Occupying social work: Exploring connections between social work and activism

Member Name | RCSIA at Ryerson UniversityFunder: Undergraduate Research Opportunities (URO), Ryerson University
Principal Investigators: Emma Palumbo
Faculty Supervisor: May Friedman


Since the first day of Occupy Toronto in St. James Park, Emma Palumbo has been actively engaged with the activist community in Toronto working toward individual and structural initiatives for change. Emma has spent a great deal of time organizing with individuals from various different backgrounds to work toward common goals for change.  She has also regularly participated in organizing and actively promoting social justice initiatives at Ryerson University such as Occupy Ryerson. Emma also anticipates a complementary relationship between this research and her third year placement in a community development and social work advocacy setting.  This connection will aid in bridging the gap between social work and activism at various levels of practice.  Drawing from their diverse experiences and social locations, May and Emma have found a common point of interest regarding the greater need to explore the linkages between social work and activism in Toronto.  We anticipate an ongoing research relationship beyond this project as the work dovetails with both our scholarly and community involvements.Social work/social change:

This project aims to examine activism within social work practice, pedagogy and community settings during a period of cuts to services, labour intensification, increased managerialism, and the evolving discourses of neoliberalism. We propose to create an opportunity for the establishment of a focused social work activist community while simultaneously engaging in community oriented research. This will be accomplished through the hosting of a one-day forum for self-described social work activists. Drawing together these individuals will allow for critical linkages among participants and between faculty and community members. Subsequently, transcription of the event will be analyzed in order to contribute to scholarship about the relationship between social work and activism, and the need for a social work pedagogy and curriculum which contributes to better activist training and consciousness in relation to the current neoliberal context.