SPARC Program 

The deadline for the next review cycle is May 25, 2023.

Congratulations to Khalfani Mwamba, Azahah Abu Hassan Shaari and Willa J. Casstevens, IASWG members and newest SPARC Program Awardees! The December 2022 IASWG SPARC Report has information about their Projects, news of the special double issue of Social Work with Groups focusing on IASWG SPARC Projects, and other SPARC related info.

SPARC Program Purpose: To "spark" IASWG members' innovative practice, education, training and research projects through endorsement and small grants to advance the IASWG mission. SPARC Information and review is available in English, French, German, and Spanish. 

The IASWG SPARC Program will enter its 11th year of operation in 2023. Since 2013, we have had 18 review cycles, with the IASWG endorsing 68 SPARC projects, 47 of them with funding totaling over $30,000. Projects focus on group work in Practice, Education and Research. The increase in Endorsement Only applications and recommendations is notable, supporting our objective of increasing recognition of the IASWG SPARC Endorsement in terms of stature and value internationally. At the same time, we continue to expect applications for funding to be submitted, and do not see this as an ongoing trend without further evidence. In 2022, a significant publication of SPARC focused articles for the Special Issue of Social Work with Groups, first published online. The editorial team (Brian Kelly/leader, Carol Cohen, Maria Gurrola, Helene Onserud, Barbara Muskat and Greg Tully) are working on the Introduction, and the Issue is now available. Outreach strategies continue, including E-Blasts to members, Symposium presentation and Website circulation and updates (with news and videos). Suggestions are welcome!

We encourage IASWG Members to submit proposals for the current review cycle ending on May 25, 2023. You must be a current member of IASWG to apply. Potential applicants should review the Application and SPARC Project AgreementThus far, we have SPARC Projects on three continents! Information on our previous awards is available below. Applications are reviewed twice per year, in advance of the IASWG Board Meetings, generally held in June and November. Awardees will be announced in May and November at the IASWG Board Meeting. The committee members are: Carol Cohen, Maria Gurrola, Helene Oserud, and Brian Kelly. Please contact Carol Cohen ([email protected]) for further information.

El programa de IASWG SPARC

La fecha límite para el próximo ciclo de revisiones es el 25 de mayo de 2023.

El propósito del programa de SPARC: Para “inspirar” a los miembros de IASWG en prácticas innovadoras, educación, formación y proyectos de investigación a través del respaldo y pequeñas becas para extender la misión de IASWG. Estamos orgullosos de todos los proyectos que IASWG SPARC respaldó y financió durante los años que llevamos funcionando. Es por esto por lo que animamos a los miembros de IASWG a enviar propuestas para el ciclo actual de revisiones que termina en 25 de mayo de 2023. Para enviar una propuesta hay que ser miembro actual de IASWG. Los solicitantes potenciales deben revisar la solicitud y el acuerdo del proyecto de SPARC (SPARC Project Agreement).

Hasta ahora, tenemos proyectos SPARC en tres continentes. La información sobre nuestros premios anteriores está disponible a continuación.

Las aplicaciones se revisan dos veces al año, adelantándolas a las reuniones de la junta de IASWG que normalmente son en junio y en noviembre. Los proyectos premiados se anunciarán en junio en la reunión del Comité IASWG. Quienes forman parte de este comité son: Carol Cohen, Maria Gurrola, Biran Kelly, y Hélène Filion Onserud. Para más información póngase en contacto con Carol Cohen (co[email protected]).


Die Frist für den nächsten Überprüfungszyklus endet am 25. Mai 2023. 

