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British Journal of Social Work (2009) 39, 368–382

doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcm114 Advance Access publication September 20, 2007

Publishing Voice: Training Social Workers in Policy Practice
Idit Weiss-Gal and Einat Peled
Idit Weiss-Gal and Einat Peled are senior lecturers at the Bob Shapell School of Social Work at Tel Aviv University. Correspondence to Idit Weiss-Gal, Ph.D., Bob Shapell School of Social Work, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel. E-mail:

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To promote social justice, social workers are required, among other things, to engage in policy practice. The project at the center of this article aimed to improve the ability of social workers to use the mass media as an accessible method of policy practice. The project was conducted as part of an MSW course in Tel Aviv University. During the course, most of its participants succeeded in publishing op-ed articles on a variety of social topics, in the national or local press, in professional periodicals, and on radio and television. A retrospective evaluation of the project indicated an increase in participant’s feeling of personal and professional empowerment, as well in their sense of being capable of promoting social issues through the media following the project. Participants also reported that the project facilitated the identification, appreciation and expression of their unique professional voice. Drawing on this experience, a number of general principles are put forward for implementation in similar projects. Keywords: social justice, policy-practice, mass media, op-eds

The promotion of social justice is a major goal of the social work profession (International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), 2000; Craig, 2002; Dominelli, 2004; Hare, 2004; Marsh, 2005). Although definitions of social justice may vary (Reisch, 2002), there is general agreement that in a society in which social justice prevails, individuals are perceived as being of value and worthy of respect, and enjoy equal access to the services, rights, resources and opportunities necessary to enjoy a reasonable standard of living and to reach self-fulfillment.

© The Author 2007. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved.

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To promote social justice, social workers are expected, among other things, to engage in policy practice, defined as ‘efforts to change policies in legislative, agency and community settings whether by establishing new policies, improving existing ones or defeating the policy initiatives of other people’ (Jansson, 2003, p. 10). Policy practice is a wide-ranging pursuit which includes legislative advocacy, reform through litigation, social action, social policy analysis, disseminating information and monitoring the bureaucracy (Figueira-McDonough, 1993; Haynes and Mickelson, 2003). Both social work organizations (IFSW, 2000; Council on Social Work Education, 2004) and social work codes of ethics in various countries (Israel Association of Social Workers, 1994; British Association of Social Workers, 1996; (US) National Association of Social Workers, 1999) define policy practice activities as a key component of social work. Social workers are called to work towards changing or modifying social policies at the national, regional, local or organizational level, and to integrate policy practice strategies into their daily practice (e.g. Halter, 1994; Gray, 1996; Mazibuko, 1996; Domanski, 1998; Poindexter, 1999; Schneider and Netting, 1999; Stuart, 1999; Sherraden et al. 2002; Dominelli, 2004). Research reveals variations among countries in the implementation of policy practice by social workers. In Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, between around half and two-thirds of the social workers surveyed reported having participated in lobbying for professional interest groups, and even higher percentages reported having worked with others to resolve government policy problems (Gray and Collett van Rooyen, 2000; Gray et al., 2002). Similarly, in Canada, around two-thirds of the social workers studied had engaged in at least one of several types of lobbying activities, about half had participated in a demonstration protesting a government policy, and almost half had participated in a hearing or inquiry on a policy matter (Dudziak and Coates, 2004). Studies elsewhere, however, reveal lower levels of policy practice. A study undertaken in Hong Kong (Chui and Gray, 2004) found that only around a fifth had engaged in lobbying and under 40 per cent in advocacy. Studies conducted in the USA and Israel show that social workers were least engaged in policy practice of all social work activities, though they generally view policy practice as a desired and important professional activity (Gibelman and Schervish, 1993; Teare and Sheafor, 1995; Koeske et al., 2005; Weiss-Gal, in press).

