Mission and History
The Team Conference and Group Work Project (THE PROJECT) is an entirely new organization – founded in 2013 – by four seasoned social work practitioners. THE PROJECT is founded to build the skills, professional practices, and knowledge of people who work with children and teens in public schools and out-of school-time programs.
Our vision is to improve the well-being of children, teenagers, and young people by investing educational resources in the people who work with them, many of whom are youth themselves — from backgrounds similar to the young people they serve — striving to achieve their academic and life potential.
Our objective – to advance professional rigor on the front lines – is achieved by providing intensive support to staff teams – on site, for extended periods of time. We assist direct service staff and supervisors to handle the complex challenges, dilemmas, and opportunities they encounter on a daily basis as they work with individuals and in groups by providing assistance in two areas: social group work and team conferencing.
THE PROJECT provides high quality professional development that is sustained, of considerable duration, embedded in practice, collaborative in nature, and explicitly connected to relevant theory whose characteristics are associated with effective professional development.
PROJECT founders are working to improve human services in two ways – first, by infusing organizations with the values and skills associated with social group work – a research-based approach to working with people that is rooted in the settlement house movement and second, by introducing team conferencing as a routine management practice based on clinical social work and social group work to strengthen staff skills as they build relationships with children and teens and support their academic, social-emotional, and developmental growth.
Lyons, THE PROJECT‘s executive director and team conference expert, was introduced to the idea of team conferencing in graduate school when she participated in grand rounds at a mental health clinic. “We learned to think about patients in a structured and disciplined way,” she recalls. “It elevated our work, especially as we transferred principles of practice across the field.” Lyons found that paradigm so compelling that she adapted and fine-tuned it in her foster-care practice and then for nearly two decades at Interfaith Neighbors, where team conferences were conducted on a weekly basis. Later, as a consultant, Lyons introduced team conferencing to public schools, prevention programs, and alternative education programs, such as pre-GED programs.
In 2013, with a $10,000 grant from the Edmund A. Stanley, Jr. Foundation, Lyons and PROJECT co-founder Dominique Moyse Steinberg examined the implementation of team conferencing at a New York City OST program. Their findings inspired Lyons to found THE PROJECT. “Using a team conference format in out-of-school time programs has its challenges and rewards,” Lyons notes. “Youth practitioners are hard-pressed to find the time — and sometimes the actual space — in which to meet, but once we start staff feel empowered by the group discussions, insights, and problem-solving. As the team comes to truly know children, they achieve a whole new level of excellence in practice.”
The union of team conferencing and social group work occurred serendipitously when Steve Kraft, Helene Onserud and Dominique Moyse Steinberg — all active members of The International Association of Social Group Work, Inc. – determined that the technical assistance they provided as one arm of IASWG (and somewhat outside of IASWG’S mission) could continue and expand as a central component of THE PROJECT.
THE PROJECT was approved as a 501 (c) 3, tax exempt organization in April, 2014.