SPARC Programm Zweck: Innovative Praxis, Ausbildung, Ausbildungs und Forschungsprojekte anzuschieben/zu initiieren durch Unterstützung und Leistung kleiner Stipendien zur Förderung der IASWG-Mission. Wir sind stolz auf alle IASWG SPARC-Projekte, die während unserer jahrelangen Tätigkeit genehmigt und finanziert wurden, und ermutigen die IASWG Mitglieder Vorschläge für den aktuellen Überprüfungszyklus einzureichen, der am 25. Mai 2023 endet. Sie müssen ein aktuelles Mitglied der IASWG sein, um sich bewerben zu können. Potenzielle Bewerber sollten die Anwendungs- und SPARC-Projektvereinbarung nachprüfen

Bisher haben wir SPARC-Projekte in drei Kontinenten! Informationen zu unseren vorherigen Auszeichnungen finden Sie weiter unten. Bewerbungen werden in der Regel zweimal pro Jahr im Vorfeld der IASWG-Vorstandssitzungen überprüft, im Juni und November. Die Preisträger werden im Juni im. Vorstand der IASWG bekannt gegeben. Die Komitéemitglieder sind: Carol Cohen, Maria Gurrola, Brian Kelly und Hélène Filion Onserud. Bitte kontaktieren Sie Carol Cohen ([email protected]), wenn Sie weitere Informationen erhalten möchten.

Le programme SPARC de l’AITSG

La date d’échéance pour le prochain cycle d’examen des candidatures est le 25 mai 2023.

Le but du programme SPARC de l’AITSG est d’inspirer les pratiques innovantes dans  l'éducation, la formation et les projets de recherche au sein des membres de l’AITSG par son programme d’endossement et de petites subventions afin de faire avancer la mission de l’AITSG.Nous sommes fier de tous les projets du programme SPARC de l’AITSG approuvés et financés pendant ces années d’opération. Nous encourageons les membres de l’AITSG à soumettre des propositions pour le cycle d’examen actuel qui terminera le 25 mai 2023.Vous devez être un membre courant de l’AITSG pour faire une demande. Les candidats potentiels devraient prendre connaissance du formulaire de demande et de l’accord de projet de SPARC

Jusqu’ici, nous avons eu des projets de SPARC sur 3 continents ! Les informations sur nos prix précédents sont disponibles ci-dessous. Les demandes sont évaluées deux fois par année, préalablement à la tenue des réunions du Conseil d’administration de IASWG, qui généralement ont lieu en juin et en novembre. Les boursiers seront annoncés en juin à la réunion du Conseil d’Administration de l’ AITSG. Les membres du comité sont: Carol Cohen, Maria Gurrola, Brian Kelly et Hélène Filion Onserud. S’il vous plaît, contactez Carol Cohen ([email protected]) pour des informations complémentaires.

Approved Recommendations for November 2022 Cycle of IASWG SPARC Awards 

The IASWG SPARC Committee brought the IASWG Board three recommendations for awards, and each was approved by the IASWG Board.  All are for endorsement and funding.  Two approved proposals are practice focused, one education focused, and research focused (with some overlapping areas); two awardees are from the US (Iowa and Washington State) and one is from Malaysia; two awardees are proposing projects in rural areas, and one is working with field educators; all awardees are members of IASWG and one is a former board member.

Antiracist, Digital Reflection as i.Mu.R.g. (Interprofessional Multicultural Reflective Groupwork)

  • IASWG Member:  Khalfani Mwamba, University of Washington School of Social Work, United States.
  • Description from Applicant:  Because Social Workers serve in practice settings where racism can feel ubiquitous to many BIPoC—and where remote learning continues to flourish—this project asks: “How can signature pedagogues foster antiracist climates and competence online, when so few were formally schooled in doing so?”  Building on their In-Person teaching and learning expertise, our profession’s Field faculty (FF) and Field Instructors (FI’s) must establish what ideal, Online and Hybrid practica look like, while championing Antiracism, per EPAS (2022) Competency 3; Engage with Antiracism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  Fortunately, our “signature pedagogy,” can be constructed as i.Mu.R.g. (pronounced: “emerge,” interprofessional multicultural reflective groupwork) and trained on this teaching and learning challenge of practice.  In this project, I invite FI’s and FF to engage with i.Mu.R.g. for comparatively exploring their recent online (versus in-person) teaching and learning, while strengthening their situated antiracist competence.
  • Approved for Endorsement and Funding of $500.00