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The media as an instrument of policy practice
One avenue of involvement in policy practice is through the use of the mass media to shape the knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours of large and varied audiences, thus influencing public opinion and policy makers (Brawley, 1997; Brawley and Martinez-Brawley, 1999). The media were found to play a major role in setting the public agenda on social issues and shaping the way

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social problems are defined and understood by both the public and policy makers (Brown, 1985; Alger, 1989). Social workers are encouraged to utilize this powerful tool to advance adequate social response to social problems and marginalized population groups, and to develop the professional skills required for impacting policy through the media (Brawley, 1997; Brawley and MartinezBrawley, 1999; Rocha and Johnson, 1997; Lens and Gibelman, 2000; Gray et al., 2002; Haynes and Mickelson, 2003; Jansson, 2003). Writing and sending op-eds to newspapers and radio and television stations is a key strategy for harnessing the power of the mass media (Stoesz, 1993; Rocha and Johnson, 1997; Brawley and Martinez-Brawley, 1999; Haynes and Mickelson, 2003; Jansson, 2003). Op-eds are a powerful and cost-effective way of getting one’s message out, providing information and shaping opinions (Haynes and Mickelson, 2003). They enable immediate responses to community problems, the time between their submission and publication is short, and their coverage is as extensive as the circulation of the newspaper. Despite these advantages, the op-ed is a much neglected policy practice vehicle for social workers (Stoesz, 1993). This paper describes and assesses an educational project (the ‘Media Project’) designed to encourage and train social workers to use op-eds as a policy practice tool. This particular policy practice strategy was chosen both for its effectiveness in increasing awareness of social problems and in influencing social policy, and for its potential to empower the social workers who use it. The impetus for the project emerged in the wake of the failure of social workers in Israel to have a marked impact on social policy during a period of major retrenchment of the welfare state. In Israel, as elsewhere, recent decades have seen increasing cuts in social provision in the wake of the individualistic and capitalistic ideological attack on the welfare state that began in the late 1970s to early 1980s and increased in the 2000s (Doron, 2003; Kop, 2006). Among those particularly hard hit were persons living in poverty, singleparent families and the unemployed. Budgets for personal social services were also cut radically. At the same time, the recipients of social benefits and services came under unprecedented attack for supposedly not doing enough for themselves and exploiting the system. As a result, socio-economic deprivation and the social problems that ensue from it increased (Achdut, 2006), as did the number of persons who sought assistance from the shrinking social services. Despite some organized lobbying and protests, Israel’s social workers rarely made their voices heard during this period. This is not surprising, given the fact that policy practice is not a major focus of social work education at either the BSW or MSW level in Israel (Gal and Weiss, 2000) and that social workers tend to feel that they are likely to have very limited impact on policy, regardless of their efforts (Knei-Paz, 2005). The media project sought to provide social workers with an initial opportunity to acquire skills and the professional self-confidence to enable them to engage in one type of policy practice activity.

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Project description
The ‘Media Project’ was carried out as part of a semester-long MSW course on ‘Gender and Social Policy’ at Tel-Aviv University. In Israel, the BSW is the entrance-level degree for work in the field, while an MSW offers advanced learning for experienced social workers. Incorporating the project into an existing MSW course was in line with the principle of previous recommendations that it will also be effective to incorporate the use of the media into existing social work courses by class projects, assignments or exercises (Brawley, 1997). The project was based on three principles. The first is that policy intervention training is important for all social work students, not only those who go on to practice at a macro level (Saulnier, 2000; Zubrzycki and McArthur, 2004). The second and related principle is that policy practice should be taught as an integral part of social work practice in all areas, integrating micro and macro practice and encouraging intervention at multiple levels (Fisher, 1995; Abramovitz, 1998; Gibbons and Gray, 2005; Wyers, 1991). The third principle is variously termed ‘active learning’, ‘experiential learning’ and ‘hands on learning’, the assumption being that students who engage in policy intervention while at school will be more likely to employ them as independent professionals (Hoefer, 1999; Raber and Richter, 1999; Rocha, 2000; Saulnier, 2000; Moore and Johnston, 2002; Burgess and Young, 2005; Cree, 2005; Gibbons and Gray, 2005; Young and Burgess, 2005; Weiss et al., 2006). Indeed, evaluations of diverse active teaching strategies of policy practice report that participants have more favourable attitudes towards policy practice, increased confidence in their ability to carry it out (e.g. Huber and Orlando, 1993; Powell and Causby, 1994; Raber and Richter, 1999; Keller et al., 2001; Zubrzycki and McArthur, 2004) and subsequently engage more in this type of practice (Butler and Coleman, 1997; Rocha, 2000; Saulnier, 2000; Fisher et al., 2001).

