Human services professionals are increasingly called upon to assist individuals, families, and communities who are experiencing even greater uncertainties and complex challenges as a result of the global financial crisis.

Our field has always been on the front line in supporting and advocating for those in need. This course, “Advancing Economic Literacy in Human Services”, will provide the necessary competency-based training, skill sets, and tools to enable today’s human services professionals to help clients access needed entitlements and asset-building strategies.

This comprehensive approach includes the big picture economic factors that contribute to the economic well- being or economic stress experienced by clients. The methodology takes into account real world events and allows professionals and clients to more effectively engage in a dialogue to address economic problems, identify potential resources and solutions, access benefits, become knowledgeable around economic asset-building strategies, and make informed decisions that will help strengthen stability and provide hope and opportunity.

Note: This curriculum was developed by social workers to enhance economic capacity-building competencies of both social work students and professionals, as they interact with clients in a wide variety of roles and kinds of human service agencies. Although it references social work roles, values, and professional standards, the authors and editors recognize that the content areas are applicable to human service practitioners in a wide range of organizational settings. It is deliberately designed for broad utilization and adaptation.


Economic Literacy and the Professional Self increases self-awareness and understanding of the ways in which our personal beliefs about money, social work roles, values, and competencies influence professional practice.


The ABC’s of the Economy links economics and social work practice by connecting the workings of the economy to the daily lives of individuals/families, agencies, and communities. It makes often unfamiliar economic information more accessible and less intimidating by describing the workings of the economy; defines basic economic concepts and terms; indicates how the government manages economic ups and downs; examines who benefits and who loses from different economic policies; and shows how the government measures poverty, unemployment, the Consumer Price Index, and other ordinary indicators discussed daily in the media. By detailing major economic problems and current economic policy debates, it helps students and practitioners gain a better handle on important public policy topics.


Most people associate asset building with affluent people. Yet low-income people regularly struggle to develop and accumulate assets. These units provide information that will increase understanding of mainstream financial institutions, such as banks and credit unions, checking and savings accounts, as well as available tax credits that benefit low income people. They also cover public benefits and the informal banking systems utilized in many low-income and/or immigrant communities. Exposure to economic issues and financial education result in greater awareness and better money management skills. This is true both for practitioners, as well as for their clients.


Assessment and Intervention provides an economic lens for practice at micro, mezzo, and macro levels. These units include assessment and interventions for direct practice, an overview of agency and fiscal management, tools for better understanding community socioeconomic and health indicators, and community development. Advocacy, whether for individuals, families or communities, is a cross cutting theme in all these practice arenas.

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