Stronger Together (ST): Support Group for Single Mothers in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

  • IASWG Member:  Azahah Abu Hassan Shaari, Social Impact Lab (Poverty Eradication), School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences and Leisure, Taylor’s University, Malaysia.
  • Description from Applicant: Stronger Together is a face-to-face support group for low-income single mothers to cope with challenges including balancing working and caring, educating and disciplining their children, and managing financial distress. Stronger Together is the first support group for low-income working single mothers in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia. The face-to-face 6-session meetings will provide a safe environment for members to enhance their emotional and social well-being. Each session will be 2 hours long, once a month at a community center, and will be facilitated by a trained social worker. In addition to a monthly face-to-face meeting, members will join a by-invite-only WhatsApp Group, a free application, to connect and share resources outside the meeting time. After completing the 6th session, all group members will participate in an evaluation study to gather their perspectives on the group’s engagement and the benefits they derived from participating. Findings will be presented at IASWG and other social work conferences.
  • Approved for Endorsement and Funding of $560.00.
Suicide Bereavement Support Group in Storm Lake, Iowa
  • IASWG Member:  Willa J. Casstevens, member of the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Buena Vista County, Iowa, United States.  
  • Description from Applicant:  The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Buena Vista County, Iowa, USA plans to start a monthly Suicide Bereavement Support Group in Storm Lake, Iowa at St. Mark Lutheran Church ELCA. One of the coalition leaders has training as an American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Suicide Bereavement Support Group facilitator. The coalition is aware that such support groups often discontinue due to a single facilitator being unavailable and/or becoming burnt-out, and aims to train two additional coalition members as facilitators. This will allow co-facilitation as well as more flexible scheduling for group leaders. In addition, the coalition aims to develop co-facilitation by individuals with different types of group work training related to bereavement, to support resilience among group leaders and help sustain the program over the long run as an ongoing group for the county community. 
  • Approved for Endorsement and Funding of $470.00

Application Process

IASWG members are welcome to submit proposals to the SPARC Program, requesting endorsement with or without funding, for special projects (e.g., training, research, and practice) consistent with the mission of IASWG. All proposals should be sent as an email attachment to [email protected] Please feel free to contact Carol S. Cohen at the above email address or by phone at +516.877.4427 to discuss the Program with a member of the SPARC Committee.

Information you need will to apply:

IASWG SPARC Bi-annual Reports:


Reports from Past SPARC Projects:

Past SPARC Projects include:

  • Initiative to expand support group work services and training with media capabilities.
  • Dissertation study of factors in the commitment to group work practice.
  • Project to compile case studies for group work teaching and training.
  • Research to study authors' trajectories following their group work related dissertations.
  • Training to expand staff expertise in providing diverse group work programs.
  • Innovation to expand knowledge and competency to more effectively serve an under-served population.
  • Dissertation study of school social workers' perceptions of grief counseling groups for adolescents.
  • Development of group work programs to better serve youth and young men of color.
  • Large scale research study to examine and work more effectively with diversity in group work throughout stages of development.
  • Implementation of an innovative book discussion group with members with multiple sclerosis.
  • Evaluation of small group activities within online learning environments.
  • Research and training in group work supervision.
  • Advocacy for the use of group methods in social work and allied fields.
  • Examination of the linkage of summer camp programs and the development of social group work.
  • Establishment of a think tank & action network to challenge and eradicate the oppressive social structures threatening young Black males.
  • Implementation of a stigma focused group program, collaboratively developed for and with parents living with HIV.

