Career development among social workers: Examining the planned behavior theory


Author: Gil Koltun

Name Gil Koltun
Institute and country University of Haifa - Israel
Supervisor Prof. Anat Freund
The main objectives of the proposed study are to examine the career intentions of social workers and to locate the factors that predict them by examining attitudes, norms, and perceived perception at the employee level. According to Planned Behavior Theory (Ajzen, 2002, 2001), on which the study is based, employees' career intentions are reflected in three career patterns: (a) the kaleidoscopic career pattern; (b) the Protean career pattern; and (c) the "career without boundaries” pattern. Consistent with the planned behavior theory, the study suggests three main factors for predicting social workers’ career intentions : (a) attitudes toward the given behavior; (b) subjective norms towards conduct; and (c) perception of behavior control.
Research question
How come are social workers actively engaged in the development of their careers throughout their working lives? Do they adapt to the changing reality, and are they are active in planning, searching, promoting, building and developing careers?
Methodological framework
The study population is comprised of social workers from the private, public, and third sectors from all over the country.
Sampling procedure
The sample will include about 600 social workers from different organizational sectors (the private sector, the public sector and the third sector).
Research tool
The research tool is a closed questionnaire containing 72 items. The questionnaire is divided into six sub-questionnaires. Most questions are rated using a Likert scale ranging from 1-5 (there is one questionnaire rated using a 1-7 scale).
The study findings suggest that the main factor in predicting career patterns was perceived behavioral control.
In a theoretical-integrative look at the research findings, we see that the theoretical model at the base of the present study expands the envelope boundaries of the model of planned behavior theory and allows for a broader observation in the context of career development in social workers. Also, the main findings in the present study that were found in structural equation analysis (SEM) and predicted the three career patterns were: perceptual behavioral control, job guidance, seniority, level of education, subjective norms, and behavioral attitudes. Of all these variables, the only and central factor consistently found in the three career patterns was perceived behavioral control. This probably means that no matter what career pattern the employee chooses, the more control the employee feels, the more sense of virtue he will develop in developing his career. In other words, perceived behavioral control may be a significant feature in the development of a career path in social workers and apparently this finding reveals a certain pattern consciously or unconsciously in social workers in the career building process, i.e., this finding comes to illuminate some personal-organizational behavior in social workers Which is usually not exposed.
At the same time, when we look at the depth of the findings from the analysis of the structural equations we discover a complex picture. An example of this is that when the rest of us look at the main factors that predict the career pattern without boundaries we can say that they were two: receiving guidance in the job and perceived behavioral control. It is important to note that in the present study, compared to other studies, coaching is linked to a career without boundaries in a negative way, it also means that receiving on-the-job coaching may make the employee feel less in control of career development without boundaries. likewise, in the present study we have seen that the perceived behavioral control together with subjective norms, predicted in social workers a different career pattern, i.e. variables which predicted a protean pattern. In this context, it is possible that this situation expresses a unique sense of control in the context of norms and values (such as equality, social solidarity, etc.) among social workers. Also, one might say that thanks to the same norms and values the social worker, feels some sort of inner control and as a result this feeling leads the social workers to develop a career according to a Protean pattern.

Young Suicide Attempters’ Experience of Social Stigma in the Post-discharged Period: The Role of Professional Social Work in Suicide Prevention


Author: Susantha Rasnayake, Navratil Pavel

Recovering from suicide mentality and returning to normal social life after an attempt is a major psychosocial challenge. Research indicate, for young suicide attempters (YSAs), maintaining good relationships, social stability and peace with the society after an attempt is problematic due to their age specific social and psychological conditions, which results in continuation of suicidality and the risk of post-attempts. However, suicide prevention literature highlight that social work knowledge on post-intervention and social stigma related to suicide is insufficiently developed. In response, this study seeks to answer how young suicide attempters experience of social stigma in the post-discharged period. Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, the study analyses ten interviews with young suicide attempters. Study reveals that suicide attempters perceive, society holds some negative stereotypes about suicide, including beliefs that suicide is ‘a foolish decision’, ‘sing of inability to face problems’, ‘decision of a week person’, ‘a shameful decision’ or ‘ a weak personality trait’ and ‘self-killing is a sin’. These stereotyping have created feelings of shame and stigma in the aftermath of suicide attempt. Participants experienced of stigma in different social setups including family, friends, neighborhood and workplace and that has been a major barrier in improving social well-being in the post-discharged period. Especially, attempters possessed with self-stigmatization than external stigmatization resulting self-exclusion from social engagements and follow-up caring. Further, out of the total of 10 interviews, 8 participants held the view that their suicide attempt has damaged social status of the family and therefore they received negative responses from family members resulting a greater difficulty in reconnecting with the family. Findings reflect that the use of social work in designing postvention care programmes is important to assist suicide attempters particularly to young suicide attempters and their loved one to recover from ‘stigma-stressors’.

Keywords-suicide attempters, post-discharged period, postvention, social work

Evaluation of the efficiency of psychosocial interventions for unaccompanied juvenile refugees/unaccompanied minors (UM)


Author: Noemi Roupcova

In my research, I focus on integration from the perspective of people who want or eventually do not want to integrate into society in the country where they live now. The success of individual psychosocial interventions will be evaluate from the client's point of view, according to what benefits it had for them. My goal is to find out which psychosocial interventions clients find most beneficial and which have made life in a new country the most easy for them.
The importance of the subject also based on the constant migration that takes place in the Schengen area. The ways an effective psychosocial intervention for asylum seekers in different phases of the Asylum procedure and especially before its introduction are one of the decisive factors for their later ability to become successful in the life of the majority society in the target country integrate. Unaccompanied refugee minors form a specific group of migrants. The lack of social ties and the absolute loss of family background is common to this Group of people and their age are very traumatic. According to the recommendations of the UNHCR Special care be offered that includes various types of psychosocial interventions includes, in particular psychological or medical care services, Providing information, communicating to meet individual needs and opinions the user to express encouragement and material support. The evaluation of the Effectiveness of the psychosocial interventions offered in terms of their effects on the Future user integration is a prerequisite for creating an effective system.
The first phase of the research was carried out in 2019. In this phase, a group of respondents from the target group of unaccompanied refugees and professionals have been selected. At this stage, diaries, personal files and daily reports have been analysed. The journals were selected at random by stipulating that 7 diaries would be selected for the research file, from people from 7 different countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Eritrea, Nigeria). These countries accord to the frequency of countries of origin of unaccompanied juvenile refugees who crossed the German border in 2018. At the same time the diary of the person who crossed the German border in 2018 as the first in a specific country and whose diary is available was taken into the research file.
• The main research question: What types of support make life in this country easier for you?
All research activities are in accordance with Czech, German and Austrian legislation, as well as the ethical rules and principles of the European Union concerning ethics in research. Participants in the interviews were voluntary and got the in advance the information of the research of its purpose. Participants’ dates are anonymized in their statements, their personal characteristics and exact position cannot be stated. The principle of autonomy is fully respected.

Social Work And Technologies: challenges and opportunities


Author: Beatrice Marina Cacopardo

Social workers have a critical role in crisis situations, and during the COVID-19 pandemic the profession showed its adaptive capacity: social workers changed their way of working and started using ICTs daily (Mishna et al., 2020).
There are few definitions of ICTs: international literature about social work and ICT define them as phones, mobile phones (personal device or working device), smartphones, tablet, computer, robot, A.I. machines (Perron et al., 2010; Lopez, 2014; Mishna et al. 2020). Literature also defines as ICT IT platforms for videocalls such as Zoom, facetime, Skype and Apps or social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) (Mishna, 2020; Chan & Holosko, 2016; Barsky, 2017; BASW, 2020).
The aim of the research is to investigate what is the relationship between social work and technology and what are the opportunities and limits, considering the current pandemic situation.
I am raising the following main research questions:
• What is the experience of social workers about using ICT before and during pandemic?
• What was the impact of the use of ICT in the helping process?
• What are the ethical issues surrounding the use of technology in social work?

My Phd research uses a qualitative method, based on semi-structured interviews to social workers that are employed in different agencies in Lombardy region (Italy) and to managers.
The sample was selected with a snowball method and the choice of the sample is linked to the goal of maximizing variability, to reach social workers that meet different population groups with different vulnerabilities at casework, group work or community work level (Mishna, 2020).
The sample is now composed by 36 social workers, mostly women, working in child protection services, municipality services, addiction centers, mental health centers, hospitals, probation services. Due to Covid-19, the interviews were conducted through videocall platforms.
The main findings concern:
- description of the most used technologies
- efficacy in using technology
- ethical issues linked to protecting client’s privacy
- challenges for social workers in working in a completely different setting.

My research aims to describe what’s the use of technology in social work practice and to provide useful elements for professionals working in different facilities, managers and policy makers.
The study contains limitations linked to the nature of the qualitative research such as the fact that results are not generalizable. However, results could be useful to describe extensively strengths and weakness of using ICTs in social work.

