A Vision for the Future: 2020 Futures Series with Dr. Laura Nissen

We’re excited to announce that #NSWM31 has been rescheduled for April 18 – 20, 2021 in NYC. While our June conference may be temporarily delayed, we’ve partnered with Dr. Laura Nissen, Social Work Futurist for a new series in line with our conference theme, “A Vision for the Future: Maximizing Social Impact.”

The Network for Social Work Management invites you to join us for this unique opportunity to shape the future of social work.

A Vision for the Future: 2020 Futures Series

In Partnership with

Futures Series Schedule

Webinar 1:

Futures Thinking for Post-Normal Times – A New Resource for Social Work

Futures Thinking for Post-Normal Times – A New Resource for Social Work, Thursday, May 21, 2020

What does being ready for the future mean? Does it mean a new set of skills, or a new way of thinking? What will social work of the future be like? Or is the future already here? Whatever normal was, Covid-19 has turned a page in the world – and caused us to question if we want to return to the old way of life, or if we should take this opportunity to chart a new path for community well-being.

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What does being ready for the future mean? Does it mean a new set of skills, or a new way of thinking? What will social work of the future be like? Or is the future already here? Whatever normal was, Covid-19 has turned a page in the world – and caused us to question if we want to return to the old way of life, or if we should take this opportunity to chart a new path for community well-being. Social work, with its unique and valuable perspectives can and will participate in co-creating the future – but some would suggest we can only do that well if we’re ready and open to the evolution of our profession. Some say change is increasingly happening exponentially – what should social work be doing to evolve? Futures thinking and practice are a set of frameworks and tools that has potential to boost collective imagination, agility and intelligence. This webinar will introduce futures thinking – exploring the wide range of ideas, history, philosophies, types, and locations of practice and influences that comprise this emerging field specific with a social work sensibility. From exploring new ways to understand an evolving equity agenda given technological complexity and acceleration, to the future of power, to climate change as well as the future of work, of economies and government. All of these elements – and more – intersect with new health and health justice complexities that will dominate social work practice for years to come. Are we ready, as a profession, to be change agents, leaders and shapers of the new normal? The future is here. Let’s learn together and evolve social work on purpose.

This webinar is the first of a 3-part series on futures thinking in social work.

Webinar 2:

The Process of Foresight – How Futures Practice Can Enhance Social Work Practice

The Process of Foresight – How Futures Practice Can Enhance Social Work Practice, Thursday, May 28, 2020

Futures practice is about learning to navigate a VUCA world – a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous with a variety of creative tools and methods. Given the unpredictability of our current ecosystem – what are cutting edge methods for preparing for the future?

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Futures practice is about learning to navigate a VUCA world – a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous with a variety of creative tools and methods. Given the unpredictability of our current ecosystem – what are cutting edge methods for preparing for the future? All over the world, organizations are using “foresight” techniques to cultivate readiness and capacity to navigate complex and rapidly changing times. The people who do this work are futurists or foresight practitioners. The webinar will show how foresight work is related to but distinct from strategic planning and design thinking, as well as introduce a variety of stages, methods and approaches to doing foresight work with an emphasis on how these methods can benefit social work and related equity and well-being work that are our primary foci. Covid-19 has been a powerful teacher – how will social work help to lead, partner and co-create the next chapter of equity, human rights and well-being? Learn about how foresight methods can inspire and energize our profession.

This webinar is the 2nd of a 3-part series on futures thinking and practice for social work.

Webinar 3/Keynote:

Evolving on Purpose – Possibility Spaces for the Future of Social Work Practice and Social Justice

Thursday, June 4, 2020
10:00 – 11:30 am PDT

Professions evolve. Over time – they grow and meet the challenges of the times. This keynote will challenge social work to consider in what ways we (like law, medicine and journalism are doing) might evolve our profession to prepare for the dynamic changes that comprise our practice landscape in a COVID-19 and post COVID-19 era.

