Professor Marsha Martin
Hunter College School of Social Work, New York, N.Y.
Isn't it time for both researchers and practitioners to give up their customary way of doing things and seek out and search again for new ways of knowing and doing. The title of this conference is research practice, not what one or the other can, should or might do, but what both together can do to frame and reframe each other's tasks and each other's questions. As Dr. Meyer stated, the central thrust of social work is to engage people with their social problems and to discover kno wledge. Practitioners are very engaging, we know this.
Yet they can be limited in the areas of asking questions or defining problems. At the risk of offending some of my colleagues, researchers have been great at asking questions, so-so on defining problems and a little questionable in the engagement area. With that said, perhaps we could agree to bury the hatchet and mend some fences along the way. So we as researchers and practitioners know enough about the areas Dr. Meyer has identified? Teenage pregnancy, severe mental illness, substance abuse and othe r chemical dependencies, living with AIDS, family violence, childhood abuse and neglect, and in the area I'm most interested, homeless?
We do know some things about human and organizational behavior. We do know some things about systems and effecting change. We even know some things about the average, expectable environment in which we and our clients live. The question is, can we use this information to assist us in asking questions about out clients and their needs? Can we use our knowledge and our theoretical perspectives to document what is missing? What is not quite right, where our services went askew and where our approaches and interventive strategies perhaps may have been right on the mark? We should not expect to find all the answers, but perhaps by adding theoretical perspectives to our research and our practice agendas, we can find the questions.
Dr. Meyer does offer us one solution. To think globally and act locally. To think big and do small.