Grand Challenges

Youth
Health
Family Violence
Long Lives
Social Isolation
Homelessness
Changing Environment
Harness Technology
Smarty Decarceration
Economic Inequity
Financial Capability
Justice

In 2017 the Wayne State University School of Social Work announced a 10-year initiative to advance the Grand Challenges for Social Work — an ambitious social agenda promoting individual and family well-being, a stronger social fabric, and a more just society. Led by the American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare with support from the National Association of Social Workers and the Council on Social Work Education, the Grand Challenges represent a call to action to address 12 urgent social problems by harnessing social work's science and knowledge base and by collaborating with individuals, community-based organizations, and professionals from all fields and disciplines. For us, each of the Grand Challenges has a uniquely urban, uniquely "Detroit" face — but the exciting solutions we are producing can be adapted and adopted for use in all communities. 

For more than 80 years, the School of Social Work has responded to emerging challenges in Detroit through research collaborations, practice initiatives and community partnerships. As we rise to the Grand Challenges, we are proud to continue this tradition and to promote lasting, transformative social change for the benefit of all people, everywhere. We encourage you to view our Summer 2017 publication, Rising to the Challenge, or to click on a Grand Challenge below and explore the many innovative ways that our faculty, staff and students are conceptualizing the Grand Challenges within the context of our home in, and service to, Greater Detroit.

 

  • Ensure healthy development for all youth

    According to the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, "Each year, more than six million young people receive treatment for severe mental, emotional, or behavioral problems. Strong evidence shows us how to prevent many behavioral health problems before they emerge. By unleashing the power of prevention through widespread use of proven approaches, we can help all youth grow up to become healthy and productive adults." (AASWSW, 2017)

    Wayne State faculty and staff conducting research and community engagement activities in this Grand Challenge area:

  • Close the health gap

    According to the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, "More than 60 million Americans experience devastating one-two punches to their health—they have inadequate access to basic health care while also enduring the effects of discrimination, poverty, and dangerous environments that accelerate higher rates of illness. Innovative and evidence-based social strategies can improve health care and lead to broad gains in the health of our entire society." (AASWSW, 2017)

    Wayne State faculty and staff conducting research and community engagement activities in this Grand Challenge area:

  • Stop family violence

    According to the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, "Family violence is a common American tragedy. Assaults by parents, intimate partners, and adult children frequently result in serious injury and even death. Such violence costs billions of dollars annually in social and criminal justice spending. Proven interventions can prevent abuse, identify abuse sooner, and help families survive and thrive by breaking the cycle of violence or finding safe alternatives." (AASWSW, 2017)

    Wayne State faculty conducting research and community engagement activities in this Grand Challenge area:

  • Advance long and productive lives

    According to the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, "Increased automation and longevity demand new thinking by employers and employees regarding productivity. Young people are increasingly disconnected from education or work and the labor force faces significant retirements in the next decades. Throughout the lifespan, fuller engagement in education and paid and unpaid productive activities can generate a wealth of benefits, including better health and well-being, greater financial security, and a more vital society." (AASWSW, 2017)

    Wayne State faculty and staff conducting research and community engagement activities in this Grand Challenge area:

  • Eradicate social isolation

    According to the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, "Social isolation is a silent killer—as dangerous to health as smoking. National and global health organizations have underscored the hidden, deadly, and pervasive hazards stemming from feeling alone and abandoned. Our challenge is to educate the public on this health hazard, encourage health and human service professionals to address social isolation, and promote effective ways to deepen social connections and community for people of all ages." (AASWSW, 2017)

    Wayne State faculty conducting research and community engagement activities in this Grand Challenge area:

  • End homelessness

    According to the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, "During the course of a year, nearly 1.5 million Americans will experience homelessness for at least one night. Periods of homelessness often have serious and lasting effects on personal development, health, and well-being. Our challenge is to expand proven approaches that have worked in communities across the country, develop new service innovations and technologies, and adopt policies that promote affordable housing and basic income security." (AASWSW, 2017)

     

  • Create social responses to a changing environment

    According to the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, "The environmental challenges reshaping contemporary societies pose profound risks to human well-being, particularly for marginalized communities. Climate change and urban development threaten health, undermine coping, and deepen existing social and environmental inequities. A changing global environment requires transformative social responses: new partnerships, deep engagement with local communities, and innovations to strengthen individual and collective assets." (AASWSW, 2017)

    Wayne State faculty conducting research and community engagement activities in this Grand Challenge area:

  • Harness technology for social good

    According to the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, "Innovative applications of new digital technology present opportunities for social and human services to reach more people with greater impact on our most vexing social problems. These new technologies can be deployed to more strategically target social spending, speed up the development of effective programs, and bring a wider array of help to more individuals and communities." (AASWSW, 2017)

    Wayne State faculty and staff conducting research and community engagement activities in this Grand Challenge area:

  • Promote smart decarceration

    According to the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, "The United States has the world’s largest proportion of people behind bars. Mass incarceration and failed rehabilitation have resulted in staggering economic and human costs. Our challenge is to develop a proactive, comprehensive, evidence-based “smart decarceration” strategy that will dramatically reduce the number of people who are imprisoned and enable the nation to embrace a more effective and just approach to public safety." (AASWSW, 2017)

    Wayne State faculty and staff conducting research and community engagement activities in this Grand Challenge area:

  • Reduce extreme economic inequality

    According to the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, "The top 1% owns nearly half of the total wealth in the U.S, while one in five children live in poverty. The consequences for health and well-being are immeasurable. We can correct the broad inequality of wealth and income through a variety of innovative means related to wages and tax benefits associated with capital gains, retirement accounts, and home ownership. Greater lifelong access to education will also provide broader economic opportunities." (AASWSW, 2017)

    Wayne State faculty and staff conducting research and community engagement activities in this Grand Challenge area:

  • Build financial capability for all

    According to the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, "Nearly half of all American households are financially insecure, without adequate savings to meet basic living expenses for three months. We can significantly reduce economic hardship and the debilitating effects of poverty by adopting social policies that bolster lifelong income generation and safe retirement accounts; expand workforce training and re-training; and provide financial literacy and access to quality affordable financial services." (AASWSW, 2017)

    Wayne State faculty conducting research and community engagement activities in this Grand Challenge area:

  • Achieve equal opportunity and justice

    According to the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, "In the United States, some groups of people have long been consigned to society’s margins. Historic and current prejudice and injustice bars access to success in education and employment. Addressing racial and social injustices, deconstructing stereotypes, dismantling inequality, exposing unfair practices, and accepting the super diversity of the population will advance this challenge. All of this work is critical to fostering a successful society." (AASWSW, 2017)

    Wayne State faculty and staff conducting research and community engagement activities in this Grand Challenge area:

We will create and advance knowledge, prepare a diverse student body to thrive, and positively impact local and global communities.