Spaces of politization: the educational potential of social youth work


Author: Ronald Crouzé

The importance of youth work as a space of non-formal civic learning has been demonstrated. Participation in youth work often has a strong and lasting impact on civic and political engagement, advocacy and citizenship. It is thus not surprising that due to the renewed attention on civic education, youth work has become a favorite site for civic educational initiatives. Despite these educational efforts, there is a growing concern on the civic empowerment gap: minorities, immigrants and socio-economically disadvantaged groups tend to be less civically engaged than those from dominant and socio-economically advantaged backgrounds. The inability of these groups to actively voice concerns has implications for the legitimacy and stability of democratic systems that aim to be representative and responsive. A second point of attention within civic education discourse, concerns the long-standing debate on the definition of ‘the good citizen’. Normative and ideological conceptions of citizenship attribute certain norms, values and expectations developing an ideal of the good citizen and consequently influencing the design of civic education initiatives. This normative debate resonates within paradigms of social youth work, as it aligns with a defining historical tension characterizing social-pedagogical initiatives: the tension between integration and emancipation. This conflict becomes especially tangible when youth work addresses the civic education and participation of vulnerable, excluded or so-called ‘nonparticipating’ youngsters, as youth work tends to be instrumentalized to facilitate the inclusion of these youngsters, finding itself to act within a socialization and disciplinary register. This instrumentalization of youth work is disputed due to the ongoing debate within the sector on the political role of social youth work. The question then resides how youth work can contribute to mitigate the civic empowerment gap and contribute to the facilitation of meaningful opportunities for democratic citizenship for ‘hard-to-reach’ youngsters, without solely acting from an instrumental logic or a socialization function. The question is addressed through a case study conducted with a social youth organization in Brussels working with vulnerable youngsters. The data for the case-study has been collected through focus groups and individual interviews with both youngsters and social workers part of the organization. For youngsters, the recognition of their collective experiences of injustice, as well as the acknowledgment of the political significance of their different forms of political expressions, proved to be vital to develop a trust relationship. This fragile relationship enabled youth workers to facilitate processes of advocacy within the community or towards policy in certain cases. These youth workers, who saw their advocacy role as the placing of those collective experiences of youngsters within larger societal trends and structures, found themselves juggling between the different professional roles and the demands of youngsters. This case-study shows the difficulty of youth workers balancing between a disciplinary and emancipation discourse while working with vulnerable youngsters.

De facto borders challenging social work: Case studies of Abkhazia and Transnistria


Author: Gaëlle Le Pavic; Giacomo Orsini; Ine Lietaert

When the USSR ceased to exist, a re-bordering process occurred not only between the 15 newly independent Republics but also within some of them, when secessionist conflicts froze resulting in several de facto states. A de facto state can be defined as a secessionist political entity that achieved sufficient capacity to provide governmental services to the population in its territorial area, over which it maintains effective control for an extended period of time. Yet the state lacks international recognition, so it cannot have official relations with other states that do not recognise its existence.
Post-Soviet de facto states as entities have been investigated mainly from a geopolitical angle, leaving social implications mostly unexplored. Previous research shows that de facto statehood - and related geopolitical struggles and citizenship regimes - has a negative impact on its inhabitants’ access to social rights and protection. De facto statehood leads to important welfare losses for its inhabitants. This is also the case in the two selected de facto states for this research, namely Abkhazia and Transnistria which parted at the beginning of the 1990s respectively from Georgia and from Moldova, labelled as their parent states. The relation between the de facto state and the parent state and with the patron state (Russia in both cases) plays an important role in opening or closing up the access to social services for its inhabitants. For example, the passportization process leads to a relative increase in social rights for those taking Russian citizenship. However, the differentiation between internal and external Russian passports does not enable Abkhazian and Transnistrian Russian passport holders to fully access health services in Russia, a differentiation that had clear manifestations during the COVID-19 pandemic when Russia stopped admitting patients from de facto states to its hospitals.
Against this backdrop, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) prove to be essential social work actors and providers of welfare services. However, their work is greatly impacted not only by de facto borders but also by a range of bordering practices. These practices encompass the everyday construction of (de facto) borders through ideology, discourses, attitudes, institutions, and everyday forms of transnationalism (Yuval Davis et al., 2017, p.2).
Hence, this presentation aims to bridge this gap by exploring existing bordering practices and their impact on social work with a focus on the functioning of CSOs providing social welfare services in two post-Soviet de facto states: Abkhazia and Transnistria. In order to do so, extensive document analysis was conducted to map the presence of CSOs in the two regions, combined with 21 semi-structured interviews with CSO representatives from a diversity of types of CSOs focusing on children with special needs and (disadvantaged) youth, eldercare, HVI, AIDS and tuberculosis patients, domestic and gender-based violence and victims of human trafficking.
The results revealed a relatively high number and diversity of CSOs registered and providing a range of social welfare services. However, several bordering practices impact this provision of social services. These bordering practices limit access to resources for CSOs whose activities and finance are constrained by a restrictive legislation preventing those receiving foreign donations to engage in what is selectively framed as political activities. De facto authorities exercise a tight control over certain CSOs whereas in some cases, CSOs and de facto authorities collaborate in the provision of social services. Moreover, a range of everyday bordering practices, has also a significant impact on social work within the two de facto states considered here. For instance, different medical insurances, phone dials (from the parent state) and unrecognized fiscal codes impact respectively access to health treatments and medicine, reachability of a hotline for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking and the possibility for a CSO to receive donations from abroad.
Last but not least, the presence of international actors has a strong impact on social work in Transnistria and Abkhazia as international organisations and INGOs support greatly local CSOs to provide a range of social services to different groups of beneficiaries which are not (entirely) covered by the de facto states’ structures. Major players such as the parent state, the patron state and the EU as a regional player are of critical importance given the isolation of de facto states, limiting their inhabitants’ access to social welfare services.
Thus, de facto borders have a clear impact on the work of CSOs providing critical social services to inhabitants of Abkhazia and Transnistria. CSOs work is impacted by a range of bordering practices making the impact of de facto borders tangible in the everyday life.

Reclaiming the future? Critical perspectives on social work with/for undocumented migrants


Author: Soline Ballet

Undocumented migrants often find themselves in a situation with little prospects to structural inclusion in society. Despite the fact that many of them have resided and worked in Belgium for a longer period of time, they have limited access to work, education and health care, face difficulties finding adequate housing and constantly risk being exploited, arrested and deported. In short, they are in a very vulnerable and precarious position in Belgian society. Moreover, over the last few months, during the Covid-19 pandemic, undocumented migrants have been further pushed into precarity: without social rights and state support, many lost their jobs and homes. More than 400 undocumented migrants organized themselves and undertook political action. They demanded collective regularization and objective regularization criteria by occupying various buildings across Brussels. As a final action, they went into a hunger strike, but their demands were not met by the Belgian government.

Social work aimed at assisting undocumented migrants is often limited to ad hoc support, without developing a structural, long-term and encompassing approach striving for social policy change. At the same time, undocumented migrants have mobilised themselves in several strong social movements pushing for collective regularization, but they have not yet been able to induce structural policy shifts. In other words, the current situation calls for altered perspectives on social work and social organisation of undocumented migrants.

This research project adopts a critical perspective on social work with undocumented migrants, focusing on social organisations active in Flanders and Brussels. Various organisations employ their specific approach to social work for and with undocumented migrants. There are, for example, social organisations providing legal support, informal local initiatives and NGOs cooperating with local authorities, or social movements campaigning for regularization. The ethnographical research focuses on the practices of social work with undocumented migrants, the possible effects of these types of social work on the policy-making level, and also involves the experiences of undocumented migrants within those organisations.

Broadly, methodologically, this project conducts ethnographic participatory action research in close cooperation with different stakeholders including undocumented migrants themselves. The stakeholders will be involved in all stages of the research. The process and results of the research are thus co-produced and co-created and can take on diverse forms. In this sense, participatory methods are used to engage collaboratively as a tool for social change. This participatory research project then challenges the epistemological gap between research and social action. Besides using evident ethnographic methods such as participant observation, in-depth interviews and a document analysis, the project will also make use of audio-visual techniques throughout the research process.

The end results will for a large part depend on the long-term cooperation with and engagement of the stakeholders. The implications of the research project reach from the development of good practices of social work with undocumented migrants to policy recommendations and critical reports.

Revealing the freedom of movement and capacity to aspire of vulnerable youngsters in residential youth care: Towards a socio-spatial citizenship climate


Author: Remmery Matthias

Research shows that vulnerable youngsters have historically been segregated to the edge of society in large-scale residential care institutions. However, reforms in social policy and social work practice during the last decades have actively promoted de-institutionalization and inclusion as a key alternative to residential care. Pursuing the inclusion of vulnerable youngsters in society implies that their citizenship is substantially brought into practice in their everyday lives.

Also in Flanders, the Ministers of Social Welfare, Public Health and Family Affairs Jo Vandeurzen and Wouter Beke have implemented a welfare reform to substantially realize the inclusion and citizenship of vulnerable youngsters. However, Flanders is a region where the slow response to calls for de-institutionalization in the field of residential youth care is deeply problematic. Recent research has confirmed the lack of inclusion and citizenship of vulnerable youngsters who reside in residential youth care in Flanders.

To improve the inclusion and citizenship of vulnerable youngsters in residential youth care, recent research, social policy and social work practice developments have focused on the development of a positive living group climate in residential youth care. This concept focuses on the right of vulnerable youngsters to grow up in a positive atmosphere, leading to their well‐being and personal growth.

However, there are two crucial knowledge gaps on the development of a positive living group climate, especially in relation to the inclusion and citizenship of vulnerable youngsters in society:
(1) The concept focuses mainly on the interpersonal relations between the vulnerable youngsters and social workers within the residential living environment, which is seen as a key aspect of a positive living group climate. It neglects how the relations of these vulnerable youngsters are also socio-spatially shaped within the wider social living environment, e.g. school, leisure time, home environment, …
(2) The concept focuses mainly on the improvement of the behavior and treatment motivation of the vulnerable youngsters, which serves a process of socialization in order to become ‘good citizens’. It neglects their subjective meaning-making in relation to their care trajectories and future aspirations, which is vital in understanding and connecting with their lifeworld.

Based on these knowledge gaps, the objective of the doctoral research project is to acquire theoretical and empirical knowledge on the development of a citizenship climate in residential youth care, which will enrich the existing body of research on a positive living group climate. The concept of a citizenship climate will serve as a stepping stone to broaden the notion of interpersonal relations to socio-spatial relations, and behavior and treatment motivation to future aspirations of vulnerable youngsters in residential youth care. Central to this objective, a socio-spatial lifeworld orientation theory is used to tackle three research questions:
(1) How vulnerable youngsters in residential youth care shape and experience their freedom of movement. That is how they socially and physically navigate throughout their socio-spatial relations in their everyday lives.
(2) How vulnerable youngsters in residential youth care shape and experience their capacity to aspire. That is how they aspire and imagine an open future perspective, especially before and during the transition when they leave residential youth care.
(3) How residential youth care can hinder or enable vulnerable youngsters in shaping and experiencing their freedom of movement and capacity to aspire.

