Social Workers Confronting Racial Injustice Committee

Strategic Plan Progress Report April 2021

Committee Name: Social Workers Confronting Racial Injustice Conference Planning Committee

Committee Members:  Jenny Braunginn, Laura Dresser, Angela Willits, Alice Egan, Jeanne Ferguson, Hannah Klusendorf, Aaron Raasch, Gerald, Eggleston, Jason Lee, Meg Jenkins Morales, Bethany Matson, Alice Caceres, Maddy Moran, York Chow, Kelly Forman, Lindsey Zblewski

Strategic Plan Goal 3:  Equip our students, faculty, alumni, and social work community partners to be social work leaders who an address diversity, equity and inclusion in their lives and careers.

Objective: Bring the fundamental questions of structure and systems of racism into the profession of social work, the SSW, and the community doing SW in Dane County. Build a conference that helps Social Workers see and dismantle systemic racism and white supremacy.   Conference: Moving SW into Anti-Racist Practice. Focus on practice to help recognize systems of oppression, SW engagement in them, and how social work can move toward more liberatory practice.

Progress on goal since February 2021:

Event Report

On Feb. 5th and Feb. 12th 2021, the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work at hosted our 7th annual conference. Focusing on moving into action with abolitionist and anti-racist ideas, a total of 26 speakers provided 11 breakout sessions and two plenaries with a Wisconsin focus tying directly into national conversations around anti-racist and abolitionist ideas within social work. The conference was online, open to all (in Wisconsin and beyond), free to attend, and provided CEUs.

Additionally, we were an Institutional Supporter of the Social Work, White Supremacy and Racial Justice Symposium (a national series developed by schools of social work at the University of Houston, UCLA, Howard University, and Arizona State). The symposium took place on Jan. 28-29 and we encouraged participation in that symposium.

Our topics and themes were timely and the reach of the conference this year certainly owed, in part, to the growing and needed focus on racial justice and abolitionist ideas. But it is worth remembering that the success of this year’s conference is rooted in a 6 year history and strong established reputation of this event and the way the planning each year has held a steady focus on racial justice, alternative voices, challenging perspectives, and radical possibilities. From this soil, the conference blossomed this year from an important local event to a national convening.

High Interest and Engagement from SRSSW and beyond


The conference was extremely popular this year. Nearly 5000 registered for Feb 5 and over 4000 registered for Feb 12. (Note that as with many free online events, registration does not always guarantee attendance. But it does demonstrate interest and the strong pull of the issues and the format. More on actual engagement below.)

This is remarkable, as roughly 10 times as many people registered for the online event as have come to the live event in previous years, where registration has traditionally been capped at 500. On each day, the registrations included more than 600 who had a direct relationship with the Sandra Rosenbaum SSW but on Feb 5, an additional 4339 registered who had no relationship to SSW and on Feb 12, 3604 reported no direct relationship to the SSW when the registered.

Total Registration 4998 4276
No Direct Relationship with SSW 4339 3604
Direct Relationship with SSW 659 672


Attendance also was impressive and dramatically higher because of the accessibility of the online format. For a summary sense of the reach of the event, we know that there were 9096 engagements with the conference in live events. (See details in the table at the end of this document.) This includes some 4500 views of the two plenaries live on YouTube, as well as participation more than 4500 viewers for the breakout sessions. (Obviously, sometimes the same people are watching multiple events. Best to think of this as 9096 engagements with the material, rather than 9096 people. But still impressive reach.)

An additional strength of the online format for delivery of events was easy recording of them. Now we have 10 breakout sessions and 1 plenary available to anyone as well as the recording of Patrisse Cullors which is available to members of the SSW community. As of April 7, these recordings have been watched 2643 times on our YouTube channel.


One reason for strong national interest and participation in this event was the provision of free CEUs for participants. This would have been impossible without the considerable generosity and innovation of the field office. But Audrey and Amy made this a priority and Amy developed a system to verify participation and distribute CEUs certificates. For the various events across the two days, 4819 CEUs were awarded. (Details available in table at the end of this document.)

