Episode 37 - Dr. Claudia Coulton: Location, Location, Location: Using Technology to Address Social Problems in Context

Monday, January 11, 2010, 8:23:00 AM

Image of Dr. Claudia Coulton

Social problems have specific physical and social contexts. Dr. Claudia Coulton discusses how social work practitioners, researchers, and students can use technology such as geographic information systems (GIS) and other analytic tools to understand social problems, improve service delivery, and promote community and social development.

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Average Rating: 4.4 stars (8 listener reviews )

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Average Rating: 5stars  technology, social work and community needs assessment, Tuesday, October 09, 2018

By Estella :

This podcast encouraged me to rethink social work practice. Historically, social work practice is focused on face to face human interactions. However, and as technology expanding, social work practice is rapidly changing and challenges practitioners to think innovatively. Dr. Coulton explains how social work practice can use technology for analysis, development, planning and implementation of programs and policies. I thought about this information in the context of conducting a community needs assessment. In order for us to investigate a communities’ state of resources, we would conduct a needs assessment by collecting data. Typically, speaking data for the needs assessment is done by conducting interviews and focus groups. In my experience focus groups can become influenced by dominant attendees, which in turn can influence responses. Interviews can be costly, quality is based upon the ability of the person conducting the interview, and what is gathered in person or on paper now needs to be manually entered for analysis. Surveys such as the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) is a perfect example of the use of technology in social work. Through data that was collected, scholar, administrators, social workers and other professions can identify youth behaviors by age, grade level, gender, location, etc.

Great Podcast!

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Average Rating: 5stars  true to social work values, Monday, October 08, 2018

By Sarah Huerta Well :

Before this podcast, I'd never learned about spatial analysis methods and geographic information systems. Now I understand how this is so important and useful in the field of social work, and it is unfortunate that during the bulk of our education, we have such limited exposure to learn about such methods. As social workers, we often discuss the importance of meeting the clients where they are, and the effects of ones environment. To me, this is one of the values that sets our field apart from other helping professions, in that we do not limit our view to just the individual, but in assessing and treating we consider the multiple systems the individual interacts with. It is often true that when one thinks of technology, why shy away from it, yet after hearing this podcast I've become more aware of the many options in terms of technology, and how we can use it within the field of social work. I think I'd really love to take the course you teach on using this technology!

In viewing the trends of the community, the prevalence of incidents in certain areas, the demographics, and all the different categories of data collection as mentioned by Dr. Coulton, one really puts together a database system of vast knowledge that could be so useful for many fields. Rather than shying away from technology, I hope that I begin to embrace it more and see it as another avenue of providing the best service to our clients not only at the macro level, but mezzo and macro as well.

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Average Rating: 5stars  informative, Monday, October 08, 2018

By Gary Y :

It's great to learn more about different approaches in social work. We think of social work as a more personable and direct form of work. However, we must not forget that the world is forever changing and social work must change and adapt as well.

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Average Rating: 4stars  knowing what's out there, Monday, October 08, 2018

By Sara L. :

I think that the information that Dr. Coulton has presented in this podcast was extremely insightful and relevant to social work practice today. It can be a common thought that social workers are not too savvy when it comes to numbers and calculating data, but it is a crucial part of how we are able to help populations in need. When you have information regarding geographic locations it can help you understand the population of people that need to be served there and find effective ways to meet their needs. As Dr. Coulton was discussing areas that have high rates of child abuse/neglect, by having that insight to that area different kinds of programs can be developed such as prevention services. I feel like for social workers it is always best to know how are clients are connected to their environment and how that impacts their daily lives.

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Average Rating: 4stars  raising the volume with technology, Saturday, October 06, 2018

By Melissa Cirina :

It is hard not to be overwhelmed by the information that is at our finger tips. Dr. Coulton helps us as social workers recognize value in acquiring the skills to use tools and technology to better understand and address the needs of individuals, communities, organizations, and more. In an ever expanding technological world, social workers will fall behind if we see technology as a barrier to our work. With a balance of interpersonal relationships with and the efficiency that technology can provide we are better equipped to process information and turn it into tangible change. I believe technology is one of the most powerful tools we have when connecting work done at micro, mezzo, and macro levels. The sharing of data being it through GIS or simple online surveys is creating a world where more individual’s and community’s stories are heard and individual experiences are connected to the larger stories our society is telling. It is up to us to decide what role we want to play in amplifying this story.

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Average Rating: 4stars  data is powerful, Tuesday, October 02, 2018

By Jessica Brown :

Thank you for taking the time to record this podcast. I have engaged in discussions with peers around this topic, in part because I find myself somewhat resistant to diving into data as a tool for our work. I think I am a victim of the myth that social workers can't do maths. I did have a supervisor who was very good at taking raw data and finding meaningful insight in it which helped me to begin to see the power in this.

Looking at the physical environment and factors associated with that (for example, bus routes, highways which cut off neighborhoods, or even toxins) is totally in line with the way we are taught to practice in theory, but I have never been shown how to look at that data as part of planning an intervention. Fascinating stuff!

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Average Rating: 4stars  location matters, Tuesday, September 18, 2018

By gb :

Thank you to Dr. Coulton for taking what can be a very foreign concept for social workers and making some very important connections to the work we do every day. Your explanation of how using technology such as geographic information systems or computer assisted surveys enhances our ability to really identify and target issues for social change was clear and explained in a way that seemed non-threatening and actually doable. The whole approach to looking at how the greater environment impacts micro level problems is very in keeping with a person-in -environment perspective. Delving more deeply into the environment, I was able to see how resources, barriers and issues of “neighborhood disorganization” seem to keenly impact individuals, families and communities. Dr. Coulton was able to clearly outline how the use of readily available data can actually lend itself very well to identifying not only remedial solutions to social problems but preventive programs as well. The podcast was effective in tying together how technology, evidence based research and practice and micro, mezzo and macro social work fit together. It also underlines the very important role social workers can play in identifying the needs of individual families but also understanding that macro level changes may be needed in order to effectively facilitate lasting change for individual families in a community. Stakeholder input was confirmed as important when looking at areas to target for intervention. This podcast provided many ideas for use of already existing data that could be applied by social workers in multiple contexts. Thank you.

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Average Rating: 4stars  interested in your feedback, Wednesday, January 27, 2010

By David Monroe :

Community Connections of New York has finished creating an asset map of Erie County that will allow service providers, families, and youth to find resources in their community, modify resource based on changes in their neighborhood, and add new locations as their community grow and changes.

Please visit We would be interested in your feedback, comments, and assistance.

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DISCLAIMER: The content shared by the presenter(s) and/or interviewer(s) of each podcast is their own and not necessarily representative of any views, research, or practice from the UB School of Social Work or the inSocialWork® podcast series.