The push towards “global standards” in social work is part of a movement to generate uniformity, quality control, and benchmarking for professional education programs. It acts as a powerful vestige of modern institutions and professional associations to prescribe through processes of standardization, formalization, and technical specificity. In social work “global standards” attempt to create a fixed set of minimal requirements to which all professional programs should adhere. Standards are viewed along two dimensions: (i) as a necessity due to the changes and scale of complexity in social work; and (ii) as a vehicle for importing dominant forms of knowledge, values, and skills. Those parties who enthusiastically underwrite attempts to construct “global standards” in fact create a powerful network of allies that undermine local or cultural differences and fail to reconcile them. Global standards in social work undercut indigenous skills and values and negate the expertise of professional judgement. They constitute an unnecessary and politically motivated intrusion in the world of social workers. Ultimately, standards such as these are an illegitimate, impersonal, and voluntary means of regulation. As such, global standards are inherently political because their construction and application formally regulates the local practices in which they become embedded. Over time, they modify the position of social work practitioners and alter relations of accountability to the standards themselves.
Journal of Progressive Human Services Vol. 19, Issue 1, p. 61-66