All things SRV

We will use this blog to regularly post news, analyses, videos and links, training updates, resources for further learning, questions, and so on, relevant to Social Role Valorization (SRV). We encourage you to subscribe to the blog and to comment on our posts. The more comments and online discussions, the more we can help deepen our understanding of SRV on behalf of vulnerable people.

Posted on February 10, 2010 at 11:35 am by MTumeinski · Permalink · One Comment
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Role of server or friend?

One of the clarifications offered in introductory Social Role Valorization workshops and texts is the distinction between the role of server (whether paid or voluntary) and the valued social role of friend. Servers may indeed be friendly to the people they serve, but as long as they are in the role of server, they are not friend. We know what friendship entails. Many people who are societally devalued, and who have been isolated and perhaps cut off from freely-given relationships, may indeed be lonely and hungry for relationship. This real need does not however justify distorting and conflating the role of server and the role of friend.

With this in mind, consider two recent articles in the 26 April 2020 New York Times. One article, entitled ‘Be a friend to the elderly and get paid,’ describes:

“Papa, a health tech company that provides ‘grandkids on demand’ … Founded in 2018, Papa pairs older adults with college students and young workers who have common interests and hobbies … the Papa pals … make between $11 and $14 an hour, not including tips and covered expenses like gas, on a freelance basis. (Papa is currently available in 20 states; the company typically charges clients $20 to $25 an hour.)”

Whatever needs for relationship and companionship that vulnerable elders may have, Papa pals are not friends with the elders with whom they are matched. It is rather, in the words of the article, a ‘friendship business.’ The language of client and the discussion of pay rates, makes this evident.

Compare this with another article in the same edition of the newspaper, this one entitled ‘Still lives: Visual diaries from 15 photographers give a glimpse of life in a time of isolation,’ a series of photographs and text.

One of the diary entries is by Michelle Agins. When the pandemic hit the US, Agins left New York City to stay with the mother of a neighbor. The mother, Florence Patterson, who is 84 years old, lives in rural upstate New York, near the Canadian border. Patterson is offering hospitality and sanctuary to Michelle Agins. Patterson is described in the article in role terms, as “a retired executive, former real estate broker, a humanitarian and an activist.” Patterson is providing help to Agins, and is also receiving help. This speaks to the mutual role of friend. As Agins notes, “I’m grateful to be here with Ms. Florence.” Florence Patterson is receiving some of the very same kinds of help as the elders described in the previous article about the health tech company, but the roles and relationships are fundamentally different.

Posted on April 26, 2020 at 2:04 pm by MTumeinski · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Franklin Armstrong in the Peanuts cartoon

The 5 April 2020 edition of the NY Times included an obituary notice for Harriet Glickman. From the article:

“Ms. Glickman was a former schoolteacher in California when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, shocking the nation and heightening her concern about what she saw as toxic racism that permeated society. She began thinking of ways the mass media shaped the unconscious biases of America’s children, she later wrote, and “felt that something could be done through our comic strips.” She wrote to several cartoonists, including Mr. Schulz, urging them to add black characters to their strips. At the time “Peanuts,” which had been appearing since 1950, was syndicated in about 1,000 newspapers and reached tens of millions of readers, according to Benjamin L. Clark, the curator at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, Calif.”

“On July 31, 1968, Franklin Armstrong appeared in “Peanuts” for the first time, returning a beach ball Charlie Brown had lost in the ocean and then helping him build a sand castle. Nothing aside from the color of his skin set him apart from the other children in the strip.”

This is an interesting example to reflect on in light of Social Role Valorization (SRV). More specifically, Wolfensberger identifies four categories of action implications related to SRV (SRV monograph, 2004, pp. 78-80). These actions include efforts primarily to enhance social images on the larger societal level.

See this online article which includes the first cartoon including Franklin Armstrong.

Posted on April 5, 2020 at 11:52 am by MTumeinski · Permalink · Leave a comment
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NY Times Magazine article ‘E-jail’ by Ava Kofman

A 3 July 2019 article in the NY Times Magazine entitled ‘Digital Jail: How Electronic Monitoring Drives Defendants Into Debt’ by Ava Kaufman compellingly illustrates the concepts of heightened vulnerability, and of non-programmatic factors, as described in Social Role Valorization (SRV). Note also the example of a private for-profit human service organization.

