What I learned at the 2018 Network for Social Work Management Conference

This week I spent two days in sunny, beautiful San Diego, California. I had been sponsored to attend the Network for Social Work Management’s annual conference. where every year they bring together a large audience of social workers, human service organization representatives, international experts, researchers, and practitioners to learn about innovative social work management practices. With plenary sessions, workshops, and networking opportunities, my time was PACKED with activities!

As I sit here just three days post the conference, I am thinking back at all of the things that I learned and absorbed in such a short amount of time. On day one, hundreds of people filled the beautiful conference room inside San Diego State University’s Montezuma Hall. We were quickly enlightened about the theme of the this year’s conference – Disruptive Leadership. Here, we often heard the term disrupting norms. Many speakers shared that in order for change to happen it was imperative for social workers to interrupt the status quo.

Antonia Jimenez, B.S., Keynote Speaker on the benefits and challenges of implementing change.

Antonia Jimenez, Director LA Department of Social Services,  explained in her speech that we as social workers must be a hybrid of both vision and implementation. She continued to state that we must speak up about our ideas even when we think people don’t hear us. I really liked her story of when she was working for a governor who once told her that two of his goals, when he was to retire, was (1) to be known for the innovations he had created and (2) plant the innovative seeds for the next governor. Altogether, her humor and vulnerability to describe her journey was a great way to break the ice and start off the morning.

With one of my colleagues, Heather Mercer, I went to attend a workshop about how to be inclusive when working with college students. The trainers spoke about the different tools that they have seen to be successful as they attempted in their research to test the climates of their classrooms. For example, Dawn Shedrick spoke about incorporating community agreements at the beginning of the semester. This is a list of agreements that are mutually agreed upon and to be carried out throughout the course. These can include items such as one diva one mic, ELMO (enough let’s move on), and respecting others’ opinions. This helps in setting connection before bringing up sensitive topics. Dawn also spoke about incorporating activities to encourage engagement. One exercise she uses is asking all students to say something that they respect about their classmates. When students feel respected by their peers, this encourages them to be vulnerable. Lastly, to empower students, she often replies to them by saying, “you’re not the only one at this school that’s noticed/experienced that.” Feeling like they are not alone, students will feel better about their experience seeing that others have also had similar experiences. My biggest takeaway in this conference was noting how easy and fun these tools can be in a classroom. With such little effort, these tools can really be conducive to safe and friendly environments for students and the teacher.

USC’s Laura Witcoff, MSW, LICSW, Lauren E. Brown, MPP, Ph.D., and Jennifer Goldstein at their presentation on Gamifying Engagement.

In another workshop, I learned how utilizing games to attract an audience can be effective. One of my professors at USC, Dr. Lauren Brown, spoke with her research team about their concepts of media that work for nonprofits. Their research looked at ways that technology can benefit a nonprofit organization and its promotion. The workshop audience was split up into groups of two where each group was assigned a scenario of an agency and their mission. Our jobs were to create game ideas that were in line with the message we wanted to relay. My group was given a mock agency of an interim housing for homeless families in Los Angeles. The agency’s mission was to eliminate homelessness among families with children in Los Angeles by providing housing, supportive services, and advocacy. The message was, “All children and families deserve a home.” Together, my group brainstormed ideas about what could captivate people to learn/donate/advocate for this specific agency. We went straight to the drawing board and came up with some creative game ideas, such as: asking people to write about their favorite family moment, talk about what it means to have a home, and share what their favorite childhood toy was. In this manner, people will reflect on their childhood, family, home, and privileges, encouraging them to participate with the agency. Although social media and tech games are not my particular forte, I can see the power in these creative skills to capture audiences. A simple game that brings light to privilege and experience can make the participation empathetic and personal.

A morning breakfast with SISGI staff and interns (from left to right: Robert, Patty, Gabe [center], Thenera, Andrea, and Heather).

After so many workshops, the conference attendees had the opportunity to have lunch with USC’s staff. Obviously, I wanted to take advantage of this time because it is not often I get to meet with the faculty in person. I had a chance to mingle and learn about what some professors and alumni are doing these days. From teaching to HR, to research, there was a wide range of careers that today’s social workers are doing. I felt honored to share space with these intellectuals. Their wisdom and intelligence were unique and informative as I am starting to shape my career as I near graduation.

