download University of Toronto Faculty of Social Work Academic Plan

Connecting Local Challenges
with National and Global Issues

Think globally. Act locally. Surely that’s exactly what social workers do today. With Canada’s increasingly diverse population, social workers must make the link between local challenges and global issues. Consider, for instance, the role of the family in different cultures – and how the presence or absence of extended family affects people in the Canadian context. A sound knowledge of underlying social structures must also inform our thinking. Using skills based on concepts of empowerment, community participation and social action, social workers can advocate for disenfranchised communities to build a more equitable society.

At the Faculty, our commitment to social justice means that we look for creative solutions to social problems at the local, national and international level. Many FIFSW research projects are interdisciplinary and involve universities and communities around the world. At last count, faculty members were involved in approximately 30 international collaborations with countries that include Australia, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. One inspiring example is the China Project. Headed by Professor A. Ka Tat Tsang, holder of the Factor-Inwentash Chair in Social Work in the Global Community, it’s a remarkable Canada-China collaboration that is promoting social work practice, education and research to address unique challenges faced by China. Significantly, it’s also helping Chinese newcomers to Canada. (For more on the China Project, see Changing lives in China and Canada on page 25.)

Building new and meaningful connections is an ongoing priority. So is bringing together researchers, students and social service agencies from around the world to exchange ideas and share best practices. It goes without saying that today’s information and communication technologies can help us cross geographic borders as never before and collaborate with others, no matter where they live. Today’s social workers need to know how to effectively use new technologies to advance social work goals and to create space for marginalized knowledge. We must also remain aware of the strength of knowledge that cannot be digitally packaged, including Indigenous knowledge.

In our teaching and research, we are also cognizant of the impact of globalization on people’s lives. With its multi-faceted economic, technological, psychological and cultural dimensions, globalization has profound and interrelated effects on individuals and communities.


  • Globalization is a powerful force that brings both benefits and challenges
  • The effect of new technologies (e.g., the Internet) on behaviours must be understood and addressed


© 2011 Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work