Related to these research questions, a multi-method qualitative research approach is used. This research approach consists of four methods that are developed in synergy:
(1) Ethnographic research in three living groups (age 16-18) of three different residential youth care settings to examine the diverse dynamics and processes of meaning-making that take place in these settings. This method relates to all three research questions and therefore forms the basis for the development of the other methods.
(2) Participatory mental mapping with +/- 10 youngsters per living group in relation to research question 1 (freedom of movement).
(3) Prospective biographic research with +/- 10 youngsters per living group in relation to research question 2 (capacity to aspire).
(4) Focus groups with +/- 10 social workers per living group in relation to research question 3 (role residential youth care).

Finally, the research insights will be clustered, integrated and further analysed, leading to a cross-analysis in order to identify patterns in the data. This will help to give an in-depth answer to the research questions and further theorize a citizenship climate in residential youth care as an original contribution in the (inter)national research context.

Observation methods and production practices of the theory formation of critical social work


Author: Klara-Marie Niermann

Research question:
How does "the critical social work" observe and how does it establish its reality?
Methodological-methodical framework:
"Critical Social Work" is understood here as a specific order of knowledge. The traces of the formation
of this knowledge order are reflected in texts and are reconstructed as semantic structures in order to
answer the research question. Accordingly, the texts studied are
understood to be part of an ensemble of discursive manufacturing practices.
Methodologically, the project thus concludes Michel Foucault's discourse theory, as well as a post-
constructivist perspective on scientific observation in the context of the research process and the
observability of the "given" (object construction).
The analytical tools of the study are heuristics based on operations that take place in discursive
practices: Argumentation analysis, metaphor analysis, as well as the analysis of differences allow the
discourse figures to become visible, which are used in the discourse to construct objects, subjects,
topics, realities - the ways of observing and “making” the theory of the "critical social work".
It is becoming apparent that, contrary to what the term "critical social work" suggests, there is no one
discourse. Rather, the term "critical social work" is used to describe a broad spectrum of very different
theoretical approaches.
The following is an exemplary list of findings: The discourse contribution "Critical Social Work 3.0" by
Heiko Kleve is characterised, contrary to the "new" (“3.0”) theoretical perspective introduced on the
surface of the text, by an implicit introduction of an ideal of a social work profession. This ideal
operates under the label "Critical Social Work 3.0". The semantic connection to established theoretical
projects suggests that the perspective cited here is theory-based. The discourse contribution thus has
a professional-political function. The arguments of "critical social work" are not developed further,
explained, but a normative argument is set against them, namely that of the "normative function" of
social work, its "ethical and methodological professionalism of autonomy and self-promotion", which
in the analysis carried out here presents itself as an unfounded postulate, or as a firming/label for the
argument of "demand creates supply" that is actually set.
In another part of the corpus examined in the context of the dissertation project, a completely
different topoi is found under "critical social work" than in Heiko Kleve's: in the analysis of the
discourse contribution by Catrin Heite and Timo Plümecke ("Critique of Critique or the Dative is the
Genitive's Death"), it is worked out that the discourse contribution of interest here stakes out the
conditions of possibility of "critique" in the sense of a theoretical activity and, as a consequence,
implicitly designs an ontology of critique.
The discursive formations crystallised in the analysis, which produce the reality of the examined
discourse position, design critique as a materialist epiphenomenon, i.e. as a product of human
consciousness. The fundamental rejection of idealist conceptions of representationality in a reflexive
connection to post-structuralist theoretical perspectives negates in its consequence an examination of
the conditions of possibility of intelligible representationality as following the options for critique
produced by the article and thus also disregards the consequences of the positivism controversy for
the cultural, social and educational sciences.
Critique, as it is conceived here, is a political activity that is non-conformist and oppositional to
theoretical perspectives rationalised as hegemonic. Critical activities tend to have a combative
character in the rationalisation of this discourse position.

Brief discussion:
The study is still in the research phase, so the sampling has not yet been completed. So far, very
interesting findings have been made about the logics and rationalities of the discourse contributions
that lie "beneath" the surface of the text. A plurality of methological and epistemological perspectives
on "reality", "society", "addressees" and "professionals" is becoming visible. The "order of the
discourse" thus reveals a diversity and hegemoniality and holds some surprises of theoretical
perpsectives that are labelled "critical" on the surface.
Questions for supervisory panel:
Are the conclusions the author draws from the research material plausible?
How can a broad spectrum of discourse positions be well represented? Are case-based representations
advisable or should cross-textual categories be formed?
Should the dissertation project conclude with the presentation of the findings and a description of the
"order of discourse" of critical social work or should a separate theorisation build on this?

Freedom and autonomy within social work. Towards an ethics of social freedom.

Precon + Plenum

Author: Bram Gootjes

This research focusses on ‘good social work’ related to the autonomy and freedom of its clients. With Roessler we believe autonomy to be a concretization of freedom (2010: 8) and in line with ethics of care, we understand autonomy as socially interdependent (Mackenzie 2008), within a specific context (Moser, Houtepen et al. 2007, Metselaar and Widdershoven 2019). To conceptualize this ‘freedom within social dependency’ we use the notion of ‘soziale Freiheit’ as theorized by the social philosopher Axel Honneth (2011), in dialogue with other dominant philosophies of relational autonomy, such as the ethics of care (Gilligan 1982, Tronto 1993).

Aim of the project is to analyze what autonomy and freedom mean as an endeavor within ‘good social work’. We will explore how to develop an understanding of autonomy in which the social context and social freedom are decisive to develop an understanding of autonomy that is more in line with the practice of providing assistance to citizens rather than patients or clients, in this case. This can also benefit the training of social workers.

Research questions
1. What views of "good work" do social workers themselves have in assisting people who are homeless and without work?
2. What understanding of autonomy does this emerge and how can the concept of social freedom help to develop that understanding of the practice of social work?
3. How can the developed concept be fitted into the practice of social work and social work education?

Within this research we choose for a methodological approach of Integrated Empirical Ethics (IEE) (Leget and Borry 2010) in which we believe the empirical as well as the normative to be fundamental interconnected (Pols 2015: 88). This is also called the practice approach (Pols 2021) or intra-normative approach (Pols 2006).

Education pathways of refugee women in Denmark: becoming a fellow citizen through employment in elderly care?

Precon + Plenum

Author: Marianne Bruhn Kjeldsen

Policy context: In Denmark there is a massive lack of welfare workers within the field of elderly care and calculations have shown that in 2028 there will thus be a shortage of 41.001 employees within this field. As a result a number of municipalities have chosen to apply the ‘Integrationsgrunduddannelse’ (IGU) policy with a focus on recruiting new employees for this area. The IGU is an education and integration strategy in Danish policy and provides an integration training course. The purpose of the IGU is to ensure the possibility of work and educational upgrading of refugees whose qualifications and productivity are not yet meeting the requirements of the Danish labor market. The IGU policy rhetoric also claims that this strategy will give the refugees qualifications which provide the basis for commencing a vocational education or achieving permanent employment in the Danish labor market. The rationale behind this approach is that many of the refugees, and mainly women, are experienced in taking care of older family members in their home countries.

Objective and theoretical perspective: The main objective of this doctoral research project is to investigate whether underlying assumptions at stake in these recent policy and practice developments in Denmark are socially un/just with focus on how refugees in precarious situations are often meant to do precarious employment. In this case ‘caring work’. The doctoral research project is underpinned by a literature review of the existing body of research, which reveals that these ideas square with the research finding that caring work will continue to be relegated to the private domain of human activity, and might be gendered, yet also classed and racialized.

Methodology and findings: During the Pre-PhD conference, I will report the findings emerging from the first study and show how the IGU, as an educational program, influences the aspirations of the participants. The central aim was to explore the diverse histories and backgrounds of the refugee women being involved in the IGU, learning how their education pathways relate to their experiences concerning the IGU. Our interpretative and qualitative methodological approach combined accidental ethnography with a retrospective biographical approach, which enabled us to gain in-depth and rich research insights. The accidental ethnography started out because I was a teacher at the IGU and later my position shifted into combining my roles as both a teacher and researcher. This requires critical reflection on how this change of positions has an effect on the findings. These reflections will also be presented in relation to the findings.

Researching the non-take up of social rights: a local social policy perspective

Precon + Plenum

Author: Lore Dewanckel

Since the constitution and further development of European welfare states after the second World War, the concepts and principles of citizenship entail that the welfare state pursues social justice by protecting the civic (e.g. the right to privacy), political (e.g. the right to vote) as well as social rights of individual citizens. The concept of social rights commonly implies that every citizen in European societies is formally entitled to welfare resources, such as income benefits or health care, that are legally redistributed by the welfare state. The available research evidence nonetheless highlights that, in the face of growing social, economic, political and demographic challenges, many European welfare states have been confronted with barriers in realizing the social rights of certain groups of citizens. In the current time juncture, the discrepancy between the formal recognition of rights of citizens and how these rights are realized in practice requires vital attention. This widespread phenomenon has been called the ‘non-take up of social rights’ and refers to situations in which citizens are formally entitled to welfare rights whereas in practice dynamics of exclusion and marginalization make them experience that they are not full members of society. They do not receive or make use of the social rights they are entitled to, which leads to instances of social injustice. The existing body of research literature on the issue of non-take up of social rights however includes a wide diversity of ambiguous interpretations, which entails that it can be described as a catch-all term. The central objective of this research project is to gain insight into and deepen the current knowledge about the complex and dynamic processes that are at play in the non-take up of social rights of people in poverty. We attempt to revisit the potential role of social work in the non-take up of social rights. Due to its quest for social justice and change in our societies, we therefore argue that the question for social work is how we can continue to realize the right to human flourishing in contemporary times.
This research project will look at the complex problem of non-take up at the three following levels: (1) a conceptual level, where we look at social work and social policy literature on non-take up, (2) at the local level we examine what role the local social policy of the Belgian cities Leuven and Oostende plays, and (3) via ethnographic and biographical research we will look at precarity from a neighbourhood and individual level. The focus of this presentation will lie on the second level, the local social policy level. We explore how the relationship between the government and the citizen takes shape, both vertically and horizontally. We examine how and from which vision non-take up is approached via the federal, Flemish and local social policies, which choices are made, and who are considered as core actors. We do this through qualitative interviews and document analysis.

