Practice Exercise: Identifying Ethical Dilemmas

Getting Started

Every level of social work intervention, from the micro to the mezzo to the macro level, presents various ethical dilemmas. In this worksheet activity, you will identify potential ethical dilemmas that may arise from a macro-level practice issue. Core values embraced by social workers according to the National Association of Social Workers? Code of Ethics are service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. Consider how these ethical values might impact a particular community or organizational dilemma.

Upon successful completion of this assignment, you will be able to:

  • Explore the impact diversity and difference have in working with communities and organizations. (PO 2)
  • Synthesize dynamics of social, economic, and environmental justice to advocate for human rights at the macro practice level. (PO 3)

Resources

  • Textbook: Generalist Practice with Organizations and Communities
  • Article: Guidelines for Ethical Practice in Community Organization
  • Video: What We Don’t Understand about Gentrification
  • File: Practice Exercise Worksheet: Identifying Ethical Dilemmas.pdf (in the Shared Documents module)

Background Information

While the National Association of Social Workers? Code of Ethics provides a general framework for ethical decision making, as noted in Generalist Practice with Organizations and Communities, professional values and ethics do not always provide straightforward answers about how to respond to any particular dilemma in macro social work practice. A theoretical concept described in the textbook compares the difference between ethical absolutism and ethical relativism. Ethical absolutism assumes that nearly all ethical situations can be governed by objective moral standards of behavior and that all circumstances can be evaluated in terms of right and wrong. Ethical relativism recognizes that many ethical dilemmas are nuanced. Whether an action is right or wrong requires an evaluation of the circumstances, recognizing that morality depends on our societal and cultural rules. Ethical relativism considers whether the action produces the most good and the least harm.

The Hardina article notes that ethical relativism comes into play when tactical methods that violate social or cultural norms are employed in community or organizational change. The civil rights movement in the United States often employed aggressive and radical tactics designed to address structural and institutional racism. These tactical methods might have violated social norms and laws, yet were necessary to achieve social change. However, the costs and benefits of the particular intervention must always be weighed. Consider whether intervention is likely to achieve the most good while minimizing harm to stakeholders.


Instructions

  1. Review the rubric to make sure you understand the criteria for earning your grade.
  2. Read the Article: Guidelines for Ethical Practice in Community Organization
    1. If you are not already logged into the IWU OCLS, you will be prompted to enter your login and password to access the article.
  3. Review Chapter 11 of the textbook.
  4. Watch the video, ?What We Don’t Understand about Gentrification.? This video contains Closed Captioning (CC).Thumbnail of Video ? Click to Play
  5. Download the Practice Exercise Worksheet: Identifying Ethical Dilemmas from the Shared Documents module.
    1. Consider potential ethical dilemmas that could result from an intervention addressing gentrification.
    2. In one or two sentences, describe the potential ethical dilemmas in the space provided. Remember, professional values and ethics do not always provide straightforward answers about how to respond to any particular dilemma in macro social work practice. You may need to read between the lines in the gentrification video.
    3. After you have identified the potential ethical dilemmas, in the Summary section describe in one or two sentences how a macro social worker can assess those dilemmas according to the ethical relativism theoretical framework in the space provided.

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