Preparing professional degree students to tackle grand challenges: A framework for aligning social work curricula

Paula S. Nurius, Darla Spence Coffey, Rowena Fong, Wynne Sandra Korr, Ruth McRoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Grand Challenges for Social Work Initiative (GCSWI) reflects the power and potential of social work to accelerate social innovations and resolve major social problems. The complexity of these societal problems mandates profession-wide entrepreneurial readiness to engage in transdisciplinary, interprofessional, and translational collaborations. The GCSWI galvanizes shifts in undergraduate, master’s, doctoral, and early career supports to equip social work graduates at all levels to design, test, disseminate, and sustain innovative solutions. This paper describes the relevance of the GCSWI to professional education and suggests the collective-impact model as a heuristic for professional preparation to collaborate in grand challenge contexts. This paper also describes the pedagogical thinking underlying a T-shaped professional and the logic behind translational and innovation meta-competencies as pipeline connections across grand challenges, disciplinary partners, and stakeholder involvement. In addition, the paper illustrates meta-competencies preparation for practice that infuses an innovation mindset and skill readiness consonant with a collective-impact framework, and it illustrates application of meta-competencies within the Grand Challenge to Achieve Equal Opportunity and Justice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-118
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Society for Social Work and Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Collective impact
  • Grand Challenges for Social Work
  • Meta-competencies
  • T-shaped

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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