Once day-one came to an end, my internship team met together at a local restaurant. I thought to myself that after being focused all day I wasn’t sure I can come up with the energy to socialize but of course I did. There were six of us at the table, and we had a blast! Our conversations were un-serious, and although many of us have vast differences, there was just something in every person at that table that I truly liked. Each person brought a unique set of characteristics, talents, and wisdom that wholly made us work so well.

Christopher “Chip” Paucek presenting a keynote on Leadership Lessons: A CEO’s Perspective on Leading through Change, Building a Great Culture and Cultivating Talent.

Finally, after a long day-one, we were back at it the next day for day two! The day was set to end a bit earlier and incorporate more workshops and plenaries. Day two was kicked off with a presentation by CEO of the world’s best digital education – 2U, Chip Paucek. He was an approachable man with a strong history of pushing through the cracks. Chip spoke about his original idea of technology being unattractive, threatening, and invasive to academics. While practitioners also saw social media as a burden. It took him years until he slowly started to “normalize” this notion of digital education as a new platform for colleges. He struggled to create acceptance of his product, but he endured and found himself finally breaking way. Colleges that finally gave his company a shot began to see the benefits of having such a platform incorporated into their schools. Chip’s closing remarks spoke about appreciation and staying optimistic and grateful. Hearing Chip’s story gave me a sense of hope. Hope that although I may not succeed with my first ideas and there may be obstacles, staying optimistic and persevering through these trials is what gets you to the end of the tunnel.

SISGI Group attendees’ name badges with some added bling.

In the late morning, I took a workshop on research that showed how to get legislative attention to the causes we’re advocating for as social workers. The instructor spoke about his research from his five-step process to push forward in an evidence-based manner to move from the idea to get it voted on. With over a dozen organizations that Minarik used in his study to show how his model is effective, he proposes that having a tailored information sharing decision model is promising. Legislature for me always seems so grand and intangible, but I really liked how his steps gave realistic steps for social workers who are interested in this process.

As day two came to an end, I reflected on my time at the conference, which altogether was well effective and purposeful. This opportunity gave me the ability to meet many people in this field: researchers, professors, social workers, students, interns, business-owners, etc. I learned so much about what we can do to be a disruptive leader. I was inspired by the stories shared by our plenary speakers. I was renewed by the energy of my internship colleagues. And I found faith in my future as a social worker as I learned about what many ways social work is making an impact.

Upcoming Virtual Conference Opportunity!

If you didn’t get a chance to attend this year’s Network for Social Work Management Conference, there’s still a great opportunity coming around the corner, and the best part about it is that it will be a virtual conference. You don’t even have to travel anywhere! On August 6th – 8th 2018, my internship site, SISGI Group, will hold our annual Alliance for Positive Youth Development Conference #APYDCON. Here, attendees will leverage technology and social media to share and connect with youth development professionals, educators, and young people working on youth issues. Specifically, we will have lecturers and panelists each day that will discuss best practices that can be used for Trauma-Sensitive Education, Youth Homelessness, and LGBT+ Bullying in School Settings.

For more information and to register for the Alliance for Positive Youth Development Conference visit ideas4youth.org/apydcon.  If you would like to become an exhibitor then click here to fill out the virtual exhibit hall application.

If you’d like more information about the Network for Social Work Management, please visit their site at https://socialworkmanager.org/


Take 5 with a NELA Fellow – Rose Marguez

We continue our Take 5 Series with Rose Marquez, Executive Director of Cha Piyeh, Inc. Rose is an enrolled tribal member of the Ohkay Owingeh Nation in Northern New Mexico. The organization in which she leads, Cha Piyeh, Inc translates to “lending money” in the Tewa language, and is a Native Community Financial Institution (CDFI) and 501 (c)3 non-profit organization.

The Take 5 Series allows us to get a closer look at our NELA Fellows as they offer insight into their experiences as Nonprofit Executives. Want to hear even more about the career journey of our fellows? Join us for our Social Change Career Series where our fellows and other nonprofit leaders share their career path to executive leadership as well as what inspires them to create social change.

