Social Worker at Thrive: What? Why? How? So What?

Stephen Ave

What do you think is the best thing about social work? My answer is its scope. As a social worker, you can be almost anything – from an elderly support worker to the Minister of Finance for Alberta. So you probably can imagine how hard it was for me, a social work student, to decide where to do my final community development practicum.

Among all tasks that a social work practicum student can work on I chose to develop curriculum for a local economy workshop series being delivered by Thrive. This activity would help me to understand community economic development (CED) and the role of the local economy in poverty reduction. Working on explaining these concepts to others – that is what the workshops all about – enhanced my understanding immensely.

Thrive’s vision is to build a vibrant and sustainable local economy in Calgary, for all. To have greater impact Thrive fosters learning initiatives and communities of practice that nurture local economy champions. My experience of learning with Thrive may be summarised in several points:

  • Combination of different learning activities. At Thrive, I was offered reading to enhance my knowledge, time to reflect and make my own conclusions, opportunity to discuss my thoughts and apply my ideas into practice.
  • Collaboration. Thrive is a network and its members not only benefit from learning opportunities created by Thrive, but contribute greatly to the pool of such opportunities. As a practicum student I attended events organized by Alberta Community and Cooperative Association (ACCA), Social Innovation Generation (SiG), REAP Calgary, Calgary Eats!, Calgary Economic Development and Momentum. These events gave me a chance to experience a vibrant community of CED practitioners. Their enthusiasm and inspirational ideas of socially and environmentally responsible businesses brought me long-awaited optimism for our common future.
  • Supportive supervision. As any learner, I need a balance of critical discussions and encouragement, appreciation of my skills and experience, and freedom of expression. My supervisors – Barb Davies and Hiroko Nakao – generously gave me all of the above in abundance.
  • Nurturing organizational environment. The integrity of the organization creates an inclusive learning atmosphere and promotes professional growth for all. I knew that it was safe to experiment and make mistakes because mistakes, if discussed and reflected upon, are another source of learning.
  • Fun. Yes, I believe there are many places where learning and work can be fun. However, with Thrive, fun is integral to the work.

During my practicum, I developed curriculum for three workshops: Why Local?, Local Food, and Local Finance, as well as a local economy simulation game. Thrive believes the more people engage in the local economy the more communities will grow. In turn, building community resilience is the shortest way to individual sustainability, social inclusion, poverty elimination, and real democracy. I am proud that the learning experience, rich and fruitful for me personally, ends up as a contribution to this meaningful process of social transformation.

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Written by Hanna Zavrazhyna

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