Work interacts with on a daily basis. Specific policies allow for Daily Work to be a non-profit organization and work with job seekers. Further policies influence a job seeker’s ability to get a job and maintain it. Equal Employment Opportunity stops employers from discriminating against individuals due to their protected identities. This year especially, job seekers at Daily Work have received unemployment, and cash assistance from the county due to legislation. Other job seekers have accessed government programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), medical assistance, and disability insurance. Policies exist and individuals and organizations are always going to interact with them. It is our role in society to recognize issues that impact communities and be agents of social change.
Written by Laura Perri, Case Management Intern, Fall 2020 through Spring 2021