The following IASWG SPARC Projects were approved by the IASWG Board for Endorsement and Funding in November 2021:

El Trabajo Social Grupal en Formato Virtual (Group Work in Virtual Format) - Judit Castro Diez, Universidad de Barcelona, España. Approved for Endorsement

  • Abstract: El propósito general del proyecto es contribuir en el estudio metodológico de intervención grupal desde el Trabajo Social en formato virtual. Se pretende investigar sobre cómo aplicar la teoría existente hasta ahora en el formato online. Sobre todo, en el momento de establecer la vinculación relacional con y en el grupo y la comunicación entre sus miembros, debemos tener presentes las diferencias entre el entorno presencial y el virtual. Es importante plantear estas cuestiones, vivimos en una era digital en la que la tecnología está presente en la esfera profesional y puede contribuir en la mejora de la atención. Cabe destacar, que contamos con pocas investigaciones previas sobre el tema; por ello, la importancia de iniciar una vía de investigación en este sentido. La investigación se propone desde el paradigma cualitativo y la metodología colaborativa. Donde la clave será el diseño y el análisis de dos grupos de soporte online.  
  • The general purpose of the project is to contribute to the methodological study of group intervention from Social Work in virtual format. It is intended to investigate how to apply the existing theory so far in the online format. Above all, at the moment of establishing the relational link with and in the group and the communication between its members, we must bear in mind the differences between the face-to-face and the virtual environment. It is important to raise these issues, we live in a digital era in which technology is present in the professional sphere and can contribute to the improvement of care. It should be noted that we have little previous research on the subject; therefore, the importance of initiating a path of research in this direction. The research is proposed from the qualitative paradigm and collaborative methodology. Where the key will be the design and analysis of two online support groups.

Group Workers' Experiences in Conducting Social Work with Groups with Survivors of Domestic Violence and/or Sexual Abuse - Noah Pollack, Wurzweiler School of Social Work (Yeshiva University), New York, United States. Approved for Endorsement

  • Abstract: This proposed project is a key component of my doctoral dissertation. The focus is the experience of group workers in facilitating groups related to sexual abuse and/or domestic violence. I plan on recruiting my fellow members of the IASWG to participate in this research, through a questionnaire that will entail inquiries pertaining to their experiences leading groups for my population of study. For example: Did they find group work beneficial for this population and if so, what specifically was useful? Were there challenges utilizing group work for this population? Additionally, the study will inquire as to respondents' educational experience to determine if social work school adequately prepared them to provide group work with this population. Hopefully, by hearing the experiences of group workers, it will lay the groundwork for any necessary improvements that need to be made in group work education and social work with groups pertaining to people who have experienced sexual trauma and/or domestic violence.

The Class as a Group: Groupwork Interventions in Primary Education in the Netherlands - Hilda Baar-Kooij, GISSKID, Netherlands.  Approved for Endorsement   

  • Abstract: In the field of education, an intervention to gain knowledge about group dynamics and group development can benefit teachers in the classroom not only in reaching their attainment targets for social skills education but also in dealing with behaviours in the classroom they experience as being difficult. In the research stage of the project, as completed for my EdD degree in 2019, this intervention proved to impact social awareness and reflection on the whole school community including pupils, parents, teachers, and governing bodies. The goal of this project is to move from the research phase towards implementation in the educational practice in the Netherlands. The intervention in primary schools in the Netherlands aims to teach teachers to engage with their class as a group, using group work skills and knowledge, and for children to experience that it “takes all sorts to make a world”, thus growing self-esteem, leadership, teamwork, empathy, and resilience for all.

Boss Mares: Weekly Group for Adolescent Females - Abigail Wilson, Lone Oak Animal-Assisted Therapeutic and Educational Services. Pennsylvania, United States. Approved for Endorsement

  • Abstract: Boss Mares is a weekly, 2-hour group for adolescent females ages 12-15. This builds upon our previous project of a week-long camp. Studies of horses in herds have revealed that these amazing animals have much to teach us about relationships, communication, and leadership. The group is designed from the idea that the boss mare is the herd’s female leader that is fierce, confident, loving, and protective (Kohanov, 2013). Boss Mares are leaders of the herd who take care of themselves so they can take care of others. Over the course of the group, the participants will learn these concepts through equine-assisted strategies, groundwork, and handwork (fiber art, wood working, etc.). Other benefits of the group include enhancing confidence and self-esteem, building resilience, introducing opportunities for new relationships, and teaching compassion and empathy. Lone Oak previously hosted a 4-day camp for Boss Mares which received positive feedback and participants have asked to come back. This extension of the project will inspire participants with exposure to women in leadership and an additional networking event for women in leadership and the participants. 

