In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section International Social Work

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • History Of International Social Work
  • Globalization
  • Human Rights
  • Migration And Transnationalism
  • Definitional Debates
  • Universalism And Indigenization
  • International Social Work Organizations
  • Values And Ethics
  • Social Work In Diverse Countries
  • Comparative And Global Policy
  • Researching International Social Work

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Social Work International Social Work
Lynne M. Healy
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0104


International social work encompasses those aspects of the profession that address practice or policy issues that affect more than one country; increasingly the term is linked to social work within the context of globalization. The term has been used since at least 1928, and scholars have devoted considerable attention to defining international social work. International social work is generally understood to encompass global social problems and policy issues, comparative social policy, international professional organizations, social work practice focused on development of human rights, or migration, especially that in international agencies. It is potentially a vast subject area if one considers international social work to include comparative and global perspectives on each area of social work expertise and concern. This bibliography is necessarily limited to sources addressing broad categories of the dimensions of international social work. Included are significant works on the major concepts underpinning international social work, attention to key debates within the field, sources on international social work education and on internationalizing curriculum, and sources on comparative social policy. The bibliography does not include articles or books on specific global problems, such as child labor, human trafficking, or HIV/AIDS. The focus is on materials authored by social workers, but some interdisciplinary works are also included.

General Overviews

Beginning with Lyons 1999, a modest number of texts have been published on international social work. Cox and Pawar 2006; Healy 2008a and Healy 2008b; and Lyons 1999, based in Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, respectively, give an introduction to the concept of international social work. Cox and Pawar 2006 and Lyons 1999 emphasize specific examples as a way of explicating the concept, while Healy 2008b covers a comprehensive range of core areas of social work. Ramanathan and Link 1999 is intended to be particularly useful for social work educators, but readers will find a broad and quite comprehensive coverage of international social work.

  • Cox, David, and Manohar Pawar. 2006. International social work: Issues, strategies, and programs. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Introduces an integrated perspectives approach, defined as one that blends globalization, human rights, and ecological and social development theories. It then explores international social work with particular attention to poverty, conflict and postconflict reconstruction, and displacement and forced migration. Case examples enhance a practice emphasis.

  • Healy, Lynne M. 2008a. International social work. In Encyclopedia of social work, 20th ed., Vol 2. Edited by Terry Mizrahi and Larry E. Davis, 482–488. New York: Oxford Univ. Press and National Association of Social Workers.

    A brief (twenty-five-hundred word) overview that focuses on the evolution of definitions of international social work and on current roles for social work in the international arena. The reference list gives suggestions for further reading. Useful as an introduction to the topic.

  • Healy, Lynne M. 2008b. International social work: Professional action in an interdependent world. 2d ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Provides a comprehensive introduction to international social work. Under the main themes of globalization and professional action, the author covers theories underpinning international social work, history and current realities of the global profession, global ethics, global policy, and international practice.

  • Lyons, Karen. 1999. International social work: Themes and perspectives. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

    This is the first well-known text on international social work. It defines the field and then addresses several topics as examples of international social work.

  • Lyons, Karen, Kathleen Manion, and Mary Carlsen. 2006. International perspectives on social work: Global conditions and local practice. Houndmills, Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

    The authors begin with a sound and concise treatment of the relevance of globalization to social work practice. They introduce the concept of loss as a universal social concern and apply this in later chapters to practice in situations of conflict, migration, child exploitation, and global pandemics.

  • Ramanathan, Chathapuram S., and Rosemary J. Link. 1999. All our futures: Principles and resources for social work practice in a global era. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

    A comprehensive text with some particularly insightful chapters. The chapters on field education and the one on ethics are recommended in the sections on International Social Work Education: Curriculum and Field, and Values and Ethics, respectively.

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