During a visit to Zimbabwe last year, I asked a group of teenagers what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some suggested they wanted to be doctors, others said teachers. One outspoken young lady wanted to be a movie star. I asked if any of them dreamed of becoming social workers. They laughed and said that they wanted to get paid. For these kids, being a social worker was not a particularly prestigious profession – and definitely not lucrative.

But it is an important profession – and a profession that I aspired to since I was a little girl. I always wanted to be a helper. But being a helper is hard and I was under no illusions that helping would make me rich.

Now I have the great pleasure of helping the helpers. And with the launch of the new Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, my efforts to help the helpers will now have a global platform.

Group of young adults. Photo credit: World Education

The Alliance, which is funded by PEPFAR through USAID, as well as other donors, asserts that a well-planned, well-trained, and well-supported social service workforce can effectively deliver services to improve the lives of vulnerable populations around the world. However, a number of challenges confront this workforce and limit its ability to create protective environments for children and families who face poverty, discrimination, violence, and exploitation in their daily lives.

In its mission, the Alliance recognizes key challenges facing this workforce and aims to promote the knowledge, evidence, resources, tools, political will, and action needed to address them, especially within low to middle income countries. During the launch webinar held on June 6th, Amy Bess, the Alliance Coordinator, described how to get involved in the work of the Alliance and introduced participants to a website, which will act as a platform for information sharing and advocacy.

I am a member of the Alliance. You can become a member too by registering here. As a member, you can contribute to knowledge on the social service workforce, connect with others through the Alliance Webinar Series and interest groups, and join with me and others to help the helpers through global and more targeted advocacy efforts.

With any luck, we will inspire a new generation of social service workers to follow in our footsteps and social workers will become as popular as movie stars!