 “My Cancer Story.”  Honoring and Witnessing Cancer Narratives - Susan McDonald and Molly Piazza, Candy’s Place, Cancer and Wellness Center, Pennsylvania, United States Approved for Endorsement and Funding

  • Abstract: The proposed Narrative Group provides an innovative and creative opportunity for Candy's Place patients to tell their cancer stories in a small group setting. The Narrative Group would meet for 1 ½ hour once a week for six weeks of guided reflective writing and story sharing. The purpose of the Narrative Group begins with recognizing the importance of telling stories, being heard, and the importance of the autobiography. The cancer narrative is told and retold in order to attach meaning to the illness. Objective are: Evaluate the issues of trauma, body, and inter-subjectivity from a Narrative Perspective, and Examine social identity and illness narratives.

The following IASWG SPARC Projects were approved by the IASWG Board for Endorsement and Funding in June 2021:

Skill Building Workshop for Immigrant Women: Harnessing the Power of Group Work - Erum Agha, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Approved for Endorsement and Grant

  • Abstract: This project proposes to provide a skill building workshop to immigrant women with low education and employment skills. This virtual six-session workshop will deliver interventions for developing life skills, communication skills, health and mental health literacy and self-care. Each session will be 1.5 hours long. The virtual platform will also provide opportunities for peer support and networking to the participants whose social mobility and connectedness is severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The workshop will likely improve the bio-psycho-social outcomes for the participants and their families. Sessions will be facilitated by a team of highly trained project leader and co-facilitator. Workshop manual and resource materials will be developed exclusively for the project and provided to the participants. Participants will receive a small stipend and a certificate upon attending all sessions. Results will be disseminated at IASGW and other social work conferences.

 Lift Every Voice and Sing! - Egag Egag, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.  Approved for Endorsement.

  • Abstract: “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is a 5-week psychoeducation group that aims to promote the well-being of Black-identified University students by helping participants enhance their knowledge and understanding of oppression, physical, sexual, and mental health, and community resources through psychoeducation and arts-based activities. The intention is to run 3 cycles of these 5-week groups that will target specific segments of the Black-identified student population at Ryerson University. The program also aims to bring Black students individuals together to address racial microaggressions and racial trauma, which is a common issue affecting their mental health. During the 5-weeks, we will be exploring and sharing our identities and experiences through the use of art-based activities, such as photovoice. Photovoice is an accessible approach, which does not require an extensive arts background, and allows for flexibility in how participants may want to discuss their identity.

Origins of Social Group Work: Local Stories from Around the World. - Lorrie Greenhouse Gardella, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, Connecticut, Klaus-Martin Ellerbrock, IASWG German Chapter, Reineth (CE) Prinsloo, IASWG South African Chapter, Stephen Monroe Tomczak, New Haven Connecticut. Approved for Endorsement and Grant

  • Abstract: This international history project will explore the origins of social group work in local communities, regions, agencies, and universities around the world. We will seek case studies – including those drawn from personal narratives, oral history interviews, and personal documents research – that recall the introduction of group work in such places and times as North America during the Great Depression of the 1930s; Germany and formerly Nazi-occupied countries during the 1950s and 1960s; post-Soviet Eastern Europe in the 1990s and beyond; post-Colonial African, South Asian, and indigenous nations; migrant communities; and communities responding to war, disaster, or Covid-19. The project will document the experiences and accomplishments of local group workers; examine the relationship between group work education and practice; analyze the IASWG Practice Standards as applied to group work in different historical, cultural, and geopolitical contexts; and consider implications for the future development of social work with groups. 