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The immediate aim of the project was to bring the participants to publish op-ed articles on social problems of their choosing, so as to bring these problems, and the relevant social policies, to the awareness of policy makers and the general public. Other aims were to:

• • • •

increase awareness of the media as an important channel for policy practice; enhance perceived competency in using the media to advance social change; increase awareness of the unique contribution that social workers can make to the policy-formulation process; and encourage the participants to use the media as a part of their day-to-day social work practice.

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Twenty-six women attended the course—all social workers in their first or second year of the MSW programme. They ranged in age from twenty-eight to fifty-four (M = 33). Most (72 per cent) were married with children, the remainder married without children (14 per cent) or unmarried (14 per cent). Their professional experience ranged from three to twenty years (M = 9.5). All but three were employed as social workers while studying. Of these, 44 per cent worked in municipal social services; 39 per cent in the state sector (e.g. adult or youth probation services, psychiatric hospitals, services for homeless youth); and the remainder (17 per cent) in the private or voluntary sector (e.g. hostel for people with mental disabilities, residential care services). Most were involved in direct practice; three were community social workers. All but one had no experience using the media in their professional capacity.

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During the first lesson, the students were offered the option of writing an op-ed article for the daily press or speaking on radio or television on a social topic of their choice. As an incentive, acceptance of an article for publication or for a broadcast appearance qualified as the equivalent of the course’s final paper. Several themes were repeatedly emphasized to the participants throughout the course. One was that publication is a ‘professional challenge’, that influencing public opinion and policy makers helps to bring about social change, and that it is an important component in the professional work of all social workers, whether they engage in direct intervention, community work or management. Another theme was that social workers have a professional responsibility to share their distinctive point of view and knowledge with policy makers and the public, and to raise policy makers’ awareness of the hardships of their underprivileged clients and the repercussions of policy on their lives (Dominelli, 2004). A third theme was that their publications can, and should, be grounded in both empirical research and professional knowledge. The participants were encouraged to regard themselves as experts in their fields and reminded that their professional experiences—what they hear and see in their work—are an important and valid source of knowledge. Constant repetition of these messages was necessary to counter the doubts of many participants about their chances of getting their articles published (‘Who am I for anyone to want to hear what I say?’). The last theme was that the writing was not only an individual project, but could be a shared one. The participants were encouraged to consult with colleagues and with service users in writing their articles, and to let their supervisors and colleagues at work know what they were writing. As to the choice of the article’s topic, the participants were steered to identify social issues from cases that they encountered in their day-to-day work. For example, a disabled person who is denied a service because she is unable to

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climb the office stairs could serve as the starting point for an article on the accessibility of public buildings. Although the participants had no difficulty in identifying social issues, they did find it difficult to realize that these were important and of interest to the public. They needed the lecturer to endorse the validity of their choices. They also needed evidence to counter their concern that the opinions of social workers would have little chance of being published. Thus, the lecturer cited—and showed—the publications social workers in a similar project carried out the year before. Far more electrifying proof came when a social worker in the class published her first op-ed article in the second week of the course. To further support their writings, the lecturer read and commented on all the drafts on which the writers wanted feedback. The commentary included advice on content and style, as well as suggestions for further points that might be made. The participants were also encouraged to seek feedback from their peers. At the same time, the participants were assured that their submissions did not require the lecturer’s approval. To enable rapid responses, which did not require waiting for the next class, the exchanges with the lecturer were conducted by email and those with other students on the course website. The participants also received technical and emotional support. On the basis of recommendations in the literature (Brawley and Martinez-Brawley, 1999), they were encouraged to compile a ‘media list’, with the names, email addresses and telephone numbers of daily newspapers, professional journals and radio and television programmes that deal with social issues. In addition, they were advised to expect section editors to approach them with questions and requests for clarifications or corrections, which happened on a number of occasions. They were also advised to procure the necessary approvals for publication from their places of work. With the exception of one participant, whose superiors refused to grant permission due to organizational politics, all the social workers received encouragement and support by their places of work for their publishing efforts. Finally, they were warned that they might receive hurtful responses to their submissions, especially in talk-back comments on the online versions of their articles. From the second-week course onwards, each class began with a ‘weekly update’. Participants reported on their writing and publishing efforts, and efforts were made to extract what could be learned from them. Those whose submissions had been rejected received sympathy and encouragement, and were advised to try other channels or to write a new article on another topic (see a similar recommendation in Stoesz, 1993). Another important aspect of the ‘weekly update’ was processing the emotions accompanying the experiences—the joy of publication, the disappointment of rejection—which the participants felt very keenly. The lecturer legitimized negative emotions, by sharing how she felt when her own articles were rejected and encouraging the students to view the rejections as an expected and normal part of the publication process, and not as a personal or professional failure. The joy, excitement and sense of personal power that were felt following acceptance of an article were also given room and served to reinforce those whose work had not yet been published.

