New book lays out social work’s agenda for 21st century

‘Toward a Livable Life’ has insights from more than 35 leading scholars

Including the insights of more than 35 leading social work scholars from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and beyond, a new book grapples with 13 key areas in the profession in an effort to identify innovative solutions toward achieving a “livable life — a life in which individuals are able to thrive and reach their full potential.”


“Given the challenges facing us in the 21st century, the field of social work has become increasingly relevant and important,” said Mark Rank, the Herbert S. Hadley Professor of Social Welfare and editor of “Toward a Livable Life: A 21st Century Agenda for Social Work,” published Jan. 2 by Oxford University Press.

“This book represents a historic point in the profession’s development,” Rank said. “It brings together for the first time the world class expertise of the Brown School faculty in order to tackle the key social, economic and environmental challenges in the future.”

Thirty-three faculty members from the Brown School contributed to the work, writing on topics including child abuse, substance abuse, health, gender, poverty and big data.

“The faculty at the Brown School represent the cutting edge of knowledge with regard to many of society’s most pressing issues,” Rank said. “They come from a wide array of disciplines and are trained in a variety of methodologies and frameworks that address issues such as poverty, inequality, health, child maltreatment, environmental justice, discrimination and aging.  As such, they are uniquely positioned to help guide the direction of the field in the decades to come.”

The goal of the profession of social work in the future, Rank said, will be to ensure that everyone is able to live a livable life.

“This refers to the idea that an individual is able to thrive and develop in a healthy manner across their lifetime in order to reach their full potential,” he said. “Unfortunately, many Americans, as well as people around the globe, have been unable to achieve such a life as a result of numerous obstacles and barriers.

“This book seeks to understand and suggest ways in which social policy can confront and alleviate these barriers,” Rank said. “It argues that by doing so, the overarching goal of a livable life for every child born today can become a reality in the future.”

In addition to Rank, the Brown School faculty who contributed are:
Wendy F. Auslander, Ana A. Baumann, Derek S. Brown, F. Brett Drake, Amy Eyler, Vanessa Fabbre, Patrick J. Fowler, Eleni Gaveras, Janelle Gibson, Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Jenine K. Harris, Darrell Hudson, Kim J. Johnson, Melissa Jonson-Reid, Shanti K. Khinduka, Patricia L. Kohl, Matthew W. Kreuter, Edward F. Lawlor, Carolyn Lesorogol, Gena Gunn McClenden, Mary M. McKay, Molly Metzger, Nancy Morrow-Howell, Sojung Park, David Patterson Silver Wolf, Rodrigo Reis, Stephen Roll, Barry Rosenberg, Anna Shabsin, Joseph Steensma, Rachel G. Tabak, and Vetta Sanders Thompson.
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