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Professions evolve. Over time – they grow and meet the challenges of the times. This keynote will challenge social work to consider in what ways we (like law, medicine and journalism are doing) might evolve our profession to prepare for the dynamic changes that comprise our practice landscape in a covid-19 and post covid-19 era. Considering how the future of health justice will intersect with a variety of other drivers and multipliers – the ecosystem of social work practice will continue to transform with exponential speed. Technology, climate change, political and economic complexities will continue to play huge roles in shaping future directions of the world. How should and might social work use its unique voice and sensibility to influence and participate in global evolution? How might our education and regulatory frameworks best prepare a workforce to create impact in new ways? This webinar will propose an emerging social work specific framework for futures practice to ignite the moral and sociological imagination of workers. This will include new roles, new tools, new ways of working within and across our disciplinary boundaries. The webinar will include intersections with “the future of…” various aspects of modern life and their intersection with the classic “human behavior in the social environment,” (e.g. the future of food, the future of government, the future of the economy, the future of cities, the future of technology, and the future of equity to name a few). What can futures thinking do to strengthen, stretch and advance social work – and how can social work contribute to the global community of futures practice? A new national initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – the Social Work Education Health Futures Lab – will be introduced as a first-of-its-kind space to explore and create new possibilities for the profession. The future calls us to evolve faster – come join the conversation and get involved.

This webinar is the third of a 3-part series on futures thinking for social work.

Futures Series Special Offer

Earn a “Futurist in Training” Digital Badge when you attend all 3 webinars!

For $60.00, “Futurist in Training” credentials will be issued to individuals who attend all 3 futures webinars on May 21st, May 28th, and June 4th. Digital Badges will be awarded upon attendance verification and payment received.

Interested in receiving a digital badge? Complete the interest form below:

Keynote Presenter

Laura Burney Nissen, Ph.D., LMSW, CADC III

Professor and Presidential Futures Fellow
Portland State University | School of Social Work

Former Dean and Professor Laura Burney Nissen has been a member of the PSU/School of Social Work community since 2000. She is currently the first inaugural Presidential Futures Fellow at Portland State. She began her tenure at PSU in a leadership role with the national Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative Reclaiming Futures (still operating in the Regional Research Institute in the SSW). This is a national initiative focusing on bringing substance abuse intervention systems of care, equity and opportunity to substance-involved youth in the juvenile justice system. Laura has just been awarded a 2-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to launch a national Social Work Education Health Futures Lab to explore the power of futures thinking to today and tomorrow’s social work profession.

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Former Dean and Professor Laura Burney Nissen has been a member of the PSU/School of Social Work community since 2000. She is currently the first inaugural Presidential Futures Fellow at Portland State. She began her tenure at PSU in a leadership role with the national Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative Reclaiming Futures (still operating in the Regional Research Institute in the SSW). This is a national initiative focusing on bringing substance abuse intervention systems of care, equity and opportunity to substance-involved youth in the juvenile justice system. Laura has just been awarded a 2-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to launch a national Social Work Education Health Futures Lab to explore the power of futures thinking to today and tomorrow’s social work profession.

With a long-term commitment to innovative systems change (her research portfolio includes a focus creativity and innovation in macro level social work systems change), Laura has worked with futures practice and lenses throughout her career. She credits a futures lens with the extended and continuous success of the Reclaiming Futures initiative and its ability to energize and provide architecture to a complex and interdisciplinary juvenile justice reform effort extending beyond a decade beyond its original “demonstration” phase. She has brought futures thinking into the School of Social Work in the form of a first strategic plan at the school in its 55 year history. She is in the a foresight practitioner and a Research Fellow with the Institute for the Future, and has spoken on futures thinking in social work and social change at the National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work, and in numerous social work education, and community spaces.

Laura remains active in the addictions policy arena as a member of the Oregon Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Policy, and in addition to futures study is actively engaged in research on the intersection of the arts and social change. She is also a calligrapher/bookbinder and a lover of waterfalls – and lives with her husband in the Columbia River Gorge outside Portland.

Social Work Futures

We are Living in the Future – Covid-19 Edition – Resources for Social Workers

We have long known how vulnerable too many people, families, and institutions are. And in good faith, we’ve done our best to make things better as best we could. Now we enter a new chapter. And our social work capacity will grow and change in ways we can’t yet predict.

Social Work Futures Blog

Exploring how social workers can increase their impact through futures frameworks.

All content developed by Laura Burney Nissen.

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Share your thoughts about the role and responsibility of social work in the future by using #SWcovid19 and #SocialWorkersLead on Twitter.