Visit http://sisgigroup.org/careerseries to register.         

Below is Rose’s answer to one of the questions in the Take 5 series on the SISGI Group website. To see Rose’s answers to all 5 questions visit http://sisgigroup.org/rose-marquez/

5. Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in one day being in an executive role in the nonprofit sector?

I truly think that all women should strive to be a leader not only in their career but in their life. I am indeed a role model for all women who want to pursue this role and am happy to share my story with which I know I control and know will end positively.


#APYDCHAT: Ending Youth Homelessness

Approximately 4.2 million youth in America are experiencing homelessness. Unfortunately, being homeless is something that is not always visible to the public eye. Homeless youth, in particular, are a hidden population that often couch-surf with friends, and are left out of most Point-in-Time counts. Still, current data indicate that youth homelessness is on the rise.

From the US to the UK, nations across the world have seen an increase in their homeless youth population. In some US states, the homeless youth population has tripled. Meanwhile, a fifth of young adults in the UK are currently homeless.

Why is there an increase in homeless youth?

The answer to this question varies, but according to the Covenant House,

the main cause of youth homelessness is physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse from parents or guardians.”

Recent statistics also show that 40% of homeless youth are under 18, 40% identify as LGBT+, and 50% are aging out of the foster care and juvenile justice systems. These numbers indicate that homeless youth are in need of trauma care, housing, education preparedness, and employment training services.

At NotEnoughGood, we have written about the needs of people experiencing homelessness in multiple blog posts. (See This, This and This as examples)  You can read even more about this in our Homelessness Blog Series by searching the keyword ‘homelessness’. There are also countless research articles on the web that explain the contributing factors to youth homelessness, but unsafe households and involvement in the child welfare or juvenile justice system remain at the top of the list.

Now that we know why youth become homeless, the next step is learning how to alleviate this social crisis. Homelessness doesn’t have a one-size fits all solution, but prevention is always a great start to any social problem.

Let’s Talk About Prevention!

Ending youth homelessness requires collective action, so we invite you to join our Twitter chat on March 28th at 12PM PST/3PM EST where we will discuss prevention strategies with special guests: Erin Chapman-Smith and Emma York JonesDirectors of Housing and Shelter Services at YouthCare Seattle, Washington.

Can’t make it to the chat? You can still participate throughout the year by sharing information about youth homelessness on social media using the hashtag #APYDCHAT.

Continuing The Conversation in APYDCON

Our youth homelessness conversation doesn’t stop here. We will continue the conversation on August 7th, 2018 at APYDCON, our FREE, Best Practices for Youth Development Virtual Conference. Sign up here to receive APYDCON updates or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram


Take 5 with a NELA Fellow – Renee D. Flagler

We continue our Take 5 Series with Renee D. Flagler, Executive Director of Girls Inc. Long Island. Renee Daniel Flagler is an award-winning writer, adjunct professor, and a speaker who is passionate about encouraging people, especially women and youth to pursue their passion and purpose. Renee is the Executive Director of Girls Inc. of Long Island, whose mission is to empower girls to be strong, smart and bold. Renee advocates for youth both in the United States and abroad. She is a founding board member and former Board Chair for LEAP (Literacy Empowerment Action Project) Global, an organization with a mission to provide innovative literacy, youth empowerment programming, and high school scholarships to students in Ghana, Africa.

The Take 5 series allows us to get a closer look at our NELA Fellows as they offer insight into their experiences as Nonprofit Executives. Want to hear even more about the career journey of our fellows? Join us for our Social Change Career Series where our fellows and other nonprofit leaders share their career path to executive leadership as well as what inspires them to create social change. Visit http://sisgigroup.org/careerseries to register.

Below is Renee’s answer to one of the questions in the Take 5 series on the SISGI Group website.  To see Renee’s answers to all 5 questions visit http://sisgigroup.org/renee-flagler/

4. How do you believe NELA addresses issues pertaining to women and leadership in the nonprofit sector?

Women thrive in collaborative environments. We are natural collaborators and together we make one another stronger. NELA has been key in having women in leadership collaborate, share, hear each other and network in a way this is both effective and fulfilling. I have new friends as a result of my NELA fellowship.