Social cohesion in child and family social work

Precon + Plenum

Author: Melissa Dierckx

Social cohesion has received momentum in research and policy in response to a rapidly changing society. Restoring social cohesion became a priority on the (European) political agenda as a result of societal developments, such as globalization and migration that have led to an increasing diversity and heterogeneity. International organisations, NGO’s and scholars have coined social work and child and family social work practices as important actors to foster social cohesion and, in so doing, to respond to these challenges. In order to achieve this political goal, legislative bodies refer to child and family services as places to foster social integration and cohesion. Despite the joined academic and political attention for social cohesion, it appears that if there is one thing we agree on, it is that there is no agreement on what social cohesion is. This leads to the paradoxical situation in which child and family services are characterized as ideal to foster social cohesion while there is little research on what this may mean. In attempting to structure ever-expanding meanings that are attributed to social cohesion Dragolov and colleagues have developed the Social Cohesion Radar. Through the study we use the Social Cohesion Radar as a normative framework to look at social cohesion and the different conceptualisations.

The central research question, on the conceptualisation and operationalisation of social cohesion in relation to child and family social work in contexts of increased diversity, unfolds in three research questions with associated work packages: (WP1) What could be a conceptualisation of social cohesion that is both scientifically valid and addresses the changing needs of policy makers in relation to child and family social work?; (WP2) How is (promoting) social cohesion operationalised in child and family services?; (WP3) How can social cohesion be integrated into an applicable framework for promoting social cohesion in child and family services? Considering the nature of the research questions we engage in qualitative, interpretative research. Thereby we integrate a multi-level approach, combining the levels of the community, institutions and individuals. A multi-method design will be applied, combining a systematic literature review, document analysis, qualitative interviews, critical incident technique, participant observation, focus groups and the Delphi method. The research project also integrates a Flemish and municipal level. At the municipal level, three cities are included in the study: Antwerp, Ghent and Mechelen (where Mechelen will be a contrasted case). Each city represents a typical but significantly different case as they vary with respect to the history and nature of diversity and deprivation. Another desicive inclusion criterion was the presence of child and family services in each city, the way they are organized, and how they succeed in reaching out to the (diverse) populations of the neighborhood.

The first workpack of the research project has been completed. The aim of this study was to analyse a diversity of interpretations of social cohesion and to reflect on the role of child and family services. Combining a systematic narrative literature review (N=76) with thematic analysis of policy documents (N=44) and semi-structured interviews with policy makers (N=14) our study suggests that social cohesion is overshadowed by a conceptualization of social cohesion as social capital that should lead to an inclusive society with shared norms and values. Yet, the very concept of “shared norms and values” is highly disputed. Moreover, the aim to achieve an inclusive society by promoting social cohesion paradoxically seems contingent with the introduction of exclusive measures targeting specific groups of families and reinforcing the individual responsibilities of families. We argue that a narrow conceptualisation of social cohesion as a function of child and family social work hinders taking into account the growing diversity and – in so doing – child and family social work may miss out on an important contemporary social challenge.

The second workpack and central research question aims at exploring actual day-to-day practices and the translation of social cohesion in child and family services, as well as how everyday practices of social cohesion may emerge in child and family services. The methodology of this workpack is currently being developed and will be the focus of the presentation along with some initial experiences of doing ethnographic research in child and family services.

The third and last workpack combines the data collected from the first two research questions. Of pivotal importance here is the question on how this research can be an added value for child and family social work and services.

Mapping religion and worldview-based forms of local social support.

Precon + Plenum

Author: Maes Sarah - Faculty of social sciences University of Antwerp and Faculty of theology KULeuven Supervisors: Prof. dr. Mieke Schrooten, Prof. dr. Peter Raeymaeckers, Prof. dr. Bert Broeckaert

The doctoral research presented here is one of the four sub-projects of a larger FWO-SBO project called “Soligion (Solidarity and religion): Co-creating complementary forms of social support across faith-based organisations and secular welfare state institutions.

Project and research questions
Within this framework, my research focuses (1) on the question of how FBOs who engage in poverty alleviation can be understood and defined as welfare actors, and how do they work in practice. What are the differences between different types of organizations? Which logics can be identified in their ways of organizing, and how do they define who is entitled to help and who is not? A second focal point is the question (2) how attitudes and practices of FBOs interact with the secular environment in Flanders. What frictions are experienced, and how do factors like scale, capacity, (lack of) professionalization or bureaucracy, influence these? In which ways do FBOs adapt (or not) to the secular social environment in general and the secularized institutions and mechanisms of the welfare State in specific?

Alongside the doctoral research projects, the Soligion project also has a valorisation part in which two groups of stakeholders respectively to (1) co-create a digital platform to make FBOs and their work more visible (working group 1) and (2) develop educational tools that enhance the understanding of the role of religion and FBOs in the welfare state (working group 2). My own project works closely together with the first working group, composed of policy makers, representatives of faith groups, civil society umbrella organisations, and FBOs. They will help to compile comprehensive lists of FBOs that are currently active in the field of local social support in five Flemish cities, and reflect on my findings along the way. Simultaneously, my research findings will support their process of co-creation.

As a specific type of informal social work, Faith-Based organisations (FBOs) remain largely unexplored within the Belgian Welfare State. In contrast to welfare state institutions, which fail to cater for the needs of people not entitled to social support, FBOs offer more unconditional aid and solidarity not linked to the nation states territorial logic. While tackling the problem of defining FBOs, our research explores the views of FBOs on solidarity and the diversity between various types of organisations. We opted to integrate three categories: (1) organizational characteristics, (2) religious tradition and expression and (3) the type of program and services in order to categorize the organizations. Current research shows a huge diversity in types of organisations. In our doctoral study we focus on FBOs which care for people in poverty, we will work inductively and use qualitative research methods. Our scoping review gives us some preliminary results about the different forms of research on FBOs and the question as how FBOs function as welfare actors. We found consensus about the fact that faith-based organisations serve the most vulnerable people who are often not reached by welfare state institutions. Besides giving basic social needs such as food pantry, clothes, medical aid, a place to sleep, faith-based organisations often give moral, religious or spiritual support and try to work on community cohesion and community based social change.
Following the literature review and document analysis, there will be in-depth interviews with actors and representatives from both FBO’s and WSIs from five different cities (Antwerp, Ghent, Leuven, Ostend and Vilvoorde). The focus of the interviews will be on how FBOs who engage in poverty alleviation work in practice an how they interact with their secular environment. Analysis will be carried out in continuous dialogue with the scientific project consortium as well as the stakeholders. This multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder cooperation brings together knowledge and experiences from FBOs and WSIs with social work studies, sociology, political philosophy, religious studies and enables us to understand (1) the processes in which faith-based identities are built and FBOs distinguish themselves from secular institutions and organization (and from other FBOs) and (2) how such identities come about and are built upon in the interaction with secular WSIs.

Social work with men experiencing violence in heterosexual partner relationships

Precon + Plenum

Author: Klemen Ličen

1. Introduction

My starting point is that any violence in a partnership is a traumatic experience, regardless of who is suffering it (Herman, 2015, p. 100, Ogden, 2006, p. 100, Scaer, 2001, p. 138 – 142, Levine, 2010, p. 109). The consequences of violence related traumatic experiences in a partner relationship depend on a number of factors, such as the event itself, the general state of the person before the event, personal and character characteristics, resilience, training and personal ability to cope with dangerous situations, and the social network (Mešl, Drobnič Radobuljac, 2019, p. 202 – 205). In the case of repetitive events that take place through years of violence in a partnership, it is not necessary that these are serious events such as a kitchen knife attack or hard beatings, it is already enough there is constant verbal humiliation, remarks, manipulation, concealment, lies or other forms of psychological violence to result in serious shapes of trauma consequences.
Most of the domestic violence research to date has focused on examining men as perpetrators of violence and women as victims, as Barber said, (2008), Du Plat-Jones (2006) and Holtzworth-Munroe (2005). Despite this fact it can also be found in research showing that violence happens in both heterosexual and homosexual partnerships (Lien and Lorentzen, 2019) and that the perpetrators can also be women (Straus, 2011, Lien and Lorentzen, 2019, Holtzworth-Munroe, 2005, Barber, 2008, Du Plat-Jones, 2006, Allen-Collinson, 2009a, 2009b). Authors Lien and Lorentzen (2019) show also that social care system is functioning in favour of female victims with or without children and that the system has difficulties to acknowledge men as victims. This literature combined with my own social work practice, where I met fathers, who told me their stories of experiencing violence caused by their female partners and of how violence escalated when they decided to leave and how women used common children for aggression against them (children as a means) - and these fathers said they had nowhere to take refuge and that no one (police, social care system, health care system) believed their narratives, lead me to the following research questions.

2. Research questions

1. What do men experience when there is violence in intimate heterosexual partnerships?
2. What kind of help do these men need?
3. What are experiences of help of those men who sought help?
4. To what extent do men report violence?

3. Description of methods

Research will be carried out in the Republic of Slovenia, which has only 2 million inhabitants. The capital Ljubljana as the largest city has only 300,000 citizens. So, I have chosen a case study method. Special attention will be taken to prevent recognition of an individual.
The research will start with an interview with a male victim. Taking the captured information to the centres of social work (the backbone of social care system in the Republic of Slovenia), the NGO-s and the police - to the individuals who worked with the participant, to further research the case. I will do interviews with these employees. I will research official records, files and other written documents (as a secondary research material). In a similar manner, I will interview support social network of a participant. Different case studies will be selected (e.g. a man with and a man without children; a man, who remained in a relationship since the violence ended etc.) to find any important similarities or differences.
There will be also a focus group (one or more) with men, who agreed to collaborate in a focus group too. At the beginning, partial results will be presented and the group will be asked to make suggestions to improve the help system to be able to satisfy the needs of male victims of intimate heterosexual partner relationships.