From the article:

“On Oct. 12, 2018, Daehaun White walked free, or so he thought … The lanky 19-year-old had been sitting for almost a month in St. Louis’s Medium Security Institution, a city jail known as the Workhouse, after being pulled over for driving some friends around in a stolen Chevy Cavalier. When the police charged him with … driving a car without its owner’s consent — and held him overnight, he assumed he would be released by morning. … He had no previous convictions. But the $1,500 he needed for the bond was far beyond what he or his family could afford. It wasn’t until his public defender, Erika Wurst, persuaded the judge to lower the amount to $500 cash, and a nonprofit fund, the Bail Project, paid it for him, that he was able to leave the notoriously grim jail … When he finally read Wurst’s letter, however, he realized there was a catch. Even though Wurst had argued against it, the judge … had ordered him to wear an ankle monitor that would track his location at every moment using GPS. For as long as he would wear it, he would be required to pay $10 a day to a private company, Eastern Missouri Alternative Sentencing Services, or Emass. Just to get the monitor attached, he would have to report to Emass and pay $300 up front — enough to cover the first 25 days, plus a $50 installation fee … In recent years, politicians on both sides of the aisle have joined criminal-justice reformers in recognizing mass incarceration as both a moral outrage and a fiscal sinkhole. As ankle bracelets have become compact and cost-effective, legislators have embraced them as an enlightened alternative. More than 125,000 people in the criminal-justice system were supervised with monitors in 2015, compared with just 53,000 people in 2005 … It costs St. Louis roughly $90 a day to detain a person awaiting trial in the Workhouse, where in 2017 the average stay was 291 days. When individuals pay Emass $10 a day for their own supervision, it costs the city nothing … White assumed that GPS supervision would prove a minor annoyance. Instead, it was a constant burden. The box was bulky and the size of a fist, so he couldn’t hide it under his jeans … The biggest problem was finding work. Confident and outgoing, White had never struggled to land jobs; after dropping out of high school in his junior year, he flipped burgers at McDonald’s and Steak ’n Shake. To pay for the monitor, he applied to be a custodian at Julia Davis Library, a cashier at Home Depot, a clerk at Menards. The conversation at Home Depot had gone especially well, White thought, until the interviewer casually asked what was on his leg … In 2011, the National Institute of Justice surveyed 5,000 people on electronic monitors and found that 22 percent said they had been fired or asked to leave a job because of the device.”

Posted on July 28, 2019 at 12:08 pm by MTumeinski · Permalink · Leave a comment
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‘Bedlam on the East River’

The NY Times published a book review of ‘Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad and Criminal in 19th Century New York’ by Stacy Horn.

The review is worth reading and has lots of SRV lessons that would be worth reading and discussing (e.g., as part of an SRV discussion group).

The island was called Blackwell’s in the 18th century, after a family living on the island, then later Welfare Island (in the 20th century), and today has been renamed Roosevelt Island.

According to the review, this two mile island in the East River was the site of the New York City Lunatic Asylum, a smallpox hospital, and a penitentiary. Eventually, two additional island (Randall’s, Wards) also become the sites of institutions.

The famous 19th century reporter Nellie Bly pretended insanity in order to be sent to the asylum on Blackwell’s, and then wrote an expose for a New York newspaper.

Note the segregation and congregation of unwanted peoples out of New York City, and onto islands away from the local populations of societally valued people.

The reviewer points out some of the language used to describe the buildings and programs, such as ‘lodge’ and ‘retreat;’ which may be examples of detoxifying language. The name changes from Blackwell’s to Welfare, and from Welfare to Roosevelt, are also instructive from an SRV perspective.

Much more to explore from an SRV perspective, such as poverty and impoverishment, rejection, and death making. Nellie Bly’s work might be seen in part as an example of trying to foster interpersonal identification. According to the review, it involved governmental efforts to make structural change, and so on.

Posted on July 2, 2018 at 10:28 am by MTumeinski · Permalink · Leave a comment
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homelessness in Delhi

The following 18 January 2016 NY Times article entitled “Desperate for slumber in Delhi, homeless encounter a ‘sleep mafia’ ” would be worth studying from an SRV perspective. It describes the social devaluation, wounding and heightened vulnerability of homeless people in Delhi, India.

Posted on June 27, 2018 at 4:31 pm by MTumeinski · Permalink · Leave a comment
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According to a recent BBC news item, young men and women jailed in Senegal are taking classes in fencing once a week.