Take 5 with a NELA Fellow – Bethany Housman

The Nonprofit Executive Leadership Academy Program is a year-long leadership program for female nonprofit executives that includes networking with other nonprofit professionals, access to training and professional development on executive skills in social change leadership, and a chance to receive strategic support and coaching. The SISGI Group is launching a new interview series on their website –  Take 5 With a NELA Fellow.

The Take 5 series will allow us to get a closer look at our NELA Fellows as they offer insight into their experiences as Nonprofit Executives. Want to hear even more about the career journey of our fellows? Join us for our Social Change Career Series where our fellows and other nonprofit leaders share their career path to executive leadership as well as what inspires them to create social change. Visit http://sisgigroup.org/careerseries to register.

The first participant in the series is Bethany Housman, Director of PromiseCorps Philadephia. Bethany is a 2017 Nonprofit Executive Leadership Academy Fellow, Cross-Fitting vegetarian and an avid New Orleans Saints fan. Bethany graduated from St. John’s University with a B.A. in Communication Arts followed by a graduate degree in Sociology at St. John’s and a graduate degree in Urban Education at Temple University.

After a short stint with Z100 radio station in her undergraduate years, she decided to continue her education in Sociology and work on issues affecting communities. She traveled to France, Germany, Panama, Canada and a variety of states for different projects. During the completion of her graduate degree she moved to New Orleans, Louisiana after a 3-week volunteer effort supporting disaster relief turned into her relocation. Bethany spent 2 years as the Program Director for City Year Louisiana, managing the New Orleans and Baton Rouge programs and eventually launched City Year New Orleans and continued as a Sr. Program Director. Bethany relocated to City Year Philadelphia in 2012 to be closer to her family. While working on her graduate degree at Temple she became an Operations Coordinator for a national charter organization and upon completion of her degree joined the Promise Corps team.

She can regularly be found in Roxborough, Philadelphia with her wife, their 2 cats (Senor Julio & Peyton Manning), retired greyhound (Luna) and mini-pitbull (Liberty)!

1. What is your leadership style?

My leadership style is most often described as direct. I’ve worked very hard in my career to also allow it to be described as supportive. Leading requires much more than just pointing towards a direction; there is a balance between pointing and getting others to also point with you — finding this balance is something I’ll be working on for a long time.
I’ve learned over time that I am not an overthinker. I do not need to analyze stats or consider scenarios. I’m very comfortable taking responsibility for decisions I make but I’ve had to learn and develop that over time. I do like to warn my team about this aspect of my leadership, while I’m comfortable making quick decisions I do take the time to gain perspective from others when possible.
I need to work on some aspects of my leadership style. I overcommunicate, repeat myself and have reminders set to remind myself to set reminders. I also repeat myself.

To see Bethany’s answers to all 5 questions visit http://sisgigroup.org/bethany-housman/



#GivingTuesday: One Day that Impacts All Others

While many Americans look forward to the days following Thanksgiving, #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday, for deals on gifts from friends or family, #GivingTuesday is a global campaign aimed at closing the disconnect between the materialism that has become associated with the holiday season and focuses on taking one day to rally and give back to communities around the globe.

The SISGI Group would love to have your partnership this holiday season, and beyond. To learn more about how you can make a difference in your community and beyond, check out the full details about this year’s #GivingTuesday campaign written by Melanie Cushman at http://sisgigroup.org/givingtuesday.

CLASS Fall 2017: Where Passion Ignites our Purpose

Last week The SISGI Group initiated the newest cohort of our Community Leadership Academy for the Social Sector (CLASS)! CLASS is an initiative that supports nonprofit professionals as they design a project to address an issue in their community. Although this program is a one year virtual experience, the kick off is a one day in-person meeting to establish community between leadership academy staff and CLASS Fellows as well as set a strong foundation for the learning that will occur throughout the following months.

Melanie Cushman, Fall 2017 Leadership Academy Intern, shared her perspective and takeaways from the Class Fall 2017 Leadership Institute in Los Angeles, California on the SISGI Group website. Check out the full post at http://sisgigroup.org/class-fall-2017/


Should a Living Wage be a Basic Human Right?