4. Results, discussion and implications

It is important to open this topic in a small space as Slovenia is, but also to make a scientific contribution in a wider academic sphere. As a result of the research, a suggestion of work method will be designed and presented to the decision makers (Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities), to the academics and to the social work profession in Slovenia. The men victims will have their voices finally heard (Lien and Lorentzen, 2019).
Traumatic experiences of violence are universal regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status, skin colour, ethnicity or sexual orientation of the victim (SAMHSA, 2019). Therefore I will also contribute to the understanding of trauma when victims of violence are men.

Solidarity and religion: about frictions, complementarity, complexities and sensitivities within different urban contexts

Precon + Plenum

Author: Silke De Troyer - promotors: Prof. dr. Griet Roets, Prof. dr. Stijn Oosterlynck and Prof. dr. Peter Raeymaeckers

‘Religiously inspired solidarities’ is not an evident and well-known topic in social work and social policy research, but it is an important and relatively recently (re-)emerging phenomenon in practice, especially in cities. Since the development of the welfare state, secular local welfare state institutions like Public Centres for Social Welfare in Belgium have the specific task to secure the rights of legally protected citizens. The welfare state was conceived to secure social protection against social risks. Besides the benefits of the welfare state, its territorial logic created several conditions and problems that are particularly emerging in urban contexts. This territorial logic implies the idea that formal and social rights are based on national identity and merits, in which only formally entitled citizens of a certain nation state, can claim these rights. The welfare state operates (increasingly) on a conditional, contribution-based logic and notions of welfare chauvinism, which aims to limit solidarity to those with a shared national identity. The latter logic has historical roots in the formations of the nation state based on a common ethnic-cultural identity, in which a shared history and culture were important elements of social cohesion. Throughout time and due to several evolutions (globalisation, migration,…), European welfare states are still protecting and securing the realisation of social rights but the institutional framework and the implementation of the normative value orientation in welfare states (realising social justice and human rights) have changed partly by increasing neo-liberalisation. This neoliberal logic emphasises private and individual responsibilities and obligations rather than mutual solidarity and social justice.

In the slipstream of increasing social inequalities as a consequence of a neoliberal and territorial logic in the welfare state, people with a precarious citizenship status and people who do not claim their social rights, are falling through the cracks of welfare state institutions. There is increasing evidence that certain material and psychosocial needs are not realized through secular national and local welfare state institutions. These developments stimulate the emergence of (new) frictions as well as hybrid partnerships between public welfare state institutions and religious organisations and civil society initiatives in the field of social services and social work.

Within this context, referral is an important theme, especially when looking at the practices in which welfare state institutions are referring clients to religious organisations. In the context of these practices of referral, there are several frictions, complexities and sensitivities in the relationship between formal public welfare state institutions and its professionals, and informal actors in religious organisations and initiatives (such as volunteers). The literature study shows the limited knowledge about referral and its dynamics, which is mostly concentrated on access, accessibility and its obstacles. My ongoing qualitative research with social workers from Public Centres for Social Welfare already shows the importance and frequency of referral (in both directions), and important sensitivities in the relations and dynamics between religious initiatives and welfare state institutions. This ongoing qualitative research has an action research orientation, and will cast a different light on referral between welfare state institutions and religious organisations and the role of professionals and volunteers.

However, it is not evident to find suitable methods to reach and involve the multiple target groups in my action research project due to their different backgrounds (social workers, volunteers from religious organisations, and referred citizens whose rights are not substantially realized) into this research. During the Pre-PhD conference, I would like to discuss my research strategies and methodologies reflexively.

The role of participatory arts practices during and beyond the pandemic: Insights from Brussels practitioners

Precon + Plenum

Author: Hanne Dewinter, Kris Rutten, Lieve Bradt

In the course of the last decades, the rise of participatory arts practices has been advocated on the basis of a series of possible answers to complex societal issues, especially in urban areas. In academic literature this has often led to a series of ambitious social and political claims concerning the roles of participatory art, ranging from ‘strengthening a sense of place’, ‘promoting local identity’ to ‘developing a sense of community’. Nevertheless, the debate surrounding participatory arts practices and their role in relation to urban living remains limited to a conceptual debate with little empirical basis. Based on qualitative research in Brussels, this PhD aims to address this knowledge gap by providing empirical insight into how participatory arts practitioners perceive their role in relation to (new forms of) urban living.
The covid-19 pandemic has not left the arts and culture sector without consequences. In this presentation, I will report on the preliminary findings of the last study of the PhD, in which we explore how participatory arts practices have reinvented – and are reinventing – themselves in and after the pandemic. By means of a bi-monthly follow-up of a diversity of Brussels participatory arts practices via Zoom, Teams etc. we raise the following central questions: What does reconstruction mean for Brussels participatory arts practices in and during the corona pandemic? What are the current problems? What are the consequences to come? And how are participatory arts practices dealing with this?

Social work practices with people confronted with criminal justice interventions: realizing rights?

Precon + Plenum

Author: Liesbeth Naessens

My dissertation starts from the finding of the transition to a rights based approach in policy towards people in prison. In Flanders and Brussels this transition was initiated with the introduction of the 2005 Basic Law (the so-called Law Dupont) and, on a regional level, the Decree concerning ‘the organization of services and assistance for people in prison’ (2013). These legislative initiatives formally established a rights based approach towards people in prison. The Decree guarantees the right of all people in prison and their next of kin to a holistic and high-quality assistance, based on the needs of the people in prison and their immediate social environment, through cross-sectoral cooperation between service providers and intersectoral coordination (Article 3, Decree 11 April 2013). For forensic welfare organisations this is in line with their historical and organisational development. Furthermore, this rights approach is the legal base of a broadly oriented welfare approach towards this target group. In the broader scholarly literature, social work is defined as a human rights profession. Currently the academic debate focuses on what this means for practice. The aim of my dissertation is to analyse how social work practices within criminal justice settings shape social care delivery influenced by the human rights legal framework and the conceptual lens of social work as a human rights approach. Therefor several research steps were undertaken. Based on the Decree a holistic approach and collaboration is needed to achieve high-quality services. Therefore, we first analyse the need for collaboration in one specific case in this field of practice that is often defined as specialist. Next, we analyse what a more generalist approach entails in this case. Then, as current social services, also in criminal justice, increasingly involve volunteers in service delivery we analysed collaboration between volunteers and professional social workers in order to achieve qualitative services. Finally, in realizing qualitative services the perspective on the needs of the ones involves is indispensable. Therefor we analysed - for the specific right on prison labour - if this right addresses the needs of people in prison through the perspective of people in prison. My PhD study encompasses four different qualitative studies, each contributing to the general objective of gaining more insight on the concrete practice and development of social work practices with people confronted with criminal justice interventions. The results of each study show a nuanced image of the extent to which social work contributes to the realization of human right of vulnerable people.

Children as actors in inclusive settings

Precon + Plenum

Author: Katharina Sufryd

As an offer to the reflection of the educational system the following concept of an ethnographic research in the field of childhood, family, social work and school as part of the PhD project ‘children as actors in inclusive settings’ will be presented at the conference.
Inclusion, understood as the democratic approach and human right to live a life in dignity, has become one of the main topics in the German education system in the recent years. Teachers, social workers and a lot of new, more or less professional pedagogics are addressed to work out the inclusive project. In this way the project takes account to the impression, that it has become more and more a question of cooperation between family, social work and school.
In times of corona pandemic, there is still the same paradox situation of a democratic approach and an inclusive reality. But what could be seen even more is the global inequality. The politics in pandemic times causes some new effects on children life and welfare. In Germany, the need of children is again followed by the call for more pedagogical work and a further look into experiences of children in daily life. With this social research work it is possible to go into detail. The question of how children can represent their position (to act and react) in the German inclusive education system is focused in the empirical work.
In referring to the theory of difference, it can be marked, that there will be existing differences for all times and in every space of society. Following the theory, differences are a product of a social interaction and not to be seen as given. As an example of one institutionalized practice of differentiation, this ethnography is taking part in the procedure which is provided for children with so called ‘special-needs’.
What one can see in this social practice is that the regulation of particularities is also part of the inclusive work, which the educational and social welfare system in Germany is asking for. It means, that the professional actors are confronted with the ambiguity of the universal approach of inclusion and the politics of particularity. Therefore, social work and school are situated in a paradox situation: As stakeholders they are part of the distinction system, which divides children into insiders and outsiders of society.

Stress-Related Coping Strategies as Contributing Factors to Turnover Intentions among Social Work Student Supervisors: A Longitudinal Study

Precon + Plenum

Author: Dr. Amit Zriker, Prof. Anat Freund, Dr. Galit Guez

Objectives: Social work profession is based upon theoretical studies and practical experiences. The literature shows a widespread recognition of the importance of the supervision process in the professional socialization of social workers, and research have shown the main role of supervision and the skills required to implement it. Despite it, there is a high supervisors' turnover rate each year, approximately 15%-20% every year in Israel. The highest dropout rate was found to occur at the end of the first year of supervision. This phenomenon is encouraging academic institutions to invest resources to identify, recruit and train new supervisors. This reality has led to a situation where the quality of supervision is threatened by the high supervisors’ dropout rate. Therefore, this study intent to examine stress-related coping strategies as contributing factors to turnover intentions among social work student supervisors in their first year of supervision.
Method: A total of 168 social work supervisors in 10 academic institutions in Israel, during their first year of supervision, answered questionnaires at the beginning (T1) and the end (T2) of their supervisors’ training course.
Results: Findings indicate that the most significant predictor of supervisors' turnover intentions at T2 was turnover intentions at T1. This interesting finding shows that the supervision course does not necessarily address the issue of long-term commitment to supervision, and it is crucial to pay more attention to this issue. Furthermore, we also found a significant contribution of organizational climate at T1 and of role overload at T2.
Conclusions: The main concern is that the basic forming of beneficial or positive attitudes among supervisors or potential supervisors is not being adequately addressed in current courses and social work agencies. This issue requires much more attention during the first year of supervision, and also in regard to social workers who intend to become supervisors in the near future. In the supervision courses, most of the methods and theories address students’ educational, developmental and personal needs, but not enough is taught about supervisors’ more complex issues, such as feelings, overload, dissatisfaction, dilemmas, and perceptions.