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Considerable reinforcement was provided for successful publication. For each published article, the lecturer sent a congratulatory email to the writer, commending her success, as well as separate emails to the other participants in the project and to the entire Social Work faculty to let them know about the article. In addition, as it appeared, each published article was pinned up on a large notice board in the school corridor, entitled ‘Students and Social Workers Raising Social Awareness’. Moreover, for each publication, a short celebration was held in class, with the writer providing refreshments. Last but not least, each published author was urged to try her hand at yet more topics.

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Thirty-seven pieces, authored by twenty-two of the twenty-six (85 per cent) social workers taking part in the course, were published or accepted for publication during the five months of the course in one or more of the following media outlets: daily press, online news sites, professional social work periodicals, and radio and television programmes. Eight of the course participants published more than one article, each on a different topic; four published similar pieces in various places. Op-ed articles were typically up to 800 words long (as is generally the case in Israeli newspapers and periodicals). Radio appearances included two interviews of fifteen minutes each, as well as a short bulletin in which the social worker read out her op-ed piece. Another item was broadcast in a television news programme. In two instances (one on radio, one on television), service users also participated and, in another one, the social worker had consulted with service users in the course of writing her article. The distribution of the publications reveals that most op-ed pieces appeared in Haaretz, a leading Israeli broadsheet daily, where publication carries some prestige. Two pieces appeared in Yediot Aharonot and Maariv, which boast the largest readerships. The remaining items were published in niche outlets: a free paper distributed at train stations, public spaces and major road junctions (Yisraeli); a daily newspaper aimed at the orthodox Jewish community (Makor Rishon); Society and Welfare, the chief Israeli academic journal on social work issues; and an Israel Association of Social Workers’ magazine, Meidaos. Two items appeared on major Israeli online news sites; three featured in national radio programmes dealing with social issues; one made it to television. Most of the articles dealt with issues directly related to their author’s work. A few expressed the writer’s personal-social critique of various phenomena encountered in their daily lives. The subject matter of the articles encompassed a variety of social groups: the elderly, children and youth at risk, people with physical or mental disabilities, women victims of violence, Arab women and teenage girls, and men and women living in poverty. The contents fell into four main categories:

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Identifying and alerting readers to social problems, such as juvenile prostitution, access to public buildings for people with disabilities or difficulties facing Arab women who choose to wear a veil. Identifying deficiencies in existing social policy, including the failure to provide for the needs of single mothers in welfare-to-work programmes, the insufficiency of general disability benefits in enabling disabled people to enjoy a reasonable standard of living, and the lack of treatment facilities for youth at risk once they reach age eighteen. Publicizing successful welfare initiatives, such as one fostering entrepreneurship among unemployed women in the community, or a public awareness campaign on available social benefits.
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Alerting the public to consumer manipulation, such as selling fattening snacks by including popular children toys in the packages, or advertising women’s clothing that encourage dangerously thin figures.

In composition and structure, most of the articles featured elements identified in the literature as crucial to successful op-ed articles (Stoesz, 1993; Jansson, 2003): focused writing, use of anecdotal evidence to illustrate the problem, a clear, ‘punchy’ style, the use of eye-catching headlines, and posing alternatives on how to deal with the problem(s) discussed.

Participants’ feedback
At the end of the course, the participants were asked to fill out a self-report questionnaire containing seven closed statements and four open questions in their spare time and to return it to the mailbox of the second author. On the whole, the responses revealed that the participants perceived the Media Project as very effective. The seven statements tapped the participants’ views on the extent to which the project achieved its aims. Participants were asked to indicate their agreement with each statement on a Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (‘very little’) to 5 (‘very much’). Twenty-one participants (81 per cent) completed the questionnaire. The findings are presented in Table 1. As can be seen in Table 1, the participants gave the course rather high grades. They believed that the course considerably enhanced their ability to publish op-ed articles in the daily press and to use the media in their professional work in the future. They reported that the course greatly increased the importance that they attributed to social workers raising public awareness and their desire to use the media in their professional work in the future. They came strongly to believe that social workers’ use of the media helps to promote social justice and that social workers should use the media to this end. Finally, they felt that the course improved their sense of professional expertise.

