March 20, 2016
YEREVAN – From March 14 to 18, 2016, a social work expert from Vienna visited Armenia in the context of the ongoing project “Sustainable Social Change in Eastern Neighbourhood Countries through Strengthened Active Social Workers and their Associations”. The expert, Robert Kroiss, came with the intention of helping AASW to set forth and clarify its strategic aims and action plan for the next several years, but the visit turned out to be much more than that.
Aside from multiple meetings with AASW’s Executive Board and Board of Directors to discuss the strategic directions, the action plan, member services, approaches to licensing and accreditation and other crucial topics, Mr. Kroiss also met with several important stakeholders in Armenia, including CSOs, Ministries and international organizations.
On his first day was a particularly impressionable meeting with the Women’s Support Center of Armenia, an NGO that provides services for mother and child survivors of domestic violence. The social workers at the Center do not have academic education in social work, as is the case for the vast majority of social workers in Armenia, but instead spoke about their many years of experience providing services for and working with survivors. It was eye-opening for Mr. Kroiss to see the extent to which practical experience is valued above and beyond academic education in the social work sphere in Armenia.
The next day, Mr. Kroiss was a featured speaker in the World Social Work Day conference on “State Social Protection System since Independence” at Yerevan State University. He spoke about the crucial role of social work in social protection systems and the necessity of professional regulation for the development and success of the profession. Using his vast experience as a consultant across Eastern Europe, he described the trends of post-Soviet countries, and focused on the crucial systems that regulate education and accreditation of social workers.
Later in the week, Mr. Kroiss met with representatives from the Ministry of Labour and Social Issues, the World Bank and UNICEF, which is a project partner of AASW. Also, the project manager Nicole Bauer from Hilfswerk Austria, the project’s lead partner, joined Mr. Kroiss later in the week to continue conversations with AASW’s leadership about the strategy and action plan. Overall their visit was a success, leading to new ideas for the direction of AASW’s work and for an international perspective on the state of social work education and accreditation in Armenia.