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Empowering Social Workers and Students: Embrace the Path of Innovation

  • 4 mins

What is Inspire?

A few months ago, I embarked on a journey of learning through an online course titled "Inspire," created by The Social Impact Lab and J5 Design. This course simplifies the double-diamond framework, enabling individuals to apply established design methods to real-world issues. While the double-diamond framework has been around since the British Design Council introduced it in 2005, it often feels confusing, especially if you're not familiar with design concepts. 


Fortunately, Inspire breaks it down into manageable steps, emphasizing that design principles are accessible to everyone. This is what made taking the course so refreshing and invaluable. Within the realm of social work, we often encounter human challenges stemming from broken systems. Our education equips us with theories like anti-oppressive, feminism, and cognitive theory to address these issues. This understanding of human interactions enables us to empathize with others' experiences and act as a buffer, much like a bumper in a car collision.


Just as cars have evolved to better absorb impacts and include safety features, social workers need improved tools to navigate their challenges. Many of us operate within constraints that ultimately affect both us and our clients negatively. Recognizing this, we're beginning to embrace the need for innovation.


The world of design theories, including the double-diamond framework, was a new frontier for me. My social work education leaned heavily towards clinical work and relationship-building. We become adept at using surveys and assessments, but often the systems we work within limit our potential. Sometimes, we accept these limitations and settle for less than ideal solutions. However, the current climate demands fresh approaches, and the double-diamond framework offers a promising avenue.


Is it Relevant? 

If you're a social worker, you might question the relevance of design principles in your field. You could worry that design thinking clashes with human-centered practice or social work theories. Rest assured, the creators of Inspire have seamlessly woven empathy and human-centered principles throughout the framework. Each step incorporates elements from systems theory, cognitive theory, and various perspectives that harmonize with the values of social work.


The versatility of the double-diamond method allows its application to problems of any scale. This inherent flexibility is the essence of its beauty—it adapts to a wide array of issues. Even seemingly straightforward challenges, such as improving an intake form, could benefit from this process. Solutions to the challenges you're currently grappling with may be unlocked through this design approach.


It's natural to be skeptical about ideas originating from fields outside our own. I was once in that position. However, a course like Inspire doesn't claim to provide immediate solutions. Rather, it seeks to broaden your perspective, encouraging you to generate and test ideas.


An Opportunity for Social Work Students

For social work students, Inspire bridges the gap between theory and action. It matters little whether your interests lie in direct client work or policy-making. Thoughtful design principles apply across all facets of social work. With a mindset primed for change, Inspire emerges as a guiding light.


Investing time in a course like Inspire won't detract from client interactions. Rather, it empowers you to create solutions that benefit both your organization and clients. Paradoxically, neglecting to explore design principles may result in a wastage of time for both you and your clients. Additionally, innovation has the potential to attract funding, meaning that waiting for financial support before engaging in creative endeavors might not be the optimal approach.


Social workers are the adhesive that holds our world together, investing vast amounts of energy. Redirecting some of this passion and energy towards design practices could propel us and our clients to even greater heights. If 'Inspire' sounds like it could help you address a problem you're facing, but you're not sure where to begin, The Social Impact Lab is here to support both you and your organization.

Featured Image Credit: The Social Impact Lab 

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