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Table 1 Participants’ retrospective project evaluation: means and standard deviations (N = 21) Item (abridged) 1. The Media Project (MP) enhanced my ability to publish op-ed articles in the daily press 2. MP increased the importance I attribute to the role of raising social awareness within social work 3. MP increased my desire to use the media in my professional work in future 4. MP enhanced my ability to use the media in my professional work in future 5. MP increased my sense of expertise as a social worker 6. The use of the media by social workers helps promote social issues 7. Social workers should use the media to promote social issues M 4.04 4.22 3.95 3.95 3.66 4.40 4.42 SD 0.74 1.16 0.86 0.67 0.98 1.37 0.76

With respect to the open questions, the first was: What might be reasons for continuing to run the Media Project in the social work programme? Two types of reasons were given: the first referred to its positive outcomes for the profession. Respondents wrote that publications enhanced the standing of social workers in the eyes of the public and that the course rendered the media more accessible and relevant for their interventions as social workers and enhanced their professional skills and knowledge as they learned the art of publication. The second, somewhat unexpected, category of explanations, referred to the project’s personal impact. Here, they wrote that the project helped to raise their self-confidence and ability to deal with challenges and gave them a sense of power and empowerment: ‘Realising that people are interested in what we have to say is tremendously empowering.’ The word ‘voice’ also cropped up repeatedly, in the context of how the project proved to be an effective outlet for their personal and professional views:
The project provides a platform and voice to social workers who are usually reserved and don’t express their important views in public. It was important for me to voice my opinion and even release a pent-up scream.

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The second question was: What reasons are there for not continuing the Media Project in the social work programme? Although all the participants wrote that the project must not be terminated, they noted several problems. One was that the Media Project pushed other topics that were to be taught in the course programme to the sidelines, and some were not adequately dealt with. Another was the stress and frustration felt by those who did not want to publish, or failed in their attempt to do so: ‘Maybe those who did not get to publish their work [felt they] do not quite fit in.’ Finally, one participant expressed scepticism as to the degree to which the published pieces would influence the public or policy makers. The third question was: What factors during the various work stages, in and outside of class, contributed to successful publication? Two main factors were cited. The first concerned aspects directly related to the course: the lecturer, the other participants, the camaraderie that emerged in class, and the study material. There was general agreement that the lecturer was instrumental in

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the successful publication of their work, through her personal coaching, availability for consultation and provision of rapid feedback. Her enthusiasm was also mentioned as a significant contributing factor, as was the encouragement that she provided, such as:
[She] managed to get us excited, gave us positive reinforcement and infected us with her enthusiasm. The lecturer was encouraging, supportive and believed in every one of us— and that helped us believe in ourselves.

Another favourable factor cited was the time devoted to the project in each class, which helped to create a warm and supportive bond among the social workers and provided both psychological and instrumental help in getting published. The publication of one participant’s article early on in the course created, in the words of the respondents, ‘an atmosphere of success’ and ‘a sense of victory’, which boosted their motivation and confidence. Two participants cited the competitive atmosphere in the class as another factor that spurred them on and helped them to achieve their goal. Other favourable factors cited were the connection of the project to the course material through the emphasis on a critical examination of social issues, and the usefulness of the media list compiled by the participants during the project. The second group of factors was personal. Some respondents wrote of their personal involvement in the topic that they wrote about, their profound knowledge of it and/or their belief in its importance as the decisive element: ‘I felt that the subject I was writing about was inextricably linked to every fibre in my body!’ Others referred to personal traits such as confidence, determination, openness to challenges, daring or a fervent desire to let their views on the subject of their choice be known. Some acknowledged the support that they received from colleagues at work and from family members. Finally, several respondents confessed that knowing that publication would exempt them from writing the final course paper provided their initial motivation. The fourth question was: What factors, in and outside of class, impeded publication? Very little was written about impediments to publication. Those that were mentioned were typically regulations or restrictions placed upon the writer at their place of work. At the end of the questionnaire, the respondents were asked to say anything that they wished. Their comments expressed great satisfaction with the project:
Marvelous project! Important! Relevant! This is how one changes things. An innovative project, very powerful, exhilarating and addictive. In my opinion the project was very successful and gave the [M.A.] course a special purpose.

