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Navigating Human Service Organizations

Essential Information for Thriving and Surviving in Agencies

Fourth Edition

Author Rich Furman, Margaret Gibelman, and Ren Winnett

Publication Date - 15 August 2020

ISBN: 9780197531044

272 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock

Practical, hands-on guidance to help social workers thrive within human service organizations


Since its very inception, social work has been considered an organizationally based profession, with the majority of its workforce employed within formal organizations. Whether in nonprofit, for-profit, or governmental agencies, the practical realities of human service organizations are a central element of professional social work. This book explores the climate and culture of these agencies and provides essential information for surviving and thriving in this setting. It prepares students for their future careers so that they will feel empowered in their work and be able to fulfill their responsibilities toward organizational, community, and social change. Using real-life examples, the authors examine the internal structures of management, financing, and supervision and discuss common conflicts between agencies and professionals. The book's straightforward tone and practical advice make it an asset to anyone entering human service organizations.

New to this Edition

  • NASW Code of Ethics is infused throughout the book to support student growth in ethical-decision making
  • Increased range of agencies, case examples, and geographies broadens students' sense of cultural diversity
  • Coverage of social workers' empowerment strikes a balance between adapting to your agency and working toward social transformation
  • A deeper exploration of social justice challenges students to reflect upon the oppressions and privileges that shape society


  • Case examples of real agency problems and dilemmas bridge the gap between theory and practice
  • Key points and discussion questions following each chapter reinforce key concepts
  • An emphasis on how social workers can grow within an organization allows students to develop skills in addition to knowledge

About the Author(s)

Rich Furman, MFA, MSW, PhD, is full professor of social work at the University of Washington, Tacoma. Rich has 25 years of experience as a clinical social worker, organizational leader, therapist, coach and scholar. He is the author of over 15 books and 120 peer-reviewed articles, and recognized as one of the international leaders in expressive, arts-based qualitative methodologies.

Margaret Gibelman was executive director of the Lupus Foundation of America and the National Association of School Psychologists and was the associate executive director of the Council on Social Work Education.

Ren Winnett, MSW, LICSW, is a licensed clinical social worker at Multicare Health System in Washington and a lecturer at the University of Washington Tacoma.


"One of the seminal texts in social work by a stalwart - Margaret Gibelman - it is still relevant to this day. The authors have carefully updated the text and incorporated important elements of social justice, ethics, diversity and representation. The added emphasis on technology and its role in practice is critical and much needed. An essential text for all social work students." - Manoj Pardasani, Hunter College

"Navigating Human Service Organizations accomplishes a rare goal of bridging the scholarly and practice worlds. It has done so by carefully integrating critical concepts and providing readers with clarity about how most effectively to apply them through case examples that allow readers to see their concrete application. I was particularly attracted to how social justice and empowerment are prominently featured, too. In short, the authors are to be commended for this difficult and important undertaking that makes a substantial contribution to the profession." - Melvin Delgado, Boston University

"A realistic romp through a wide range of social work leadership, administration, supervision, and organizational praxis." - Elaine Spencer, Red Deer College

Table of Contents


    1. Getting to Know the Human Service Organization
    The Work Setting
    Agency Roles for Social Workers
    Why Do We Need to Know about Organizations?
    Clarifying Terminology
    Ethical Guidelines
    Social Work and Organizations: Historic Roots
    Conflicts between Professionals and Organizations
    Changing Conceptions of Organizations
    Sources of Information about Organizations
    What to Request
    Key Points
    Suggested Learning Activities and Discussion Questions

    2. Distinguishing Features of Organizations
    Defining Human Service Organizations
    Putting Theory to Practice
    Types of Organizations
    Public versus Private Organizations
    Boundary Blurring: Justifiable Confusion
    Self-Help Organizations
    Organizational Structure
    The Future
    Globalization: Another Consideration for the Future
    Key Points
    Suggested Learning Activities and Discussion Questions

    3. How Organizations Are Financed
    Sources of Funds
    Individual Donations
    Big Donors
    Fundraising Practices
    Other Sources of Revenue
    Managing Finances
    Unwanted Surprises
    Key Points
    Suggested Learning Activities and Discussion Questions

    4. Power and Supervision within the Organizational Setting
    Role of the Board of Directors
    The Job of the Chief Executive Officer
    Attributes of a Good Chief Executive Officer
    Definitions of Supervision
    The Supervisor
    The Code of Ethics and Supervision
    The Role of Social Work Supervision within the Organization
    The Functions of Supervision
    Difficulties Encountered in Supervision
    Enhancing Professional Development
    Continuing Professional Education
    Evaluating Job Performance
    Key Points
    Suggested Learning Activities and Discussion Questions

    5. The Work Environment
    The Impact of Managerial Style
    The Agency's Workforce
    The Physical Environment
    Organizational Culture and Climate
    Use of Teams
    Informal Environment
    Staff Morale
    Key Points
    Suggested Learning Activities and Discussion Questions

    6. Social Work Practice in Host Settings
    Work Challenges in Host Settings
    Role Incongruity
    Health Care Settings as Hosts
    Hospital Social Work
    The School as an Organizational Setting
    Criminal Justice
    The Legal System
    When Social Work No Longer Dominates
    Unique Challenges
    Key Points
    Suggested Learning Activities and Discussion Questions

    7. Conditions of Work
    Organizational Policies
    Formal Policies Concerning Employment
    Laws Governing Employment
    How Far Have We Come?
    Workplace Rules
    Job Benefits
    Key Points
    Suggested Learning Activities and Discussion Questions

    8. The Changing Environment of Organizations
    The Organization as an Open System
    Changing Public Policies
    Managed Care
    Changing Patterns of Service Delivery
    Quality Control
    The Inevitability of Change
    Key Points
    Suggested Learning Activities and Discussion Questions

    9. Internal Sources of Organizational Change
    Management Turnover
    A New Boss
    Facing a Financial Crunch
    Managed Care
    A Changing Client Base
    Planning Processes
    Obstacles to Change
    Key Points
    Suggested Learning Activities and Discussion Questions

    10. Coping with Change
    The Strengths Perspective
    Directing Power Resources
    Persuading through Hard Facts
    The Importance of Outcomes
    Key Points
    Suggested Learning Activities and Discussion Questions

    11. Lending a Helping Hand: Making Your Organization Better
    Selecting Your Battles
    Dealing with Difficult Colleagues
    No Organization Is Perfect
    Professional Development
    Looking toward Your Future
    Developing Skills for Your Agency and Yourself
    A Final Word
    Key Points
    Suggested Learning Activities and Discussion Questions

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