The Intergroup Dialogue, Education and Action (IDEA) Center at the University of Washington School of Social
Work was started in November 1996 with funding from the Council
on Social Work Education (CSWE) as a response to the urgent challenges
for social work educators to prepare competent practitioners who
can work with an increasingly diverse clientele and embrace the
profession's social justice mission. These challenges call for changes
not only in the content of future practitioners' knowledge, but
also in classroom pedagogies that can enhance their learning experiences
while developing competencies to work in a multicultural society.
Intergroup dialogue--facilitated meetings of students from different
social identity groups--offers an approach that can engage students
in substantive, sustained and conceptually integrated learning experiences.
Intergroup dialogue is a social justice approach to dialogue. It
foregrounds both societal power relations of domination- subordination,
and the creative possibilities for engaging and working with and
across these differences. The approach aims to move beyond seeing
these differences as divisive, and to collectively generate newer
ways of being powerful without perpetuating social inequalities.
This approach coincides with core social work processes of empowerment--building
connections with others, increasing critical consciousness about
social inequalities, engendering commitments to social justice,
and developing competencies to interrupt social injustices and engage
in social change.
The mission of the Center has now expanded to supporting campus
and community efforts geared toward addressing issues of oppression,
empowerment, and alliance building for social justice.