Keywords: Social Work Supervision; Coping Strategies; Stress; Turnover Intentions; Longitudinal Analysis

“We have entered one centrifuge and we do not know how to get out of it because we chose this path”: Protecting migrants and refugees in Serbia during COVID-19 pandemic

Precon + Plenum

Author: MA Violeta Markovic, Faculty of Political Sciences University of Belgrade, Serbia; Danijela Pavlović Faculty of Political Sciences University of Belgrade, Serbia

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, professionals working in the social protection system have been faced with multiple challenges – the health crisis made them concerned about not only the lives of their beneficiaries, but also their families and friends, as well as their own lives. In order to analyse the impact of the changes occurred as a result of COVID 19 and understand how the protection system was organized during this time, qualitative research was performed focusing on the following research questions:
1. How was the social protection of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers organized during the state of emergency in Republic of Serbia?
2. What were the challenges faced by professionals working in the social protection system during the state of emergency and after?
3. How has the coordination and cooperation with other systems of protection changed during the pandemic?
Qualitative research was performed using focus groups (N=13) with professionals and interviews (N=7) with key informants. All focus groups and interviews were done via online platform ZOOM, as it was the only possible way due to the measures for prevention of COVID 19 in Serbia. The research was performed in the period of March-June 2021. Based on the research question, adopted theoretical background of crisis interventions and the context of COVID 19 pandemic in Serbia, the researchers developed focus groups and interviews guides. The guides were adopted to each focus group and interview in order to gain knowledge based on the participants’ organisation/institution expertise. The guides, however, had some basic areas in common. These areas were:
1. System of protection – level of policies and legislative
2. Social protection system - practice, challenges and examples of good practice
3. Cooperation with other protection systems – health care, education and legal system
Beside these, two new areas, not set up in advance, emerged: mental health of professionals and mental health of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
Results show that professionals were faced with many challenges stemming from a 24-hour lockdown, a lack of information and a lack of adequate cooperation with health, education and legal systems. Research shows that the COVID-19 pandemic did not cause a big change in new arrivals to Serbia in comparison to the pre-pandemic time, but it sheds light on a lack of adjustment capacity within the social protection system and an unpreparedness for a crisis situation – starting from challenges in providing health protection equipment consistently and equally up to a lack of professional supervision.

Key words: migrants, refugees, social protection, Serbia, Covid 19.

Reflection in higher nursing and social work education: exploring teachers' perception

Precon + Plenum

Author: Monika Cajko Eibicht, Walter Lorenz

The theme of my presentation is the use of Q research methodology in a study of reflectivity. In my doctoral research, I examine which concepts of reflection are used in Czech health and social work higher education, through which methods and for what purpose. Reflection and its related notions such as reflective practise and critical reflection have a long tradition in educational, social, and health services (e. g., Jootun & McGarry, 2014; Schields, 1995; Taylor, 2010). Teaching and learning reflectivity produce accountable professional practitioners who can critically monitor their practice (e.g., Shields, 1995; Knott & Scragg, 2016; Svojanovský). There has been a proliferation of references to reflectivity in the literature without sufficient attention to how it can be enhanced so that educators "can help beginning professionals develop the skills of reflective practice and acquire initial experiences" (Russell, 2005, p. 199; Van Beveren et al., 2018).

To explore the educators' subjective perception of reflection and its interpretation, I will use the Q methodology. It combines the quantitative and qualitative approaches, applying "statistical analysis to the qualitative study of human subjectivity such as attitudes, beliefs, feelings and opinions" (Ellingsen et al., 2009, p. 395). According to these authors, it is an effective method for "obtaining data from small samples, offering respondents a concise and valid way of expressing their viewpoints with minimal researcher interference" (p. 395). It also enables the researchers to explore "the subjective dimension of any issue towards which different points-of-view can be expressed" (Stenner et al., 2008, p. 212). The literature describes several steps in implementing the Q methodology: 1) Identifying a concourse on the topic of interest, 2) Developing a representative set of statements (Q sample), 3) Specifying the respondents for the study (P-set) and conditions of instructions, 4) Administering the Q sort (rank ordering of statements), and 5) Factor analyzing and interpretation (Ellingsen et al., 2009). In my presentation, I will address the theory of the Q methodology and report on its application in my research on the use of different aspects of reflectivity in professional training programmes.

More specifically, I will report on the first step of this approach, the Q concourse. It is a collection of various statements people express about the researched topic, including their opinions, arguments, beliefs, viewpoints etc., written down in ordinary language. In addition, the statements establishing the Q concourse are also informed by other sources, such as the academic literature, popular texts, TV programs, formal interviews or informal discussions via pilot studies (Watts & Stenner, 2005). I will present the concourse related to reflection gathered from multiple sources, including the academic literature, semi-structured interviews with educators, and the previous research findings on different facets of reflectivity present in health and social service students (Cajko Eibicht et al., 2021 in review).

Challenges and threats in education for social work in Poland

Precon + Plenum

Author: Kantowicz Ewa

The legislative solutions proposed by the current Government in Poland regarding new welfare organizational structures and aid professions are both a challenge and a threat to the professional education for social work in our country. The challenge for higher institutions educating for social work is to propose a supplemented, specialized educational offer and prepare for cooperation with other social professionals. The threat is the lowering of the standards of education for social work regarding obtaining qualifications in the profession (postgraduate studies) and the weakening of the sense of professional identity and belonging to the profession through the introduction of new aid professions, not having a strong place in social work.
“Education is above all an appropriate education that enables the acquisition of professional knowledge and skills, but also shapes the attitudes and skills necessary for professional practice as well as creates professional identity” [Kantowicz, 2005;138].
Despite the rich tradition of professional education of social workers at the higher level and the creation of standards of higher education at the level of undergraduate and graduate studies in many Polish universities - we can not talk about success in the social recognition of the profession, its good economic status and satisfactory development of academic education. As Jerzy Szmagalski rightly points out: "The creation of the identity of social work, which is, after all, a social construct, is realized in the tensions between discourses on values and structural pressures at every level of social life – from local to global" (Szmagalski 2015; 122).
The low status of the profession of a social worker, affecting the lack of candidates for studies, as well as the lack of patency in the directional academic education at many universities, means that students after a bachelor's degree, not having the opportunity to acquire specialized and more profiled education in the profession, choose other fields of study. The absence of doctoral studies in social work in the university education system also limits the possibilities of developing the staff of research and teaching staff at universities and acquiring experienced professionals-practitioners who, after completing such studies, could support universities in educating future social workers. In this situation, only the professional mobilization of social workers employed in social welfare institutions and open opposition to the degradation of the economic and social position of this profession, as well as the integration of academic circles for the establishment of social work as a separate discipline of social sciences - can be an ally of the further development of social work in Poland.

Researching the relationship between Child Welfare and Protection Services (in Flanders – Dutch part of Belgium) and poverty

Precon + Plenum

Author: Decoene John William

Background and purpose:
Social work is currently increasingly rooted in changing socio-economic and political developments, which is reflected in the persistent prevalence of poverty and an intensification of existing social inequalities. Poverty and social inequality have, however, far-reaching consequences for the lives of children and families, and these developments provide major challenges for Child Welfare and Protection. This doctoral research focuses on the question, that has a historical background, whether, and if so, how, Child Welfare and Protection Services can deal with social inequality and poverty as a social and structural problem instead of merely a problem of individual parents and children.
This research encompasses several empirical sub-studies in which we examine how frontline practitioners and policy actors on organizational and governmental level deal with poverty and what the underlying assumptions are behind their actions. We focus on the frontline workers and the policy actors of the Youth Welfare Agency, a governmental organization in Flanders (the Dutch speaking part of Belgium), responsible for child welfare and child protection, which has a public mandate to intervene in families for the sake of the safety of the child. Like in many countries, Child Welfare and Protection in Flanders is currently working according to Signs of Safety, which is perceived as an innovative, strengths-based, safetyoriented and evidence-based model of child protection casework.
The first part of our research concerns the strategies of frontline professionals in CWPS of the Agency in dealing with risk in poverty situations. Through in depth interviews and focus groups that were analyzed, the findings show that professionals of CWPS are poverty-aware and overall they have a view on poverty as a structural problem in society and as such they develop different strategies in dealing with poverty. The managers of the governmental organisation do not overtly consider poverty as a negotiable issue on the organisational level. In the absence of an organisational policy and culture in which this complexity can be a vital subject of debate, a friction appears for the practitioners between organisational expectations and the concerns of the families. In this regard, what has been referred to as ‘poverty is the wallpaper of practice’ by Morris et al. (2018) seems to exist on an organizational level rather than on the frontline level. The dominant perspective on poverty and the idea of a limited role of practitioners can be seen as a ‘hegemonic project’ with the Signs of Safety approach as the vehicle of this project.
The third substudy consists of 23 in depth interviews with policy makers of Child Welfare and Protection and other organizations that have influenced the organizational policy to find out what the underlying assumptions are behind their decisions. The study is based on an exploration of the perspectives of the managers of the Youth Welfare Agency that is in transition. The main purpose is to investigate whether they are aware of the link between poverty as a social problem, the challenges and daily struggle of frontline practitioners and the families in which they intervene in dealing with poverty and social inequality, and the influence of implementing Signs of Safety on poverty-aware frontline practice. Methodologically a theoretical framework to analyze the interviews is developed, based on the writings of the Italian theorist and political activist Antonio Gramsci (1891 - 1937) on the significance of ‘hegemony’, ‘common sense’ and ‘good sense’ and other key elements. The challenge consists in analyzing the interviews by ‘thinking with Gramsci’ based on the method of ‘plugging one text into another’ (Jackson and Mazzei, 2016). As a result of this analysis themes that emerge from the in depth interviews could be considered as microlandscapes in which common sense can be studied with its contradictions and faibles but also with cores of good sense (Crehan, 2016). One of these microlandscapes seems to be the perspectives of policy makers on the prevalence of poverty in Child Welfare and Protection.
I’d like to invite participants of TiSSA to reflect on how to take maximum advantage of this approach of qualitative research.