Community Support Group for DV Survivors in Uganda - Betsy Miles, Friends of Kisoro, Pacific University, Oregon and Kisoro, Uganda.  Approved for Endorsement and Grant

  • Abstract: Domestic violence (DV) is a global, community issue with complex and devastating impacts. Like in many parts of the world, Uganda has seen rising levels of DV since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (JohnBosco & Ggoobi, 2020). Friends of Kisoro (FROK), a community-based organization in Kisoro, Uganda that provides refugee psychosocial support services, has expanded its services to the Ugandan community in response to the rising needs associated with the current global pandemic. FROK’s Community Support Group for DV Survivorsin Uganda aims to strengthen communities and empower survivors to improve the safety and wellbeing of themselves and their families. Using a task-sharing approach, FROK social workers will collaborate with Pacific University and the Kisoro community to (1) develop and implement the group model, (2) train community leaders and members in the facilitation of the groups, and (3) provide support to community facilitators around the implementation and evaluation of the groups

A Mixed Methods Examination of the Effects of the Unite and Redefine Group Therapy Intervention on Shame, Masculinity, and Hope for the Future with Adolescent Males who have Sexually Offended - Rachael Pascoe, Research Coordinator of the AFFIRM Program, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Approved for Endorsement and Grant.

  • Abstract:  Through specialized assessment and treatment, youth who have sexually harmed are less likely to engage in future sexually abusive behaviour. The Unite and Redefine Group is a group therapy intervention for male adolescents who have sexually offended. The group’s primary delivery involves processing emotions and cognitions, with some psychoeducational content. The group content has three distinct nonconsecutive phases: Addressing shame, expanding masculinity, and becoming the man you want to be. This intervention is informed by social justice, intersectional, trauma-informed, and anti-oppressive principles, as well as invitational practice approaches. My dissertation research employs a mixed methods explanatory sequential design, with a first phase of quantitative research (pre and post surveys), followed by a qualitative stage (qualitative interviews) to assess the group’s effect on client’s change in reported shame, conceptualizations of masculinity, and self-compassion. Qualitative interviews will seek to determine adolescent experience of shame, group process, and accountability-taking throughout the group. 

Boss Mares: Group Work with Adolescent Females - Abigail Wilson, Lone Oak Equine-Assisted Therapeutic & Educational Services, Heather Girvin, Millersville University, Sarah Primak, Lancaster County, Katie Linebarger, Lancaster County, and Brandon Kelly, Lebanon County (All in Pennsylvania, US).  Approved for Endorsement and Grant

  • Abstract: Boss Mares is a four-day new group program for adolescent females ages 12 to 15. Studies of horses in herds have revealed that these amazing animals have much to teach us about relationships, communication, and leadership. The group is designed from the idea that the boss mare is the herd’s female leader that is fierce, confident, loving, and protective (Kohanov, 2013). Boss Mares are leaders of the herd who take care of themselves so they can take care of others. Over the course of the group, the participants will learn these concepts through equine-assisted strategies, groundwork, and handwork (fiber art, wood working, etc.). Other benefits of the group include enhancing confidence and self-esteem, building resilience, introducing opportunities for new relationships, and teaching compassion and empathy. Participants will have the opportunity to utilize these leadership skills as “Mares” (i.e. junior counselors) in another camp with younger children.

 See Videos from IASWG SPARC Awardees, talking about their SPARC Projects, why they applied to SPARC, and their advice to new applicants.


The IASWG SPARC Presentation from the 2021 IASWG Virtual Symposium
Lois A. Carey, SPARC Awardee November 2014 - Group Work Training and Supervision

Brian L. Kelly, SPARC Awardee November 2015 - Fifth House Ensemble Residency Programs with Teen Living Programs

Tee R. Tyler, SPARC Awardee November 2016 - Interpersonal Classroom Model; Developing Interpersonal Communication Skills in Social Work with Groups Courses