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“The basic idea behind the Basic Income Model is that a floor of economic security should be available to everyone in a given political community – a province or state or country – and that this kind of economic support available to all should be at a level to guarantee a modest but dignified lifestyle where people have choices and the ability to pursue their goals.”

Dr. James Mulvale

Since its inception, social work has been a profession dedicated to social justice, human rights, and a dignified life for all people. As the heart of our work is a commitment to ending poverty and the countless ways that poverty negatively affects the lives of individuals, families, and communities. A far-ranging array of policies, practices, and movements have worked to end poverty and its effects. However, these many different roads to the same goal often spread our resources and energy thinly. What if there were an opportunity to realize many of social work’s values in a way that does not take us in twenty directions?

In this podcast, Dr. James Mulvale suggests that such an opportunity may exist. While he offers no magic bullets to poverty or other social problems, he does propose basic income as one powerful tool to build stronger communities and help individuals and families live lives of moral dignity. He explains the basic income model and what it involves, and explores both the reasons that basic income’s proponents support it as well as the practical and theoretical objections that opponents have raised. He also shares the results of studies and basic income programs to offer responses to these objections. Dr. Mulvale compares basic income to existing social welfare programs in Canada and the U.S., and discusses what social workers can do to promote the basic income model at different levels of practice. Throughout the entire discussion, Dr. Mulvale reminds us of the connections between basic income and social work’s most fundamental values or social justice and human rights.

Dr. James Mulvale is Dean of the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Manitoba. Before taking this position in 2013, he was a faculty member at the University of Regina in Justice Studies and in the Faculty of Social Work for fourteen years, during which time he served as a term as Associate Dean of Social Work. As a social work practitioner, he worked in community development roles in the fields of intellectual disability and mental health. Dr. Mulvale’s research is focused on Basic Income, social work theory, and economic development in Aboriginal communities. He is Vice-Chair of the Basic Income Canada Network, a member of the Social Policy Interest Group of the Canadian Association of Social Workers, and Secretary of the Canadian Association of Deans and Directors of Social Work. His publications include Reimagining Social Welfare(2001) and Possibilities and Prospects: The Debate Over a Guaranteed Income(2009).

Interviewer: Gretchen Ely, PhD

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