Today marks the 8th anniversary since the last federal increase in the minimum wage. Since then and since the publication of my original blog post on this issue, several states passed legislation to increase their minimum pay, joining the 29 states and 41 localities with a higher minimum wage than the national rate of $7.25 an hour. The increases are in large part due to the rising momentum of worker movements like @Fightfor15. However, these movements that are still seeking to improve the livelihood of over 41 million low wage workers and 19 million children in the US, had a setback last month with the publication of a new study analyzing the effects of Seattle’s gradual minimum wage hike to $15 an hour. The researchers found that the cost of the increase to low-wage workers outweighed the benefits, claiming that the new, higher wage forced companies to hire fewer workers.

Despite concerns over the credibility of the study and despite the fact that these results contradict years of research that found that wage increases benefit working families and have very little effect on employment, this study reinvigorated the debate over the policy with headlines like “New study on the $15 minimum wage has bad news for liberals” and “New Seattle study is a big problem for fans of a higher minimum wage”.

Nonetheless, these conclusions are a distraction from the real issue, which is – the federal minimum wage is not a living wage. It is well established that a majority of low wage workers must either work multiple jobs or rely on public assistance in order to live.

What Does the Law Say?

The original intent of minimum wage, as enacted by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 under Franklin D. Roosevelt, was to protect exploited workers while also combating poverty by ensuring that people who work “earn a decent living“, i.e. a living wage. The minimum wage law is a human rights law but all too often the debate is framed as an economic issue rather than a human rights issue.

Since people who earn the current federal minimum wage live in poverty, the debate should never be about whether or not wages increase. It should be about how much wages increase and how to implement these increases in an efficient and equitable way.

And, the primary question that should be answered is: should an individual who works 40 hours a week be living in poverty?

In May, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill that would over the next 8 years incrementally increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Economists analyzed the bill and calculated that if the wage were to increase to $15 by 2024, it would no longer be a poverty wage. In a country that has experienced historic levels of wealth, perhaps it is time to ensure the minimum wage policy accomplishes what it was initially established to do.

How to Get Involved in the Fight for $15?

Follow us on @notenoughgood on Twitter and @SISGIGroup on Facebook and Instagram for the next 5 weeks as we discuss everything you need to know about this issue and ways people can become involved to help create sustainable change. We invite individuals with an interest in the subject to chime into the conversation using the hashtag #AlsoSW and join our TweetChat on August 31, 2017 at 3pm EDT where we will hear from experts in social justice and advocacy who will discuss the human rights aspect of minimum wage.


#APYDCON 2017: Youth Activism and Social Change

In 2014, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy in education for girls in Pakistan and around the world. Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez is the youth director of Earth Guardians and is at the frontline of climate change activism. Malala and Roske-Martinez are two of many youth activists who are changing the world.

Youth have always been at the center of social movements, and sometimes, leading the movements themselves. It was the high civic engagement of youth that recently resulted in the upending of political regimes in Egypt, North Africa, and other countries around the world. Youth leaders fueled the civil-rights movement, and today they are at the center of the Black Lives Matter movement, immigration reform, and LGBT+ rights. It is without a doubt, that youth are powerful agents of social change. Unfortunately, adults often ignore the role that youth play in shaping our world, and we tend to push them to the sidelines in conversations about policies and social reforms.

Why Youth Activism Matters?

According to the United Nations, there are over 1.8 billion youth in the world; the largest youth population ever. With all the current world problems, imagine the impact that a group of 1.8 billion youth can have in global economic and social progress. We can’t have politicians make all the decisions for us, and as cliche as it may sound, youth are our future. They are the leaders and experts of their own lives. The decisions we make today will impact their future, so it only seems fitting that we allow them to take charge in the decision-making process of enacting social change.

Youth are very aware of what is happening in their communities, and they have their own opinions on the changes that need to be done. Their voice should always be heard and considered because youth are an asset to their communities. Youth hold unique tools like using technology to generate change, being able to globally connect with both older and younger generations, and they view the world through a different lens that allow them to challenge corruption and injustice. The more that youth participate in civic engagement, the more they get to develop leadership skills and make healthier life choices that can collectively move us into a more socially just world.

