New App Is an On the Go Resource for Social Workers
By Rachel L. West
Advocacy & Community Outreach Consultant
I conducted an interview via email this week with Rachel Monaco, MSW. Rachel is a macro social worker out in California who has recently developed a new app to help social workers find and share local resources.
The Social Work Field Guide (SWFG) app lists resources that social workers can use on the go. Users can search for information based on population (Children, Teens, Adults, Older Adults) as well as general resources. There is also a crowdsourcing component to the app where users can add resources.
You can download SWFG in the Apple app store.
Rachel West: How would you describe the Social Work Field Guide app?
Rachel Monaco: Social Work Field Guide is an app that allows the community of social workers to share important resources, tips, and exercises for their practice. It’s targeted at social workers of all levels and areas of work – including micro, mezzo, and macro.
RW: What inspired you to develop the SWFG?
RM: I was speaking with a few social work students who were just starting their field placements, and had the big responsibility of creating a resource guide for their community based organization. It would seem that something similar probably already existed, but they didn’t have access to it. Which made me think of the larger issue of social workers having to learn about nationally available programs through word of mouth, or the occasional email.
I also received some feedback from Redditors on the Social Work subreddit (www.reddit.com/r/socialwork) that was along these same lines. There are lots of programs, resources and therapeutic exercises out there, but sometimes they’re hard to find. And then, you don’t know if they’re even still active or what their requirements are. United Way’s 211 program is notorious for this. It’s such a huge database, but it relies on the nonprofits it partners with to update their information. It’s common to call a nonprofit just to find out that the program you were interested in lost funding 5 years ago. I’m hoping that having a practitioner-driven resource guide will keep things more up-to-date and more useful.
RW: What are your long term goals for the app?
RM: Long term, I’d love to be able to have enough resources that I could start to accept state (and even country!) specific programs. For now, we’re just accepting submissions that social workers everywhere can use.
I’ve had a few people ask me why I only launched with 50 pre-loaded resources, and why I didn’t include this national program, or this therapy modality…the intention was never for me to be telling people what they should know about. Instead, I offered some examples of things that people might submit. Especially as a macro practitioner, I’m sure there’s thousands of tools and techniques that I don’t know enough about to recognize if they’re good or useful. I want SWFG to be community driven – social workers sharing their knowledge with other social workers.
I’m also hoping to build a web-based version of the app. I’ve started thinking about what that might look like. I probably won’t continue development if it’s not something that people are interested in. It takes a lot of time and work to build things like this, so I’ll wait to hear feedback on what direction I should take.
RW: How can someone add a resource to SWFG?
RM: There are two ways to submit a resource right now. You can enter your own resource through the app and select ‘yes’ when prompted if you want to share, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Right now, I am not publishing resources that are specific to states or regions. I’m also not deleting those. If I get enough resources submitted, then I’ll modify the app so you can select your area.
RW: How did you learn to make an app?
RM: I read a book. Two books, actually – the Big Nerd Ranch Guide to Objective-C Programming and the BNR Guide to iOS Programming. I’m also lucky to have a husband who does this kind of thing for a living. He did a lot of the advanced work for SWFG that I couldn’t learn from those books. I’ve been developing websites for a few years now (learned everything online through tutorials and free classes), so I was familiar with most of the concepts, just not the language. If someone reading this wants to start learning to code, I strongly recommend Codecademy and MIT OpenCourse for the basics.
Programming is an interesting profession. It actually encourages you to use open source sharing of knowledge and projects – so it’s kind of easy to find an example of something you want to build and then use that as a starting point. If social work were open source…who knows where we’d be!
Rachel’s Professional Profile & Bio
Rachel Monaco, MSW recently moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. A Detroit native, she graduated from the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work in 2013. She currently works in nonprofit fundraising and marketing, but her first love is program development. Rachel spends her free time thinking of ways to incorporate technology into social work, building websites for nonprofits, rock climbing, and hiking with her dachshund.
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