BBC news

CNN news

Many elements of this story illustrate aspects of Social Role Valorization and PASSING, such as valued roles in the domain of leisure, competency and image enhancement, positive expectations, relevant appearance and possessions, etc.

While elements of the program could be improved in terms of SRV principles (e.g., the funding source is a charity named Pour le sourire d’un enfant [for an infant’s smile], the activity is essentially segregated), it also demonstrates the power of valued roles to open the door to the good things of life, such as better health, learning, opportunities to develop one’s skills, to be treated with respect, etc.).

Posted on November 29, 2017 at 11:35 pm by MTumeinski · Permalink · Leave a comment
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From study to implementation: SRV and PASSING (tip #1)

Both the PASSING tool (manual) and the PASSING workshop are high quality resources that can help to make SRV theory concrete, practical and ‘implementable.’ For example, the PASSING tool (manual) includes 42 distinct ratings, and PASSING workshop teams typically study, review and assess each of these ratings one by one. This repeated study and practice within a workshop can inculcate a habit of evaluating human service practices from multiple angles, in terms of both image enhancement (27 ratings) and competency enhancement (15 ratings). This skill is more realistic than, for example, assessing services practices as an amorphous whole, or confusing a part of a service for the whole.


Thinking concretely about each specific rating can also help servers to think in terms of making incremental changes on a range of fronts, rather than becoming overwhelmed about where to start. What can we do (as an agency, program, etc.) about the imagery of the external setting? What can we do about the competency enhancement potential of the interactions between servers and served? And so on.


Another example: each PASSING rating is evaluated along a continuum from negative to positive, from level 1 to level 5. This structure reflects a more realistic mindset of how to assess the relevance and the potency of a particular service practice. What could be a little better, a little more relevant, a little more potent, a little more image enhancing, a little more competency enhancing, a little better at opening the door to the ‘good things of life’ …


Rather than getting stuck because a socially devalued group or individual does not have an ideal situation, SRV and PASSING teach servers to think about taking steps, big and small, to improve a devalued group or individual’s access to the ‘good things of life’ which a particular society has to offer.

Posted on November 13, 2017 at 12:08 pm by MTumeinski · Permalink · Leave a comment
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‘Small Town Reclaims Former Mental Hospital as Arts Haven’

An article in the 28 October 2017 Wall Street Journal entitled ‘Small town reclaims former mental hospital as arts haven’ might be interesting to study from an SRV and PASSING perspective in terms of setting as a communicator of imagery, and the importance of the history of a setting.

Fergus Falls State Hospital was built on the Kirkbride plan, named for Dr. Thomas Kirkbride who was involved in the moral treatment movement.

From the article:

“Every small community is trying to find ways to set themselves apart right now and have a unique story,” said Michele Anderson, rural program director with Springboard for the Arts, a community-development group that hosts an artists residency program and annual arts festival in Fergus Falls on the hospital grounds. “This is our story.”

This links to a 25 minute documentary about the history of Fergus Falls:

Posted on October 31, 2017 at 7:46 pm by MTumeinski · Permalink · One Comment
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upcoming issue of The SRV Journal

While we work to get the latest issue of The SRV Journal ready to be printed, readers and subscribers might be interested in the titles of the major articles. Lots of good material here, relevant to SRV training and implementation:

Milt Tyree, Learning from Our History: Raising the Bar for Employment Possibilities

Susan Thomas, Some SRV Considerations About Work, Work Sites & Work Contexts, Especially in Light of the Contemporary Push to Abolish What Are Called “Sheltered Work Settings”

Martin Elks, Five Foundational Personal & Social Identities in Normalization & Social Role Valorization

Donna Vanderkloet, How Friendship Conquered the Play Structure

Matthew Nguyen, Memories: The Power of Transmuting Space into Time

Carol O’Donnell, From SRV Training to Implementation: An Account of One Person’s Journey

My thanks to all of our wonderful contributors, and to our subscribers.



Posted on September 5, 2017 at 8:17 pm by MTumeinski · Permalink · Leave a comment
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7th international SRV conference

Save the dates and start planning!

7th International Conference

“Opening Doors to Good things in Life: Implementing Social Role Valorization”

from June 6-8, 2018

plus pre-conference workshops on June 4 and 5, 2018

at the Fairmont Hotel, Winnipeg, MB, Canada

Posted on May 29, 2017 at 8:58 am by MTumeinski · Permalink · 2 Comments
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