President's Pen

What a year 2020 has been!

Last spring IASWG was facing the challenge of hosting a symposium amid a global pandemic. Give group workers a challenge and they step up. And indeed, IASWG stepped up. In June IASWG hosted its first virtual symposium. The theme: The Climate is Ripe for Groupwork: Creating Connections and Restoring Hope in a Fragmented World was timely for many reasons. 

Over the past year it felt like we were living in an increasingly fragmented world, one in which supporting one another became ever more important. The symposium brought together over 350 group workers from around the world. Sessions were inspiring and creative; one institute was offered in French and English and keynotes were simultaneously translated into three languages. As well, the symposium hosted the first Norma C. Lang Nondeliberative Invitational Session, dedicated to Norma’s ground-breaking Nondeliberative Practice Theory.

IASWG is working to keep our momentum going. However due to the increased complexity brought about by the pandemic, we decided to make two changes. First, we have postponed our election of new board members for a year, with most current members deciding to extend their terms on the board. Our next election will take place in the late summer/early fall of 2021.

We have also decided to postpone our Symposium in Lithuania until 2022. By then we hope that travel restrictions will be lifted, and pandemic spread will be under control, allowing us to be able to travel to Lithuania and make that event a well-attended success. We will, however, be hosting another virtual symposium in June 2021. Watch for announcement of the theme and dates later this month.

Under the facilitation of our membership committee, IASWG is hosting monthly New Membership Networking events via Zoom. These events take place on the third Monday of each month (next event is Monday, November 18th at 8PM ET). In addition, many of the events offered by chapters will now be accessible to our entire membership thanks to Zoom! Please see the list of upcoming IASWG events on the website and event calendar.

Please note that applications are being accepted for the latest round of SPARC grants and project endorsement. SPARC proposals include innovative practice, education, training and research projects to advance the mission of IASWG. The next SPARC application deadline is November 13th.

IASWG's committees and work groups continue to attend to a variety of issues vital to group work and to the organization. We are continuing to grow and be accessible internationally, through looking at increased translation of materials and our website, graduated fees for symposia, and development of additional chapters around the world. IASWG is a volunteer organization which runs largely through the work of its board and committees. Any IASWG member can volunteer to work on one of our committees. We have been using online technology to conduct our meetings, which makes them quite convenient to attend. The list of committees can be found on the website. Please consider joining us.

IASWG is also actively in search of grants and sponsorships to continue its mission. If you are interested in being part of this initiative or know of grants or sponsorships that would be a good fit for IASWG, please contact us at [email protected].

The journal Social Work with Groups has an open call for pandemic related stories. The journal is inviting narrative essays of 5 to 9 manuscript pages about group work practice and the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Your story can take place in any setting and with any population in response to the pandemic.

IASWG is proud to congratulate Charles Garvin, a former President of IASWG, Life time board member, Co-chair of our Practice Committee and Professor Emeritus of Social Work at University of Michigan on his being elected as a National Association for Social Work (NASW) Pioneer, one of the profession’s highest honors! In their message to Charles, NASW said:

"You are one of a select few chosen to join the ranks of social workers who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services around the country. You have made important contributions to the social work profession and we wanted to laud you for your service. You and your Pioneer peers have paved the way for thousands of other social workers to make their own contributions to the health and welfare of individuals and families facing significant challenges in both urban and rural communities. Thank you for setting high standards, and inspiring us to do more, every day. You are a role model for future generations of social workers."

The ceremony for Charles was held on October 17th. IASWG is very proud of Charles’ many, many achievements and for being such a strong advocate for group work and social justice!

On a final note, the pandemic, with its required in-person social distancing, has led many people to experience feelings of loneliness and isolation. Being with others who share similar experiences has taken on much greater importance. IASWG is an organization that understands and can address these issues. I have been fortunate to be part of an online mutual aid group run by an expert IASWG group facilitator, that supports those teaching group work (across the globe!) to deliver their courses virtually. It is a highlight of our week to get together with other group workers and has been informative, supportive, and great fun. So, please, take the time to connect with others and stay safe and healthy.


Barbara Muskat, PhD, RSW
IASWG President