Identifying the underlying mechanisms of successful transitional programmes for young care leavers: a realist review of the literature

Precon + Plenum

Author: Anna Raymaekers, Koen Hermans & Levi van Dam

The transition to adulthood is a difficult life phase for almost everyone. At this stage of their lives, young people have to make several choices which could have a considerable impact on several life domains. In this process, the possibility to rely on friends and family is therefore essential (Curry & Abrams, 2015). Unfortunately, for young people who are leaving residential care, this social network is often limited or even missing (Gypen et al., 2017). As a result, young care leavers are supposed to make the transition to adulthood faster than their peers who grew up with their biological parents and can rely on their help if needed (Heerde et al., 2016; Yelick, 2017).
International research has revealed that transitional programmes can support young care leavers in successfully transitioning to adulthood by helping them gain individual and social capital (Heerde et al., 2018; Gypen et al., 2017). However, in Flanders, up till now only a few transitional programmes in youth care are implemented. For this reason, we want to establish a process of co-creation in this PhD research to develop, implement and evaluate a new transitional programme supported by a digital application. This programme will focus on young care leavers between 16 and 25 years. In the first phase of the research, we conducted a literature review to explore the existing evidence about effective factors of transitional programmes.
The literature review revealed that for many years, the focus on transitional programmes was on encouraging young care leavers to become independent (Propp et al., 2003). Through training and skill building, young people were assumed to become more self-sufficient and were expected to need less support in difficult situations. However, in recent years the focus has shifted from teaching skills to ensuring stable relationships. Research has shown that, when residential youth care focusses more on building sustainable relationships for young care leavers, this creates more stability for young care leavers in the years after they leave this residential setting (Curry & Abrams, 2015).
Based on these insights, Propp et al. (2003) introduced the framework of ‘interdependence’. Interdependence focusses on values of reciprocal connection and collaboration with important supportive persons in the lives of youth leaving care. Young care leavers must have the ability to rely on a network of support existing of friends, family and other important actors (Curry & Abrams, 2015). In recent research on transitional programmes, having social support is often seen as an essential factor for positive outcomes for what concerns housing, education, employment, and mental health (Haggman-Laitila et al., 2019; Atkinson & Hyde, 2019). Following this, it could be argued that social workers should be establishing a network where the most important actors of these young people can form a strong collaboration together. However, it still seems to be unclear how a strong network for young care leavers can be established in practice.
To answer the question of how the social network of young people in youth care contributes to a positive transition to adulthood, we are conducting a realist review. The aim of a realist review is to examine why, and under which circumstances an intervention may or may not work in a specific context (Pawson et al., 2005). From the existing literature it is already clear that transitional programmes with a focus on interdependence are effective. Still, it remains unclear which underlying mechanisms make these programmes work.
The main research questions to be addressed in this review are as follows: (1) What are the underlying mechanisms that make the involvement of the social network lead to positive outcomes for young care leavers in their transition to adulthood? (2) What is the position of the formal and informal actors included in the network of young people in youth care who make the transition to adulthood? (3) Which underlying views on humanity can we find in the literature on transitional programmes involving the social network of young people in care during their transition to adulthood?
For this realist review, a systematic search was conducted. We selected articles with a focus on a transitional programme involving the social network of young care leavers between 16 and 25 years old. Fifteen articles were selected and will now be analysed. We aim at uncovering the underlying mechanisms, the context, the position of the formal and informal actors and the intended and unintended outcomes for each transitional programme described in the articles.
This realist review is still a work in progress and as mentioned, part of a broader PhD research. During the pre-PhD conference, we would like to present some preliminary results of the realist review. Furthermore, we would like to present how we involved young care leavers through a participation process in this first phase of our PhD research.


Precon + Plenum

Author: Laura Van Beveren

Influenced by market-driven welfare arrangements that emphasize the need to efficiently allocate economic and social resources, advanced liberal welfare regimes (e.g., in Western-Europe, Australia, Canada) have reconfigured welfare arrangements from ‘rights-oriented’ to ‘risk-oriented’ approaches (Green, 2007; Kemshall, 2010). As the existing research evidence shows, the focus has shifted from ‘how social services can enhance the rights of the general population’ (rights-oriented approach) to ‘how social services can protect our societies against the risk of vulnerable or potentially dangerous populations’ (risk-oriented approach) (Webb, 2009). In the field of social work specifically, research shows that social work professionals are increasingly expected to implement methods of risk assessment and management so as to contribute to the detection and prevention of risks for societies rather than to protect the rights of so-called ‘at risk-populations’. These trends are evident in fields such as youth care, criminal justice services and mental health services (Leotti, 2020; Sawyer et al., 2016).

In this presentation, I aim to develop a more critical perspective on the notion of ‘risk’ and its impact on social services by building on three fundamental premises: (1) risk is a normative and discursive construct rather than a technical and measurable notion, (2) social work professionals can accept or resist dominant constructions of risk that dismiss the social inequalities that characterize the lives of ‘populations at risk’, and (3) ‘people at risk’ can accept or resist the risk identities that are constructed about them in social work interventions. Building on these premises, I argue that, in order to gain insight into the discursive construction and practical operationalization of ‘risk’ at the level of policy, the social work professional and ‘people at risk’ themselves, an intersection of the field of social work studies with the field of rhetorical studies is a fruitful endeavor. In the past decade, rhetoric of risk-studies have been developing as a subfield of rhetorical study (Jensen, 2015). Rhetoric of risk-studies understand risk as emerging through discourse and are dedicated to exploring how risks, but also risk-groups, are constituted via discourse and when and how particular risks become persuasive as facts of the world to particular audiences (Ayotte et al., 2009). The presentation will specifically focus on the conceptual and methodological relevance of turning to field of rhetorical studies to develop knowledge about how social work can engage with risk from a critical-reflexive professional position. In addition, I explore how the field of rhetorical studies can inspire interpretive research designs that try to capture the discursive-rhetorical dimensions of social work practice.

Excluded from inclusion? Reclaiming citizenship rights with citizens with multiple disabilities through a socio-spatial transformation of residential care

Precon + Plenum

Author: Vanessa Dermaut, Griet Roets, Stijn Vandevelde

Introduction: In the White Paper Perspective 2020, the Minister of Social Welfare, Public Health and Family Affairs in Flanders proposed a profound change of the welfare system, explicitly adhering to principles of citizenship, social rights, warm solidarity, inclusion, and aiming at the implementation of a personal budget system. In this White Paper, reference is made to the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which was ratified and implemented in Belgium in August 2009. However, the implementation of this welfare reform unintentionally entails a dichotomy in practice. On the one hand, disability policy and practice promotes inclusion with a focus on self-determination of disabled citizens and their informal network who can express their needs and aspirations, can claim rights, buy, purchase and manage their care, apparently as an independent citizen-consumer. On the other hand, disabled people who cannot meet these societal expectations are easily excluded from living in the community and reside in residental care.

Theoretical and methodological approach: This doctoral research study takes place in a small-scale residental care facility where disabled citizens with multiple disabilities live who need 24/7 support, in a small village in Flanders (the Dutch speaking part of Belgium). According the predominant understanding of inclusion, which promotes community-based care, they are considered to be recipients of care, excluded from inclusion. Based on a historical case study of how the residential care facility was conceived as a living environment (location, architectural and infrastructural aspects, paradigms and logics of cure, care and support), we discovered that disability is socio-spatially constructed: places and social interactions keep people with disabilities “in place”, and might provoke exclusion and marginalization, maintaining disabling practices. Through a participatory action research project, we initiated a process of change and socio-spatial transformation to open up the facility and form an inclusive community with/in the neighborhood, as it became a shared concern of various stakeholders.

Findings, discussion and conclusion: By making use of everyone's strengths and unique perspective, this research resulted in an awareness process and adjustment of the ideas and actions of all those involved (disabled citizens, professionals, family, volunteers, and neighbors). We learned by doing that non-obligatory, informal and even ambiguous ‘small’ social interactions between local residents with and without a disability seem to be more valuable as one would suspect (see Heynen & Loeckx, 1998; Soenen, 2006; Bredewold, 2014). We also argue that residential disability care needs particular community inter-twiners/builders in its professional workforce, with a sensitivity to quarter, encourage and strengthen these “small” and informal meetings between people, meanwhile creating space to deal with difference with/in the surrounding living environment. As a condition for this process, disabled people should be involved as citizens who are encouraged to give meaning to what makes living at that place worthwhile for them.

The uncertain organization of a social housing company: ‘between stones and people’

Precon + Plenum

Author: Simon Allemeersch

Social housing companies in Belgium and Flanders face a difficult task. Structurally underfunded and directed within a state model of preferred private ownership, social housing companies have acquired conflicting tasks. Therefore, their employees are asked to make the almost impossible distinction between ‘housing’ and ‘living’.

This paper is about the position social housing companies, and social workers affiliated with these companies, find themselves in. The study is based on semi-structured interviews with professionals from macro to micro level - against the background of a broader long-term auto-ethnographic fieldwork of the researcher within the inside world of a social housing high-rise ensemble (Rabot neighborhood, Ghent, Belgium) that was demolished between 2010 and 2021, and replaced by new social housing.

Firstly, we turn to the diagram being developed by the Dutch researchers Prak & Priemus (1986) which describes the reasons and principles behind the all too rapid decline and demolishing of post-war social housing. Although Prak & Priemus’ analysis is relevant in its historical meaning, it requires a revision in the face of contemporary social housing realities and local knowledge of professionals, social workers and residents of social housing. Secondly, after detecting some problematic assumptions underlying this framework, we concentrate on the central actor in this scheme: the social housing company itself.