Youth have consistently shown that they will not remain idle in the social issues that impact their lives. Youth are visionaries and they are passionate for social good. For this reason, it is essential that we recognize the powerful role they have in social movements, and learn how to empower youth to become the leaders of our changing world. As Malala said in regard to the youth, “Let us stand up for our rights, and let us fight. Let us make our future now, and let us make our dreams tomorrow’s reality”.

Ready to Learn More?

On August 9th, 2017, APYDCON will be wrapping up its last day of workshops center around the top of Youth Activism and Social Change. The first event of the day will be a Q&A panel with experts Jessica Taft, Associate Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of California Santa Cruz, and Ron Gochez, a South Central Los Angeles community organizer and LAUSD teacher. The day will end with a presentation by Kathy Abarca, Director of Racially Just Utah. The panel and presentation will address how youth engage in social movements and how they enact social change, as well as the best practices for engaging youth in activism.

If you want to increase your awareness of the role of youth have in activism, and learn how you can support their leadership development, register to be a part of this unique virtual experience for FREE at sisgigroup.org/apydcon2017.


#APYDCON 2017: Crisis Intervention for Prostitution and Child Trafficking

Thirteen-year-old “Abby” is the youngest child of four. She would spend her days hanging out with her friends at school and at night, like most children her age, she enjoyed browsing through Facebook and Instagram. She had recently connected with a boy her age through Facebook and had fun chatting with him. Little did Abby know this was no boy at all. This was a twenty-year-old man, who was trying to recruit young girls into prostitution. He never told her he was going to put her to work. He simply told her all the things a young girl wants to hear from her suitor. Soon, Abby ended up on the streets working for this man against her will. All she was looking for was an innocent friendship with a young boy online. But she never found that boy. Abby, is one of thousands of young American girls who authorities say have been abducted or lured from their normal lives and made into sex slaves. When people think go human trafficking they think of all the young girls brought to the United States to be sold. People do not think it happens right here in America.

Why Human Trafficking Matters

Imagine that Abby is your sister, family member, or friend. Imagine all the things that Abby has gone through. She went from being a straight A student to being sold in the sex trade industry. Abby is not alone in this, because there are more than 2 million girls and boys being subjected to this yearly. Not only are these children being raped, they are also forced to use drugs. Due to the tortuous and traumatic conditions, an average life span of a sex trafficking victim is reported to be seven years as most are found dead from attack, abuse, HIV and other STDs, malnutrition, overdose, or suicide. The victims estimated ages are between 11 and 14 years old.

Who Are These Children?

According to US sources, children are most targeted by traffickers because they are found to be easier to manipulate as well as are able to earn predators more money. While there are many victims who are like Abby, there are also victims who have no other way to survive. Many of these children are the thrown away, homeless, or runaways. These youths result to using sex to secure survival needs such as shelter, clothing or food.

As a result of their circumstances, many of these youth will suffer long term health problems including trauma related issues such as anxiety, fear, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Victims often suffer from drug addiction, sleep disorders, sexually transmitted diseases and eating disorders. These are just a few of the long list of lifelong issues that victims will deal with on top of the burden of guilt and shame.

Ready to Learn More?

Join us August 8th, 2017 as we continue our APYD Best Practices for Youth Conference workshops where we will focus on Crisis Intervention for Prostitution and Child Trafficking. The first event of the day will be an expert Q&A panel featuring Kristie Holmes, PhD, LCSW, who specializes in topics related to global health, gender, and media and the impact of technology on social relationships; and Terri O’Donnell, a mental health therapist with extensive experience working with women and men with histories of trauma and addiction. Following this session will be a presentation by, Jan Miyasaki, the director of Project Respect, a Dane County, Wisconsin-based social service agency that provides services to adults and juveniles victimized in sex-trafficking and prostitution. The lecture will consist of a discussion educating the attendees on the life altering issues faced by sexually exploited youth.

If you want to increase your awareness of human trafficking and learn how you can be a part of the solution; register to be part of this unique virtual conference experience for free at http://sisgigroup.org/apydcon2017.