The current IFSW was constitutionally incorporated in 1956 in Munich, Germany.
Prior to this is the period to up to 1932 that Archivist Fiona Robertson refers to as transforming from International Conferences to setting up the International Permanent Secretariat of Social Workers (IPSSW).
The period 1932 to 1956 is the era of the IPSSW with its foundations in the meeting of 13th July 1932.
Following this meeting papers were distributed in different languages.
Included in the Minutes of the Meeting for the foundation of a loose co-operation of international associations of social workers, is a proposal with recommendations to create a ‘loose federation’ with the membership, aims, names, proposal for a secretariat and a series of tasks to be carried out.
In the archives is the signed attendance list of those participating in this meeting on Hotel paper.
Prior to this period international conferences were providing links as far back as 1847 when the International Penitentiary Congress of Brussels proclaimed the necessity of ‘establishing contact between persons engaged, in different countries, in improving the lot of the working classes and the indigent poor’. It was not until 1889 in Paris that a more social work-specific event was held with the First International Congress (Conference) on Statutory and Voluntary Assistance. This was followed by conferences in Geneva in 1896, Paris in 1900, Milan in 1906, Copenhagen in 1920 and Paris in 1928.
National conferences of social workers were being held yearly in the USA since 1874 and foreign speakers specifically invited to meetings in 1919 and 1923. These conferences were attended by several thousand delegates from Canada and the USA with a much greater scope than just statutory and voluntary assistance.
These two strands inevitably lead to the idea of holding international conferences of social workers and the first International Conference of Social Work was held in Paris in July 1928. With strong patronage this brought together over 5000 delegates, 2481 of these representing 42 countries. Despite the crisis times in Europe the second Conference was held in 1932 in Frankfurt and was attended by 1200 delegates from 34 countries. This Conference provided the foundation to setting up the International Permanent Secretariat of Social Workers.