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Some took this opportunity to restate their impression that the project strengthened their sense of power and ability to influence matters:

378 Idit Weiss-Gal and Einat Peled It’s a marvelous experience to know that we have the ability to influence things on a macro level, and perhaps to contribute to some kind of social change. The moment my article was published I became filled with confidence, pride [and] joy which lasted for a very long time.

The project’s intended goals—to promote publication in the media and a greater proficiency in using the media as a professional tool—were obviously attained. Like other projects in policy practice involving active learning (Powell and Causby, 1994; Butler and Coleman, 1997; Raber and Richter, 1999), this project appears to have enhanced the participants’ sense of power and voice. This is important because many social workers feel that they are powerless and voiceless and unable to affect social realities (Fook, 2002; Knei-Paz, 2005)—an impression occasionally echoed by some of their service users. Before the project, the participants characterized their professional voices as ‘quiet’, ‘private’ or even ‘oppressed’—an echo of their initial impression that no one is interested in hearing what they have to say, that they are not ‘important’ or ‘experts’, that no one is interested in social issues, and that it is unwise to voice criticism out loud. This professional voice underwent a transformation in the Media Project into one that is important, unique and may be heard in the public domain. It appears that this change came about as a result of the participants’ learning to construct their professional expertise. They learned to view themselves not only as deliverers of social services, but also as persons with unique expertise. They came to realize that their daily work gives them a close-up view both of the social problems and hardships that stem from deficient social policies and of the positive effects of suitable policies. They came to appreciate that they can and must bring their unique knowledge to the awareness of the public and of policy makers (Wyers, 1991). A number of practical pointers can be adduced from the success of the project and the participants’ feedback: 1 A media project of the kind described above does not necessarily require a separate course dedicated to policy practice or to using the media (Brawley, 1997). Our experience suggests that it is perfectly possible to incorporate such a project in a variety of courses in an existing social work curriculum. Especially suitable might be courses in social policy, social problems and critical thinking, and any course that promotes the expression of students’ critical voices. Our experience suggests that most social workers who are inexperienced with publication need practical help at various stages of the process, from the initial idea for an article and its conceptualization to dealing with the

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aftermath of publication. Apart from written aids (e.g. guidelines for correct writing, lists of publication contacts), the lecturer must provide continuous personal and professional guidance—on the choice of topic and title; on the article’s structure, argumentation and style; on the need to back up ideas and suggestions with data, research studies and first-hand professional knowledge. Feedback from peers can also be very useful. 3 The course leader’s emotional support is also important, especially at three distinct junctures of the process. At the beginning, it is important to provide emotional support to raise the students’ confidence in their ability to write and their belief in the importance and interest of what they have to say. Later on, emotional support is needed to help them to cope with the frustrations and disappointment when a submission is rejected. After publication, some may need emotional support in coping with negative feedback from readers. The members of the class also hold much potential, as both a study group and a support group. Fostering constructive and supportive working relationships among the members of the class will reduce their dependency on the lecturer, enrich the work process and its outcomes with a variety of viewpoints, and add a rewarding and enjoyable social dimension to the publication process. For example, classmates can send drafts to each other and comment on each others’ drafts, work in pairs on articles, and celebrate successes together. From the description in this paper, it is clear that the Media Project took a great deal of time. To incorporate such a project into an existing course, the lecturer must be prepared to cut into the course content or, alternatively, to add to the class time or number of sessions. Both to underscore the importance of utilizing the media to promote policy change and to provide immediate feedback, it is important to publicize the social workers’ published pieces and media appearances among other students and the members of the faculty.

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One final point: the endeavours described above do not come in place of empowering service users to write and publish in the media. This, however, seems very difficult to do in a course for professionals who have never written for or spoken in the media before. In the project described above, the participants were encouraged to consult with service users, but few did. Our impression is that this was very difficult for them to do while they were still struggling with their own uncertainties and insecurities in writing for the media. In fact, the course instructor herself had to publish several op-eds in a leading paper before she could even conceive of teaching others to do so. For the future, thought might be given to how to overcome this hurdle and include service users in the social workers’ publication endeavours, whether as sources of information, partners in the writing or writers themselves. Accepted: August 2007

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