Dr. Fabricant Explains Why This Book Matters

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Rare indeed is the occasion when one has the opportunity to offer deserved praise for a creative work to friends publicly. For many of us, this is one of those very special moments.

When reading Stories of Transformative Leadership in the Human Services: Why the Glass is Always Full, I was reminded of a scene from the film "Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid. " Paul Newman and Robert Redford are being chased after robbing a bank. It was a bank like any other except they were being tracked and the posse was catching up. That was a new experience for them and every few moments Butch would turn around and repeat the same question, "who are those guys?" The same could be said for Steve and Willie.

"Who are these guys" to offer those of us toiling in the human services many hours each week and often under the most difficult conditions a book of such hope?

Who are these guys to reach back to the skin of specific simple truths such as "clean as you go" or the "second golden rule" as the basis for a complex rethinking of how we experience our practice work and reinvent it to meet the increasingly desperate needs of those we serve?

And, finally, who are these guys to have the audacity to offer a new teaching writing form for building new forms of practice thinking. One that seamlessly blends the coherence of fictional narrative the rigor of academic sources, grounded exemplars of transformative leadership with rich exercises to promote dialogue and critical thinking.

Indeed, who are these guys: My simple answer is that Willie and Steve are two gifted, critically reflective thinkers struggling to draw on all they have learned and experienced in the field over the past forty years to extract an essence of practice wisdom for these troubled times. And they have succeeded I might add in creating a book that will make an enormous contribution to rethinking practice work in a period that demands more and more of us but also paradoxically has the potential of also refilling us in the midst of our struggle.

I will not summarize the book. It is my job to tantalize to get each of you to want more, to buy the book, to read the book, to use it and ultimately to adopt it as a teaching tool.

Steve and Willie's practice framework will become increasingly relevant in this period of ever more scarce resources and the corresponding heightened demand for services. Not as a basis for simply adapting to scarcity but as a way of thinking about how to work inventively with scarcity, as we surface areas of emergent opportunity.

Simultaneously, the book is instructive in offering a way to to imagine how new resources can be created internally and externally through the work of building communal partnerships within the work place.

The risk-taking in this work is at times breath taking. Willie and Steve risk to incorporate fictional narrative into an academic text as a basis for engaging and sustaining relationship to a wider audience. They risk sharing their own vulnerability and frustrations in a public text to surface fresh insight about the difficulty of building enduring change and solidarity across the divides of race, class, economic scarcity, and fourteen hour work days. They risk holding equal the practice wisdom offered by secretaries, agency executive directors, maintenance staff and academics. Finally, and perhaps most importantly Steve and Willie risked offering a framework out of step with so much that defines social services today, it demands internal accountability, critical reflection, invention, generosity, dialogue, and grounded vision with both soul and strategic flexibility. What they offer is stands in marked contrast to the present almost exclusive reliance on external sources of accountability, formulaic quantitative measures of success and ever more circumscribed, uniform and rote form of practice.

So who are these guys? They are profoundly thoughtful writers offering us a new way of both imagining and practicing social service work. They are teachers who are offering us not simply a framework but a wisdom for rethinking our practice work. Not an abstract practice wisdom but rather in keeping with the books objectives a grounded and user ready practice wisdom. And finally, they are engaged citizens who offer us a way of rethinking the meaning of democracy and hope through social service practice work. In that sense this work might be likened to John Dewey's work regarding education.

And so these guys, Steve Burghardt and Willie Tolliver, are deserving of our deep respect and regard for daring to write this unique book on Transformational Leadership at this time. Lets thank them by reading it, reflecting on their analysis and most importantly applying the lessons and insights they offer in rich abundance.

– Transcript of Hunter College's School of Social Work Doctoral Program Director Dr. Michael Fabricant introduction, book launch in NYC on May 27, 2009

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This page contains a single entry by Leadership Transformation published on May 27, 2009 12:51 PM.

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