Decolonizing Social Work “Best Practices” through a Philosophy of Impermanence


  • Alexandra Crampton Marquette University


best practices, evidence based practice, Indigenous philosophies, social work education, social work decolonization


In the book, Decolonizing Social Work, a common theme is how decolonization requires more than surface level change.  In social work, changing theories and intervention practices will not bring true transformation without attending to underlying western beliefs that perpetuate problems.  This essay uses Shawn Wilson’s metaphor of an island to identify one such belief, explain how it is damaging to social work practice, and propose an alternative (Wilson, 2013).  I first explain this alternative through a story of successful decolonization of sacred practices by the Zuni people.  I then apply lessons learned from this story to the social work concepts of best practices and evidence based practice.  My overall argument is that these concepts can have destructive effects when informed by a belief in permanence, and that these concepts are better realized through an underlying philosophy of impermanence.


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