Race and Ethnicity in the Social Work Grand Challenges

Smitha Rao, Bongki Woo, Dale Dagar Maglalang, Melissa Bartholomew, Manuel Cano, Abril Harris, Ty B. Tucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Race, ethnicity, and racism (RER) are interconnected with the critical problems tackled in the Grand Challenges for Social Work (GCSW). Yet, the extent to which the GCSW discuss the central role of RER is less clear. This article investigates how the GCSW integrate RER in their discourse. Using content analysis, authors examined all 21 concept papers that comprise the 12 initial GCSW to determine their attention to RER. Authors assessed whether each paper made any reference to race or ethnicity, whether race or ethnicity was considered as a primary theme, and whether racism was mentioned. Nine GCSW had at least one paper that mentioned race or ethnicity; seven had at least one paper that treated race and ethnicity as a major construct. Five GCSW contained at least one paper that discussed racism's impacts on their topical interests. None of the papers analyzed in the study defined or specified their conceptualization of racism. The GCSW are strategically positioned to widen and deepen social work's focus on RER, and the recent adoption of the 13th GCSW to "Eliminate racism"is an important first step. Authors encourage the social work field to embrace a more explicit, renewed, and continued commitment to eradicating systemic racism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-17
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Work (United States)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • content analysis
  • Grand Challenges for Social Work
  • race and ethnicity
  • racial justice
  • racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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