Imágenes de páginas


are not alone in this situation. The educational people met it before we did. Time was when a university president needed to be a great scholar and a man of great influence with young people. Now he is expected to be a great executive, and if he can have those other qualities too, it is fortunate.

Even if we have in a social work executive position a person of all the desired qualities, the very necessities of the position tend to make him remote from the fundamental task of the organization, the people whom it exists to serve, and the conditions of life about which it is concerned. The client of a family welfare society in a large city knows her district visitor, and may perhaps know the district secretary. Few clients, if any, know the general secretary; and the worst of it is that he does not know them. Ordinarily he knows only the abstract problem of which they are an evidence and even that indirectly, through elaborate organization machinery. Yet he must interpret their needs to the public and determine policies for meeting them.

What then? In a field of endeavor whose whole concern is personality and the conditions under which personality can be at its best shall we allow the work to be depersonalized and lose the values of vital personal leadership?

A possible way out occurs to me in a remark made by a relative of mine who served in the Great War. He commented that the individual was utterly lost in the vastness of it all-one little atom in a stupendous whole. This war, he remarked, was very different from any previous war because of its magnitude and organization. In other wars generals had been heroes to their men. They had led them, inspired them to action. In this war few of the men even knew who their generals were. The generals themselves were administrative officers, somewhere off on the edge of things, carrying out plans made by officers still higher and more remote. But in the captain or the first lieutenant, if he was a man of judgment and courage and strong human qualities, there would be found the leader of men. A good captain could do almost anything with his men.

Remote as our purpose is from that of military or even industrial organization, and different as our method must accordingly be, yet there is in all big organization at least this likeness: that the executive head tends to grow personally more remote and absorbed in executive duties, and that the function of leadership becomes increasingly important as exercised in small groups by workers in the lower organization ranks. With us there is leadership, often of remarkable quality in its human insight and power, in inconspicuous places. It may not be of a largely executive type, and yet may be essential human leadershp. We find it in a district visitor of a family welfare society dealing with a difficult client and the client's difficult associates. We find it in some supervisor drawing out the finest qualities of the workers under her and analyzing the work with an insight that makes new discoveries of principles and problems and methods in a way that challenges and inspires those around her. There is no lack of vital creative work, far-reaching in its influence, though the worker may be unknown beyond her own little group.


Of course we hope to have big social work leadership in the big organization positions, and must have, so far as possible. But it is hard to find all the desired qualities combined in one person. His leadership is likely to need to be largely supplemented. I wonder whether our unique problem now is not the development of a widely diffused decentralized leadership throughout the organization and the devising of means by which it can be effective. The development of such leadership requires the careful training of workers. They need now not only broad understanding and social vision, but also detailed technical skill. Social work has become a great network of interrelated specialties of which our twelve Conference divisions give only a suggestion. It is, indeed, only by the careful analysis of different parts of our work, and bringing to bear upon them all that related science can offer that we may now hope to make sound and substantial progress. Only a trained worker can do that.

When we last met in Cleveland the need of training had received only a little recognition. Schools of social work were very few and very new. Since then other special schools have arisen and training for social work holds a dignified place in many universities. A division has been created in the Conference on Professional Standards and Education. And a new national organization has been formed of social workers themselves for the advancement of their professional standards and training. The need of training is now very generally accepted.

In addition to good preliminary training I believe something else is important to a social worker who would develop that insight necessary for true leadership. Referring again to my New Testament analogy, much of the strength of those leaders lay in the fact that they always felt themselves to be in close touch with the ultimate source of their power.

A Hindu writer, some time back, in the Atlantic Monthly, describing a "holy man" of Benares, quotes him with reference to the destroying effect of routine on the human soul, even when the routine is in the noblest possible cause. The holy man explains that he gives his disciples work in caring for the sick and other important services, but when he finds one becoming absorbed in the daily task he sends him away to the high Himalayas until his soul is again turned Godward. Only so can he become wise and truly useful. Our social workers are greatly subject to routine. Moreover, most of them are overwhelmed with duties greater than they can fulfil, and often of such a critical and emergent nature that they can hardly leave them even when the regular hours of work are past. Perhaps they cannot often get away to the high mountains, but at least they do need some remote peak of their own, and they need more and longer opportunities to retire to it, away from the drive of the day's work, if they are ever to see deeply enough to qualify for leadership.

Assuming in various organization ranks the presence of workers, both paid and volunteer, of personal qualities and training adequate for some measure of leadership, we return to the organization problem. To make that decentralized

type of leadership effective requires a peculiarly democratic kind of organization. It means the creation of facilities for thinking well together and the development of the capacity for doing it. Mere calling for suggestions from the staff to be passed up to the executive, as business organizations often do, does not answer the purpose. Real and constant opportunities for thinking and planning together are needed in order that the knowledge, thought, and feeling of those who are closest to the work may be drawn out, challenged, and sifted. Thus the rich experience and resourcefulness of those who have gifts of leadership may be enhanced and woven into policies, jointly created all the way from the bottom to the top of the organization.

Only so, I believe, can the executives, who are necessarily so concerned with theoretical issues and the machinery of organization, keep the intimate human contact with the job that will qualify them to guide it to human and social ends. In this way only can the essential qualities of such leadership be developed and used to full effectiveness. And in this way a strong working group may be built up in which even those of least originality may yet have their contribution increased by a deepened realization of their relationship to the whole work, and so the movement be strongly and steadily carried forward in the community. In all that I have said about leadership within organization I am not unmindful that some of the finest thought, and most deeply influential, if it can reach us, must always come from the people who do not work at their best in already established organizations. This is another of the problems of large-scale organization in social work. There is, and must always remain, pioneering work to be done by persons who see and are stirred by things that no considerable group of people have yet realized. Perhaps most real geniuses are of such nature. I heard a mining man not long ago regretting that there are now fewer prospectors than of yore. He remarked that with all that expeditions of geologic experts could do which the prospector could not do, there was yet much that could only be done by the faith and the long patience of the old prospector, with his searching eyes, roaming the hills alone. We must still keep open an opportunity and a welcome for the contributions of our seers who see what the rest of us have been slow to recognize.

