Book Review: World change-maker: build skills in international development and social work. Ann McLaughlin.

Westwood, Joanne Louise orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7560-1391 (2023) Book Review: World change-maker: build skills in international development and social work. Ann McLaughlin. Social Work Education . ISSN 0261-5479

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In World Change-Maker, Ann McLaughlin lays out the key skills and knowledge required for international development work, applying social work skills, knowledge, ethics and values in an accessible format. This is an introductory text for students aspiring to undertake international development work which includes examples and anecdotes from McLaughlin’s extensive international development experience. McLaughlin argues forcefully that international development work remains vital against a context of increasingly authoritarian regimes, unprecedented climate changes and mass movements of peoples escaping war and conflict.
Central to international development work according to McLaughlin is an understanding of poverty, acknowledging that half of the world population live on less than $2.50 a day. Second, key skills which social workers develop in their training can be applied to international development work, these include needs assessment, capacity building, partnership working, community organizing and advocacy. Finally, and crucially, attitudes, particularly beliefs and views about the privileges that are common amongst people in the global North.
For students undertaking international social work programmes, or modules, this text provides a wealth of resources to enable them to develop awareness of the challenges of working in international development, strategies to apply skills and knowledge, and practical examples which illustrate how to carry out this work in empowering, collaborative, and sustainable ways. The Appendices contain activities and key readings which can be utilized by students and educators to reflect on their knowledge and experience
The book is laid out with a useful introduction and overview as well as McLaughlin’s aims to prepare students who wish to work in international development. The book includes stories from fieldwork and anecdotes related to her experiences.
There are references to key texts and theorists throughout including Freire, Bashin and Chambers, and to community activities, organizers and leaders that Mclaughlin has worked with both in the US and across the world.
Part 1 of World Change-Makers explores the relevance of communication and other skills which are applied in international development work. In addition to the people skills, leadership, cultural competence, and advocacy which are all key to social work practice, McLaughlin also discusses the wide range of related skills which social workers develop, and which are transferable in an international development context. The emphasis on explaining poverty is a real strength of this book, McLaughlin humanizes the experiences of poverty, draws on Sen’s work and theorizing as well as exploring how people manage to survive with limited resources, lack of voice, limited means of securing additional resources and the restricted choices poor people in the world have in all areas of their lives. Mclaughlin includes references to activists, academics and advocates who challenge normative assumptions about the homogeneity of poor and developing countries, continents, and their people’s.
In part 2 of World Change-Makers Mclaughlin brings to life the stories of the contexts, countries and people’s, their communities, struggles, achievements, and aspirations. Along SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION with strategies for finding out about the people and places where development work takes place, the reader is introduced to examples of how to participate and integrate into a community and how to do this in an empowering and meaningful way, which avoids creating dependency as traditional aid programmes have done in the past. Part 2 draws on evidence from country reports and international organizations as well as McLaughlin's own experiences of working and traveling in many countries. Part 3 focusses on Advocacy and includes detailed discussions about the economic conditions and structures which have crippled countries over the last 50 years, the central role that oil production and pricing had, particularly the IMF and the World Bank. The impact of these measures on poorer countries was significant and sustained debt—and Mclaughlin describes how countries were forced to sell and trade their natural resources to pay debts back—leading to massive and irreversible deforestation.
This is ultimately a hopeful and optimistic book which I have no doubt will achieve its aims to educate and empower individuals who want to change and improve their world. The lively and engaging style will ensure that students will find confidence in their existing skills and knowledge and the materials, discussions and stories will equip them to be a force for good.

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