NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Jack Rothman has made groundbreaking contributions to the profession in the area of practice and also in research. In addition, he has forcefully forged innovative connections between knowledge development and knowledge utilization for over three decades. This work has been distinctive, distinguished, and impressively path setting.
In the early 1960s, Rothman joined Professor Meyer Schwartz at the University of Pittsburgh to implement the first contemporary two-year concentration in community organization. He continued with notable curriculum development work in community organization at the University of Michigan. With his colleagues, he designed the most comprehensive community organization curriculum, built the largest student body in the country, and inspired other similar specializations across the nation. During this period, Rothman served as a research associate on the national Community Organization Curriculum Development Project, based at Brandeis University, where he took responsibility for designing the field instruction component. His biography is included in the Historical Dictionary of Community Organization—which salutes 40 individuals whose accomplishments have been of historical significance, including Jane Addams, Eduard Lindeman and Mary Follett.
In the area of research, Rothman's bridging efforts provided an original paradigm for incorporating research and its utilization into a single integrative methodology. It is a form of intervention research (Social R&D, Design and Development D&D) that offers a systematic means for creating tested and user-ready tools for social work practice. Moreover, his work was prescient, emerging prior to the profession's embrace of evidence-based practice and providing a guiding framework for the empirical practice movement that has influenced academic research in social work for several decades.
Rothman's early work at the University of Michigan involved an extensive research utilization effort geared to developing an empirical knowledge base for community intervention. His 1974 book, Planning and Organizing for Social Change: Action Principles from Social Science Research was based on the retrieval of over 900 empirical studies from multiple disciplines and their synthesis into several hundred generalizations and action guidelines for practitioners. For this project he developed a unique methodology of qualitative meta-analysis - termed Systematic Research Synthesis, which he has used in a series of subsequent studies.
This retrieval step was followed by the other stages in the social R&D process. Over a nine-year period (1968-1977), with continuing support from NIMH, Rothman field-tested, evaluated and refined selected action guidelines, produced practitioner manuals for using them in agency settings, and disseminated these nationally to relevant social service agencies. This series of studies called the Community Intervention Project, constituted not only carrying out the stages of Social R&D, as such, but concurrently inventing and testing them at every step along the way. The process culminated in both a methodological monograph and a book, Social R&D: Research and Development in the Human Service that document and detail the procedures.
Rothman's pioneering attainments in both research and in practice are symbolized by two awards of merit. In 1980, The Evaluation Society presented him with the Myrdal Award for Human Services, recognizing "distinguished contributions in applying evaluation research to the delivery of social services." In 1992, the Association of Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA) presented him its first annual award for "Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Community Organization." It is this high order of competence in both domains that has made possible Rothman's ability to link research and practice closely and to configure a novel, integrative intervention research paradigm. His cross-area writings have been prolific--probably few, if any, other social workers have contributed as many books to the literature.
There has been considerable external validation of the merit of Rothman's endeavors, through aforementioned awards from the Evaluation Research Society, ACOSA, and the NASW Foundation, to which can be added two senior Fulbright Research fellowships— in Great Britain and Israel (these fellowship are seldom awarded twice), a Harry Lurie Fellowship, a Distinguished Alumni Award from Ohio State University, and consulting invitations from the National Science Foundation, the Center for Disease Control, the National Task Force on Group Life in America, the Veterans Administration, and numerous other international, national, state and local bodies. He is an American social worker who has gained widespread international recognition and respect for advances in both the research realm and in the field of community intervention, recognition that extends well beyond the field of social work.