The conscious goal of

In closing, let me sum up what I have tried to say. social work is no longer cure nor prevention, but positive good, the raising of life to its highest values. We are organizing our forces on a larger scale to carry out that purpose. But large-scale organization develops new problems which vitally affect progress toward such a goal. Among such problems appears that of developing an inner group of strong influence and vitality in the organization if the needed widespread understanding and interest in the community is to be steadily maintained; also the problem of leadership, which seems to be now not so much that of outstanding individuals as a more diffused leadership through small groups. A very democratic type of organization is needed to make such leadership effective and to hold in great organizations those personal qualities

which are so important in work that seeks not material, but spiritual and social, ends.

There is a strange vision of the prophet Ezekiel, in which I never could see the meaning there in the Book, but which is a wonderful symbol of twentiethcentury social work. It is the vision of the four living creatures whose form symbolized different kinds of life, and whose appearance was as a flaming fire, a burning lamp. Wherever the living creatures went, they ran very straight and fast and their going was like lightning. By each living creature was a wheel, and a wheel within the wheel. And wherever the living creature went, the wheels went, and when the living creatures were lifted up above the earth, the wheels were lifted up-"for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels."

Wherever we go we shall have to have our wheels, and they will doubtless grow more intricate, wheels within wheels, but the hope of social organization-indeed, the hope of humanity itself in this day of organization-depends upon how fully the spirit of the living creature is within the wheels.


Richard C. Cabot, M.D., Professor of Clinical Medicine and
Professor of Social Ethics, Harvard University,
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Wider fellowship with the healing forces of "Nature."-You will not be surprised that I begin with an analogy from the fields of medicine in which I have passed most of my days. Medicine exists and claims its usefulness by reason of an extraordinary wide fellowship with the rocks and earths out of which its inorganic remedies are digged; with the forces of electricity, X-ray, light, heat, magnetism, which it uses to cure disease; with the trees, shrubs, flowers, roots, which furnish some of its best remedies, with the animal kingdom whence we get insulin, thyroid extract, diphtheria antitoxin, smallpox vaccine; and with the body of healthy man himself, whence we transfuse living blood to save and replenish life.

The physician finds these physical, chemical, biological forces already at work as his allies, already active in our food and respired air to aid him in the work which he also is called to do. He recognizes this gigantic fellowship, this great torrent of energy sweeping already in the direction of health. He allies himself with it, and by his ingenuity adds something to the value of its action. For instance, he finds sunlight preventing or curing rickets in children; but sunlight cannot everywhere and always be had. So artificially, in the light of the quartz lamp, he focuses the most valuable of luminous rays on the needy child, and so aiding, directing, applying, modifying, and imitating the forces of solar energy he does his bit.

Again he finds that nature prevents goiter by supplying, to millions of people

living near the ocean, a sufficiency of iodine through the air, water, or food which they take in. But as all people do not live near the sea, the physician supplies to growing children living in the interior the needful iodine concealed in chocolate candy.

It is because the physician recognizes the prodigious ingenuity and power of nature's healing life, because he finds that he can vary, adapt, and focus this so as to add to its value, that he maintains his place of usefulness. He is of use because he knows two essential facts: first, that he would be nowhere if it were not that he has countless allies-silent, incessant, magnipotent; second, that by studying these independent healing forces he can improve their action. Thus he is saved from the twin dangers of trying frantically to stem the tide of disease by his own efforts alone, and also of fancying himself useless because nature is doing vastly more than he can ever hope to do. He avoids both fanaticism and fatalism because he is aware that many other forces fight ceaselessly on his side, yet leave room for his effort when he does his best.

All this I have written to lead up to what I have to say about the "breathless habit" which I find so common among social workers, but which I hold is incompatible with good social work. Why is it that social workers are forever chasing the tail of day-before-yesterday, trying desperately to keep abreast of their work, strained almost to the breaking-point. It is not because they are always facing emergencies. Although her clients are always trying to persuade her that aid must be given at once because of an emergency which never happened before and will never occur again, no one knows better than the social worker that this assertion is not true, and that emergencies are rare events in a social worker's life. Surely the doctor faces as many emergencies; yet doctors, as I know them, are nothing like so breathless a tribe as social workers. Why? I believe the answer is that social workers are overworked and breathless because they rarely limit their intake or cut off the day's work when they have accomplished their proper stint. And this refusal to limit the number of persons whom they attempt to aid is due, in turn, to failing to realize how gigantic and multifarious are the other forces working on their side. Just as in medical work the healing forces of nature are doing a hundred times as much as all the doctors put together, though still the tiny contribution of the doctor is demonstrably effective, so in social work the remedial forces working for the social worker's end, but wholly independent of his knowledge or control, are vastly greater than anything that one social worker or all social workers can accomplish, and yet leave room for a good day's work. Suppose we do not undertake to help each newcomer who presses for aid when we have already undertaken all that we are able to do. The chances are very considerable that aid will come to him from some other source, from the forces of what we call "self-help," that is, the ability of individuals somehow or other to wriggle themselves out of their troubles, finding aid here, there, and everywhere, but not chiefly through social agencies. Such outside aid in social problems is as potent as the medicinal forces

« AnteriorContinuar »