BRUCE JANSSON joined the USC faculty in 1973 after working as a community organizer and planner for tenants' rights in the state of Michigan and a stint as the Moses Distinguished Research Professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center.
His scholarly interests focus on advancing case advocacy and policy advocacy in social work, as well as examining the history and practice of social welfare policy. He invented the term "policy practice" in the 1984 release of The Theory and Practice of Social Policy, which was succeeded by Social Welfare Policy: from Theory to Practice (1990), Social Welfare Policy: from Theory to Policy Practice (1994), and Becoming an Effective Policy Advocate (1999, 2003, 2008 and 2011). Policy practice has since emerged as a recognized intervention, with the Council on Social Work Education now requiring social work schools to teach policy practice. Additionally, the Journal of Policy Practice was established by a group Jansson founded.
In 2011, Jansson published Improving Healthcare Through Advocacy: A Guide for the Health and Helping Professions, which uses new case advocacy and policy frameworks and more than 100 case studies to explain how health care professionals, including social workers, can better navigate the U.S. health care system for their clients and patients.
In his historical tomes, such as The Reluctant Welfare State: Engaging History to Advance Social Work Practice in Contemporary Society (1988, 1993, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2000 and 2011), Jansson takes a chronological look at America's social welfare system, offering insights into an ambivalent social welfare policy and its impact on vulnerable groups – African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, women, and others – that are often overlooked in other texts. The book also analyzes the evolution of the American welfare state from colonial times to present and places social policy in its political, cultural and societal context.
Jansson is probably most well-known for The Sixteen Trillion Dollar Mistake: How the U.S. Bungled Its National Priorities from the New Deal to the Present (2001), which Publishers Weekly praised as a "lucid, remarkably flowing critical history of American government spending." From Franklin D. Roosevelt to Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton, Jansson writes that America's past 11 presidents have squandered trillions of taxpayer dollars on innumerable useless projects. Jansson spent more than a decade researching and analyzing social and domestic policy through the prism of the federal budget. Over the past 70 years, he contends, administrations misspent at least $16 trillion (in constant 1992 dollars), a figure that includes a variety of costly mistakes on military and civilian projects, unnecessary tax concessions and the use of interest payments to cover deficit spending.
Currently, Jansson is working on two new books. One discusses how social workers and other frontline staff in the health and human services can link case and policy advocacy in different sectors including mental health, child welfare, corrections, education and civil rights. The other book analyzes why the United States has not significantly reduced health disparities in the last five decades – and whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 will achieve this result in coming decades.
Dr. Bruce Jansson traces his fascination with advocacy to the mid-1960s, when he worked as a community organizer for tenant rights. On one occasion, he marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Chicago to protest housing segregation. Despite being heckled and hit with a stone, King pressed on and the protests eventually led to an accord with the city’s real estate officials. Jansson had seen advocacy in action, and he was hooked.
He had graduated with a master’s degree in American history from Harvard University a year earlier, but the past felt remote and disconnected from the reality of the social upheaval occurring throughout the nation. “I came out of college in the ferment of the 1960s, when the civil rights movement was going on, and that very much affected me,” Jansson says. His passion for advocacy blossomed into a lengthy and prolific research career at the USC School of Social Work, which he joined in 1973 after earning a master’s degree and doctorate in social work from the University of Chicago.
Jansson has authored journal articles, gave presentations, and taught courses on social welfare history, policy analysis, social planning and advocacy. But he is best known for writing books on complicated topics such as the history of the welfare state in the United States and methods for effective case advocacy in health care. Jansson likens himself to a landscape artist who prefers a wider view rather than focusing on narrow aspects of life. “I guess it is just my style of doing research,” he says. “I do enjoy the so-called big picture. It takes time and effort to do it, but I enjoy it.”
In the 1980s, Jansson advanced a new concept of policy practice, bringing a sense of action to a previously analytical and philosophical field of study. Essentially a framework for changing policy at governmental, organizational and community levels, his methods laid out a step-by-step process and a set of necessary tasks and skills. Jansson embellished this approach in a recent book on the health care sector, shifting his framework to focus on case advocacy by social workers, nurses and other health professionals.
Jansson is also working with a handful of doctoral students to develop a new book that combines advocacy with a handful of social sectors, including child welfare, mental health, gerontology, schools, immigrant populations and the correctional system. He has also completed research for a critical analysis of why the United States has yet to seriously tackle health disparities, using Los Angeles County as a case study.
Heidemann, G., Fertig, R., Jansson, B.S. & Kim, H. (2011). Practicing Policy, Pursuing Change, and Promoting Social Justice: A Policy Instructional Approach. Journal of Social Work Education, 47(1), 37-52.
Jansson, B.S., Brown-Saltzman, K., Shirk, M. & Wunch, K. (2011).Improving Healthcare Through Advocacy: A Guide for the Health and Helping Professions.: John Wiley & Sons.
Jansson, B.S. (2011). Becoming an Effective Policy Advocate: From Policy Practice to Social Justice.: Brooks/Cole/Cengage.
Jansson, B.S. (2009). The Reluctant Welfare State: Engaging History to Advance the Practice Of Social Workers in Contemporary Society. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole/Cengage.
Jansson, B.S. (2008). Becoming an Effective Policy Advocate: From Policy Practice to Social Justice. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Press.
Jansson, B.S. (2008). Evolution of the American Welfare State. In Colby, I (Eds.) Handbook of Social Work and Social Policy. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Kao, D. & Jansson, B.S. (2008). Expanding Policy Advocacy Across National Boundaries. In Jansson, B (Eds.) Becoming an Effective Policy Advocate. (pp. 156-182).: Brooks/Cole/Cengage.
Jansson, B.S. (2005). The Reluctant Welfare State: American Social Policies: Past, Present, and Future. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Jansson, B.S. (2005). The History and Evolution of Tax Expenditures in the United States. In Herrick, J. & Stuart, P (Eds.) The Encyclopedia of Social Welfare History in North America. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
Jansson, B.S. (2004). Four Models of Policy Practice. In Weil, M (Eds.)Handbook of Community Practice. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
Jansson, B.S. & Dodd, S. (2004). Expanding the Boundaries of Ethics Education: Preparing Social Workers for Ethical Advocacy in an Organizational Setting. Journal of Social Work Education, 40(3), 455-465.
Jansson, B.S., Dodd, S. & Brown-Saltzman, K. (2004). Expanding Nurses’ Participation in Ethics: An Empirical Examination of Ethical Activism and Ethical Assertiveness. Nursing Ethics, 11(1), 15-27.
Jansson, B.S. (2003). Becoming an Effective Policy Advocate: From Policy Practice to Social Justice. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Jansson, B.S. & Dodd, S. (2002). Empowering Domestic Discretionary Spending in Federal Budget Deliberations. Social Policy Journal, 1(1), 5-18.
Jansson, B.S. & Dodd, S. (2002). Ethical Activism; Strategies for Empowering Medical Social Workers. Social Work in Health Care, 36(1), 11-28.