22 August 2013

Exciting “discovery” of historical documents


In 2013 IFSW started a project to make the Federation’s archives accessible to all social workers and researchers around the world. The archives contain information dating back to 1928 when the predecessor to IFSW was launched in Paris, France.

Many of the archival documents record fascinating information on social workers working beyond national boarders to address global issues relating to the depression of the early 1930s, equality for women and the problems of homelessness and widespread poverty.

There is a gap in the records during World War II and then in the mid 1940s the records show that social workers started to work together across countries responding to the post-war crises such as mass migration and displacement.

The records also reveal the early aims, objectives and principles of the movement for an international social work organization, including the first known definitions of international social work and a strong emphasis on Industrialization and Social Work in the post-war years.

IFSW is committed to sharing this information to all social workers and researchers. We hope it will inform the substantial and important roots of the profession. The Federation acknowledges the work of the IFSW Archivist Fiona Robertson who volunteered to lead this project with support from the IFSW Publications Officer Nigel Hall, the Secretary-General Dr Rory Truell. This work has only been possible thanks to the financial support from the IFSW Friends fund.

All archival material is now being preserved for future generations and we will continue to load scanned copies onto this website as resources allow. We are delighted to now release a full set of newsletter spanning 40 years from 1962 – 2002 and the beginnings of grouping key documents by decade.

To set a context to the documents we also republish a brief history of IFSW written in 1999 by former Secretary-General Tom Johannesen.

IFSW Archival Documents 1940s

IFSW Archival Documents 1950s

IFSW Archival Documents 1960s

IFSW Newsletters 1962 – 2002

IFSW History Prior to 1932

Update July 2014

The IFSW Archives Project reports back to the IFSW membership attending the IFSW General Meeting and to global social workers attending the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development Conference in Melbourne 2014.

Link to power point 

IFSW is committed to sharing their archives information to its members, social workers and researchers. The material held in the archives and key documents which have been digitalised inform the substantive history and important foundations of the profession of social work. IFSW Archivist Fiona Robertson and Nigel Hall, former IFSW Publications Officer, supported by IFSW Secretary-General Dr Rory Truell and IFSW Ambassador Sue Dworak-Peck, reported on the work to date. The presentation focused on the period 1928 to 1956. In 1928 the First International Conference of Social Work was held in Paris. This Conference provided the foundation to the setting up of the International Permanent Secretariat of Social Workers, which was the underpinning for the setting up of the modern IFSW in 1956. Further work is required on the paper conservation, sorting of the papers and digitalisation of key papers from 1956 until the current electronic age of IFSW.

The Archives Project has generated much interest and this work has only been possible thanks to the financial support of the IFSW Friends fund.

Fiona Robertson states that “preserving the past and current records of IFSW is an honouring of the social work profession and our institutional identity. The task of preservation of our history is also about our human rights and human dignity as a profession. Our history cannot be given away nor can it be taken away but we need to ensure it is kept for the next generations of social workers”

Update August 2014

The Norwegian Union of Social Educators and Social Workers provided information on this article  found in the IFSW Archives and dated 1928:

The article is from the Norwegian Child Care Journal and reports on a one year social work education course concerning the students who started the course in 1927. The course was established by a women’s NGO called the Norwegian Women’s National Board. The course included the subjects which are still part of social work education wherever it is taught – practice and theory, as well as participation in field work. The article also reports on the students who went on to Germany for further studies.

Update April 2015

IFSW Global Definition of Social Work

Social Work has been continuous in its review and renewal of the global definition of social work and at the IFSW General Meeting in Melbourne in July 2014 a new definition of global social work was adopted.

Archivist Fiona Robertson states the IFSW Archives provides a rich history on the definitions and the understanding of social work in a changing world from the 1880’s . The definition of the 1950’s can be viewed in a key 1959 dated document stored in the IFSW archives. The report of the International StudyGroup on the function and working methods of the Personnel Social Worker which provides the following definition

“Social work is a systematic way of helping individuals and groups towards better adaptation to society. The social worker will work together with clients to develop their inner resources and he will mobilise if necessary, outside facilities for assistance to bring about changes in the environment. Thus, social work contributes towards greater harmony in society. As in other professions social work in based on specialised knowledge, certain principles and skills.”

Fiona asks what is structurally different in the 2014 definition?

“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work.  Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing” (2014).

The report of the StudyGroup which included IFSW, United Nations and included observers form International Labour Office and European Economic Community provides an 18 page mini text book of (“personnel”) social work in those countries where it started some 60 to 25 years previous to 1950 and the understanding of the 1950’s. With the construct of 2015 social work this makes fascinating recommended reading.