Episode 268 - Dr. Victor Manalo: "Mayor Vic": Social Work Careers in Politics

Monday, August 12, 2019, 9:24:33 AM

Image of Victor Manalo, PhD

In this episode, our guest Dr. Victor Manalo describes his early inspiration for a career as a social worker in the political arena and looks back and forward over his innovative career. Capitalizing on the Social Work core value of and focus on relationships, he discusses the perfect fit with the "it's who you know" reality of political life.

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Average Rating: 5stars  the importance of local government , Tuesday, November 10, 2020

By Tessa :

This interview was truly compelling and offered insight into how politics and social work can intersect to produce meaningful change. In particular, I appreciated Dr. Manolo`s real world examples from his work in California and discussion points on trauma informed policy. Regarding this, Dr. Manolo offered a salient idea that individuals who have been traumatized at any level can see it repeated in the way they are treated by the local government. This macro conceptualization is critical to how a government responds to its citizens. Understanding that policies should be participatory and allow for choice is a powerful tool for empowering citizens of a community. Dr. Manolo`s comments changed the way I view the impact of local government and encouraged me to reconsider the role of social workers within this framework. The example of how he collaborated at the city level to change the bus stop for a neighbor demonstrated the connection to advocacy. Politics works through relationships and social workers have these transferable skills to create important relationships. As the perception of a social worker in the political arena continues to evolve, Dr. Manolo exemplifies the importance of bridging the gap by collaborating resources. Overall, I am very appreciative of Dr. Manolo`s efforts and it inspires me to view policy in a new light.

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Average Rating: 5stars  where the rubber hits the road, Monday, November 09, 2020

By F. Brees :

I am fascinated by Dr. Manalo's career trajectory in the converging fields of social work and politics, and the subsequent convergence of private and public sectors. In particular, I believe that his emphasis on the importance of making local politics accessible to everyone is essential to the social worker's role as an advocate and a change maker. It seems that there is a clear benefit to both the social worker and the local political climate when this engagement occurs - social workers can contribute suggestions and policy interventions to benefit their client populations and the broader community, as well as gaining an understanding of these systems to better help their clients navigate them. I think that the idea of connecting these two worlds can be a daunting one, but I am encouraged by Dr. Manalo's comments about the transferability and significant overlap in the skills required to do both effectively. In particular, the advocacy for our clients and/or constituents, and the necessity of addressing those people's concerns are essential processes in both places - and can make social workers uniquely apt to transfer their direct practice skills elsewhere.

I found it very interesting listening to Dr. Manalo discuss the role of being trauma-informed in both sectors. I am particularly intrigued by the parallels to be drawn between politically engaged people and people engaged in social work services of some kind. He stated that often people do not engage in local politics until something is going wrong or they are upset about an issue that impacts them personally. This is a phenomenon I think we see all to often in social work as well, where clients do not often engage in services until there is a significant need in their lives. This again ties into the concept of accessibility and communication between providers/politicians and participants within these systems, to create space for people to share, participate, and be heard before critical needs arise.

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Average Rating: 5stars  a compelling example of how social workers careers in policy, Sunday, November 08, 2020

By Ciara Parks :

I appreciated this interview with Dr. Manalo and his perspective on the intersection between social work and public policy. It as interesting listening to the parallels Manalo found in his work as a social worker and as a city council member, including building relationships, focusing on the individual, and providing services. I appreciated his story about continuing to maintain relationships with his constituents by knocking on doors, and when people shared their problems he worked to find solutions. The growth mindset that “there is always something we can do about it” was uplifting, especially in our current political climate. Dr. Manalo spoke of his teachings and that he wants to encourage his students to think inventively and be disruptors. As social workers we have an ethical obligation to disrupt the status quo. I found this message to be incredibly compelling. It highlights that social workers, whether they work in micro, mezzo, or macro settings, can have a substantial impact in shaping programs, policies, and services.
Thank you for sharing some of your story and drawing attention to the role that social workers can and do play in the policy arena.

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Average Rating: 5stars  powerful connection through stories, Tuesday, November 03, 2020

By C. Simpson :

I am intrigued by your argument that building relationships is the fundamental building block of social work. It also seems that an additional role of a social worker in fostering and maintaining relationships is also mediating between different perspectives when necessary. The power of mediation and advocacy in all lines of work where clients or communities aren't being justly served by businesses or industries illustrates just how vast the array of potential job opportunities there are for social workers. Your work with your city's planning commission and your coordination of the school employees and DCFS workers coalition is a powerful example that mediation and listening to one another's stories can have in making ground breaking change. How you talked with the coalition's members individually and communally meeting them where they were at, assuaging their fears and connecting the pieces of their stories together so they were eventually able to come together on the same page and provide more resources for their clients, was an inspiring feat. One that many cities could benefit from. However, though a conversation and listening to and sharing one another's stories seems like such a simple act, I'm hesitant to readily apply this approach due to the possible push back from unwilling participants. Today's culture has created a polarizing and fast paced nation, afraid to lose time and money by slowing down for long enough to have a conservation. The complexities of hierarchal organizational structure and how systems are constantly affecting one another can make any person or company defensive of making great change. Hopefully, with the sharing of stories like yours, the increased use of social media and advertisement of innovative projects, future social workers can be inspired to prioritize meaningful connection more than they have before.

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Average Rating: 5stars  incredible insight on policy, social work and everything in between , Saturday, October 31, 2020

By Alaina Ross :

What an insightful conversation on policy, politics and a social work. I greatly appreciated the conversation about trauma informed care in Government specifically. As a social worker in 2020, I essentially cringe at the Government's treatment of constituents. Everything seems to be approached in a financial, insensitive way, only benefiting those within the Government or with connections to elected officials. The conversation really helped further my understanding of just how engrained policy is on every level of social work. Policy is where the change begins and social workers are responsible to fight for the creation of policy as advocates for others. I was very interested hearing about Dr. Manalo's experience as a social worker serving in Government. What a refreshing and unique perspective this gave me! Dr. Manalo's role as an elected official seemed to be so beneficial to the consistent and I'm sure really gave people the chance to change their view on politicians. It is very rare that you are able to find a politician that holds constituents as a top priority, and that is just what Dr. Manalo was able to do!
What an incredible conversation, thank you for taking the time to share this.

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Average Rating: 5stars  “there's always something that can be done.”, Monday, February 03, 2020

By Sarah DZ :

I was inspired by his story about how he began his journey into politics after the Rodney King Riots. Activism has changed my desired career path in social work. When unified, communities can affect cultural and structural change. I agree with what Dr. Manolo said about, “thinking disruptively.” There is absolutely a time and a place for disruption. Sometimes I feel like social workers are pegged as “gatekeepers” and that we don’t want to rock the boat and try to work within the system of bureaucratic red tape. This can be effective up to a certain point. We as social workers are not learning to be comfortable within the status quo and should challenge systems that perpetuate structural inequality. He emphasises the importance of the blending of the micro and macro. We need to listen to our community members on a one on one level and take those concerns to those in power. A part that stuck with me was when he was listening to a constituent about her concerns that the placement of a bus stop was not safe. When he asked the city manager if there was something that could be done, she replied, “There's always something that can be done.” And I agree, no matter how overwhelmed and small we feel, there is always something that can be done. Social workers should be at all levels of government and using our unique perspective to make the system equitable and trauma informed.

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