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Boston College School of Social Work
Center for Social Innovation


Exploratory Technology Grant Awarded: Expanding New Horizons for Social Work Practice

JANUARY 13, 2015

The Center for Social Innovation (CSI) at Boston College School of Social Work is excited to announce we have received funds to support the use of technology on our upcoming student trip to Santiago, Chile. This summer CSI Co-Director, Dr. Stephanie Berzin and Assistant Director, Humberto Camarena will lead a group of social work students to Chile to participate in a cross-cultural course experience. The Exploratory Technology Grant (ETG) has provided the funding to purchase cutting edge technological tools for participating students to utilize in their field work while in Chile.

The course is called Community Development for Innovation: The Chilean Context and will be a joint class offered in conjunction with Pontifica Universidad Católica de Chile, considered a premier school in Latin America. Students will have the opportunity not only to travel to Santiago, Chile but also to learn and implement cross-cultural strategies for promoting community development in innovation.

The field of social work is not typically known for utilizing technology as a tool for their work, yet changing times calls for innovation beyond the current integration of technology. While use of new technology such as apps, GIS mapping and iPads have been around in other fields for quite some time, these methods are only beginning to immerge in the practice of social work.

“Integrating technology to collect community assessment information is quite innovative and imperative in macro social work,” notes Camarena, “This course will not only provide teaching on the use of technology to support community engagement and collaboration, but it will also provide a context in which students will be confident in their ability to put these tools into practice.”

Prior to the trip, students will be introduced to areas of technology such as gamification, utilizing social media as an advocacy tool, mobile technology, and Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping in order to then utilize some of these techniques for their projects. In addition, they will be able to utilize the iPads for photography, maps, figures, and recordings to enhance their data collection and documentation process for both their research and presentations with local nonprofits in Santiago. As technology continuously evolves and adapts to society’s needs, it becomes a tool that can be harnesses in various social work settings.

For students on this trip, implementing a technology-based approach will enrich both the data collected and the resulting projects, as strengthening communication between social worker and the community will foster a more culturally- informed project outcome. “Through this grant and course,” says Dr. Berzin, “we will be able to better prepare our students with practical skills for working in the field while also expanding our own understanding of how technology can be leveraged in social work practice.”