Timely Topics, Great Presenters, High Satisfaction of Attendees

The evaluations from conference attendees were very positive, glowing even. For both days of the conference, 95% of those who submitted evaluations rated the conference as either excellent (5), or just short of excellent (4). Comments were overwhelmingly positive, for plenary events and for workshops and for the overall impact of the event. Respondents also noted their gratitude that the event was so accessible and that the format and speakers were engaging. It is especially remarkable to review the comments from so many both in Madison, who have not been able to participate in the past because it fills up so fast, and those from much farther away who would never have been part of the event.


  1. The event was a success. Great speakers and themes and high participation and engagement and heroic work to pivot to online structures allowed our annual conference to reach a local and national audience. This year our reach far exceeded the reach of past events.
  2. The online format was more accessible. This is true in part because we don’t have to have restrictive registration caps that we do have with a physical space. But it was accessible in other important ways as well. It was free. It was accessible to those with mobility issues, those who live out of town, to folks that can’t take an entire day off but can take a few hours.
  3. The recordings from the event are an important resource to support learning in the SSW community. The online format made it possible to get high quality recordings of nearly all events and this library is available for teaching and for the community.

As a result of these reflections, the conference committee will plan for an online event in 2022, similar in format (two Fridays early in the spring semester, a mix of plenary and breakouts). We will consider in person events that might be added on around the online events (i.e. events to watch in the same room, or to reflect after a panel, etc.) We expect our focus to engage with the radical possibility and imagination that abolitionist and anti-racist work requires and builds toward.

Structural Issues in this Work

One of the most striking issues confronting this work is our continued struggle to find ways to honor the work of Black and brown leaders who step up to contribute to our learning as a community. We have increased our financial support to our presenters to honor their critical work in preparing and presenting to this audience. Unfortunately, the UW makes it nearly impossible to actually pay those who are affiliated with the UW as they present to us. We remain committed to finding ways to reward this work. But critically, the UW needs to alter these policies so that speakers addressing issues at the core of this conference are not forced to go above and beyond their jobs with no reward or financial acknowledgement from the university.

The UW continually stresses Equity and Inclusion as critical goals. However, if we do not appropriately compensate our Black and Brown leaders and speakers, we are perpetuating systemic racism as a university.  There must be more flexible and creative ways for us to pay our speakers and not expect professionals to speak to racism, anti-racist work and systemic change at no honorarium just because of “who they are” or their racial or ethnic background.  UW Madison should become leaders in the recognition of this need and allow ways to appropriately compensate these speakers.

We also are firmly committed to keeping the learnings space safe for our speakers and presenters. This will require more conscious planning as we consider our work for next year.

Panel Title Speakers   Live attendance Total Reach (Live plus YouTube views as of 4/7/2021) CEUs awarded
Patrisse Cullors Discussion (Opening Keynote Feb 5) Bethany Matson, Patrisse Cullors   3402 3462 1,024
Reimagine a Black Feminist Social Work (Closing Plenary Feb 12) Sakara Wages, Dr. Damita Brown, Jacquelyn Boggess   1100 2131 860
Centering Justice and Lived Experience Dani Rischall, Carmella Glenn, Tim Saubers, Tara Wilhelmi, Alysha Clark   279 431 152
Exclusion by Design: The History of Anti-Black Racism in the Child Welfare System Dr. Sherri Simmons-Horton   654 962 460
Healing From Within Dr. Janeile Luebke, Barb Blackdeer-Mackenzie   258 415 153
Preventing Further Harm: Addressing Violence Without Police Monique Minkens, Kathy Flores   687 852 482
The Role of Social Workers in Immigration Legal Services Organizations Rená E. Cutlip-Mason; Adriana López; Kursten Phelps   128 280 79
Walking Around That Corner of Trans, Race, and Class Cecelia Gentili, Gia Love   260 260 178
Abolitionist Restorative Justice Dr. Damita Brown   684 771 433
Anti-Racist Organizational Change Jacquelyn Boggess, Michele Mackey, Stephanie Muñoz   715 848 437
Are African American Men Deserving of the American Dream Dr. David Pate, Jr.   196 341 111
Supporting Healthy Families: Black Communications Jalateefa Joe-Meyers, Wanda Smith   434 510 265
Understanding the Impact of Racism & White Supremacy on US Immigration System Erin Barbato, Erika Rosales   299 476 185