NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Harry Specht is a leading authority on community organization and social planning. His book, Community Organization, is the basic text in this area. What distinguishes this work from earlier efforts to define and explain community organization (such as Campbell’s Community Organization Practice, 1954 and Arthur Dunham’s The New Community Organization, 1970) is that it goes beyond the traditional descriptions of settings and processes to incorporate social science theory end empirical findings on groups and organizations into the analysis of practice. In staking out the preliminary ground for a scientific base of community organization this work has made an important mark on the thinking about and teaching of practice.
In general, Specht’s empirical research has contributed numerous insights on issues such as the role of citizen participation, conditions that facilitate service coordination, the congruence of planning objective, the influence of ideology and impact of the interorganizational field on community organization and social planning practice. It is difficult to find an article dealing with community organization and social planning in social work that does not refer to one or more of Specht’s theoretical and empirical contributions to the knowledge base in this field.
In the area of professional development, Specht’s writings examine the field of social work with a critical intelligence that is lively and incisive. He has analyzed trends in professional practice and education, which include: the development of new career programs, the deprofessionalization of social work, professional ethics, models of education for direct and indirect services, and a comparative analysis of the professional performance of BSW and MSW program graduates. His findings on “Undergraduate Education and Professional Achievement” gave empirical substance to the heated debate in the profession and resulted in considerable exchange of professional opinion.
With regard to the question of excellence in social work education, it is significant that in 1985 - 1986, Specht was chosen the chair of the Committee of Excellence of the National Association of Deans and Directors of Graduate Schools of Social Work and was, more so than anyone, responsible for their report, The Pursuit of Excellence in Social Work Education.