We find that both housing company officials, as well as rank and file employees, appear not to be merely rational actors who are part of one homogeneous organization. They thereby proceed with, what is described by the professionals themselves as ‘stomach feeling’. Therefore, the motives they act upon and their mutual solidarity relationships appear to be much more complex in reality - as a result of conflicting tasks (Sennett, 2004; Sahlin, 1996) against the limits of their discretionary space (Lipsky, 1980) within the organization, or from their own social class perspective.

Participants recurrently frame this divide in the mission of social housing as the opposition between ‘stones’ and ‘people’: between the technical materialist task of building houses, and the social problems professionals are confronted with in offering homes. Therefore, the motives these professionals act upon, and their mutual relationships, in reality turn out to be much more complex than the seemingly rationalist policies that have been developed in Flandres' social housing since the 1990ties.

This research wants to advocate for a new modus operandi concerning social housing, that radically questions the reproduction of poverty and social inequality, stemming from a co-creation of knowledge between in the inside and the outside world of these homes, based upon the perhaps difficult but necessary alliances between social housing, social work and outside world organizations.

Secondary school leaders’ views on school: in alignment with the commons?

Precon + Plenum

Author: Juno Tourne

Despite economically advanced countries having well-resourced and high-quality education systems, the educational reality is that strong social inequalities persist. Several international studies show that young people’s SES remains the most powerful factor influencing their performance in education. The current educational discourse is influenced by neoliberalism, a human capital approach, and strong education. We argue that a new perspective to adequately address educational shortcomings is necessary. The commons are proposed as an alternative value and action system to help re-imagine schooling and help realise the potential of education in addressing inequalities and promoting well-being for all. The ‘commons’ comprise goods and resources that are collectively used and produced. Commoning consists of making and managing a collective good in a manner of openness, equality, co-activity, plurality, and sustainability. The commons have limits, rules, social norms, and sanctions determined collectively by the commoners. Regarding education, priority is given to youngsters’ needs and their broader development, rather than their preparation for the marketplace and the process of economic production. More concretely, the commons offer room for deviation, consider students’ context, and put students and educators on an equal footing in decision-making processes. Seeing as school leaders occupy a pivotal position in schools and their vision is crucial in inspiring teachers and students, this study uses semi-structured interviews to identify secondary school leaders’ views on school and in which way they relate to this tension. Answering the question: How do school leaders perceive the role of a school? And how do they shape the school in their everyday practice?

Discovering the capacity to aspire among ger residents in Tahilt area, Songinohairhan district, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Precon + Plenum

Author: Bayartsetseg Terbish

This doctoral research aims at gaining indigenous knowledge about the sense of belonging, coping and survival strategies, and aspirations of residents in sub-urban “ger” areas of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to inform the further development of social work theory, social policy and social work practice in Mongolia. The fieldwork consists of the following three interlinked research studies under the umbrella methodology of urban ethnography and adopts a socio-spatial approach.
1. The study of lived citizenship was completed via (a) content analysis, (b) participant observation, (c) informal interviews with public officials and residents living in the target area, and finally (d) some participatory mapping jointly developed with the selected residents (Sept 2019-July 2020).
2. The study of coping/survival strategies and aspirations of ger residents based on the concept of the capacity to aspire by Arun Appadurai
(Appadurai, 2004) was completed by applying methods of (a) participant observation, (b) biographical interviews with ger residents, and (c) participatory mapping, which was continued by the researcher from Sept 2020 to May 2021.
3. The study of social work practice that supports lived citizenship and enables the capacity to aspire among ger residents was conducted, using methods of (a) semi-structured interviews with social workers and other public officers working close to people and (b) socio-spatial mapping to further identify service delivery and resource distribution in the target area.

In this conference, the second study on the coping and aspirations of ger residents will be discussed and questions on the analysis of the data and emerging patterns and themes will be raised. The concept capacity to aspire of Arun Appadurai is the main analytical frame of this study, taking into consideration ger residents’ agency to access resources and services in the new living environment after their internal migration. Furthermore, the study aims at identifying dynamics of cooperation among residents and how their voices are heard by social work and public administration. Finally the study examines the acceptance and support rendered from the administration towards such citizenry initiatives as part of the structural support.

Sports as a tool for the social reintegration of prisoners: A social work perspective

Precon + Plenum

Author: Marie-Lou Libbrecht

The reintegration of offenders is an important social problem, with an increased investment in programs to support offenders in the reintegration process. From the academic disciplines of social work and sports sociology, four different knowledge gaps concerning the reintegration of prisoners become apparent:

1) A lack of knowledge on the perspective of offenders, an important element in the development of meaningful interventions.
2) A lack of knowledge on several life domains which can contribute to the re-integration of offenders, such as the domain of sports.
3) The lack of research outside of the criminological discipline, reducing the notion of reintegration to the prevention of recidivism.
4) A lack of knowledge in sports sociology to create new fundamental theoretical insights about how organized sports can both act as an inclusive space and as a vehicle for broader integration.

To address these gaps, I will research the following question: “what is the meaning of sports as a domain for reintegration of offenders, seen from a social work perspective”
The aim of the research is:
1. to investigate the working mechanisms of prison sport programs
2. how these mechanisms contribute to the moral, functional and expressive dimension of social reintegration of offenders
3. how I can theorize a program theory for sports as a life domain for the re-integration of offenders from a social work perspective

In this research I address these gaps from a social work theoretical perspective on social re-integration of offenders.

I will - in collaboration with ‘De Rode Antraciet’, the organization which coordinates sports and culture in prisons of Flanders - develop a multiple case study. In this case study I will use a realist approach where I analyze 5 sport programs in 5 different prisons. From this realist approach, the research project will be built upon four work packages (WP’s):
WP1: Refining the theoretical and methodological framework (4months)
I will conduct a systematic scoping literature review on a social work perspective on sport programs for reintegration of offenders.
WP2: Development of an initial program theory (32 months)
I will do participant observations and I will work with semi-structured qualitative interviews. Prisoners, ex-prisoners, sports monitors inside the prison, sports clubs/monitors outside the prison, prison mentors, assessors and justice assistants are included.
WP3: Validation of the initial program theory by focus groups (6months)
A focus group in each prison with all the relevant stakeholders will assess the initial program theory of each program at the end of each Multiple Case Study. In total five focus groups (N=5) will be organized per prison with a maximum of 12 people per group.
WP4: Conceptualization of a program theory on prison sports (6months)

With this research, I will develop an innovative program theory to contribute to social work theory and to policy and practice. Scientific research that will exposure us the meaning of sports as a tool for the social reintegration of prisoners.

The pandemic and the neoliberal seduction of social work.

Author: Raf Debaene

Of course, the pandemic had big consequences for our society and our social life. As it could be expected from a social work point of view, it is obvious that these consequences were unequal for different classes of society. So, the pandemic was clearly more than a medical-technological phenomenon. As a result, the debate arises as to whether the epidemic has fundamentally altered society, affecting social work negatively or positively. Some see it as an opportunity for social work because the pandemic made the need for collective action and solidarity obvious. Others highlight the increased inequality and social injustice and therefore predict difficult times for social work.
In this lecture, I argue that the way the question is put may show a very common and classic but yet particular view on history, common with that of neoliberalism. In this view, history is a meaningful cause and effect concatenation of events, tending to a better future. In this case: the pandemic has one definite meaning and (positive or negative) effect for social work. Furthermore, this view may lead to answers (the pandemic is a threat or an opportunity for social work) that neglect the overall presence and influence of neoliberal rationality.
This doesn’t deny that the pandemic may have concrete consequences for social work, but it is a plea to not generalise and instead see that the pandemic has diverse faces and outcomes in different societies and social circumstances. These ask for different answers and actions from social work, but this fact doesn’t allow us to say anything about a general challenge to social work or the possibility of it. Social work, indeed, has never been able to ‘live up to its ideal of social justice’, not because it was too weak, but because ideals only exist in heaven or at the end of the times. But is it really necessary for social work to strive for ideals? These can only lead to frustrating its activities. Instead of living up to a utopia – which is also the aim of neoliberalism – and trying to realise equality in the near or far future, social workers should always act from the democratic supposition of equality of everyone with everyone.

Lessons (not) learned from pandemic times. Individual and organizational aspects of digital transformation in the disability field


Author: Martin F. Reichstein

On the whole, fields of social work are said to be skeptical when it comes to the implementation of new technologies (cf. Mayerle, 2015, p. 9). Nevertheless, it is important to note that in recent years and decades no new technology has influenced social life to the same extent as the internet and associated digital media and means of communication (cf. van Eimeren & Frees, 2014, p. 378). During the COVID 19 crisis, significant parts of social life were shifted into the digital space. In particular, the use of digital information and communication tools has increased significantly (cf. Hacker et al., 2020, p. 564). According to Embregts et al. (2020, p. 8), this was also the case in the lives of persons with an intellectual disability. However, it was already apparent in pre-pandemic times that marginalized groups in particular - in this case persons with so-called intellectual disabilities - could not participate in the 'digital society' to the same extent as this seemed to be the case generally (cf. Reichstein, 2016, p. 81).
Now that the pandemic seems to be coming to an end in some countries, it is worth asking how sustainable the ad hoc 'digital transformations' that have emerged will prove to be in post-pandemic times. In addition, it is important to ask how these transformations have affected and continue to affect the lives of marginalized groups. It seems possible that – in retrospect – the pandemic will be seen as a catalyst and momentum for an increasing distribution of digital tools among the groups in question. At the same time, however, it is also possible that existing “digital divides” (Kinnunen & Georgescu, 2020, p. 56) deepened during the pandemic and will raise future problems (cf. Jeste et al., 2020, p. 830).
The oral presentation outlined here will attempt to assess the effects of the ad hoc digital transformation of individual lives that has taken place in the pandemic, based on a review of the international research literature available to date. The focus will be on persons with intellectual disabilities. In addition, the presentation will reflect on already foreseeable effects of digital transformation in social services for the group in question.
The more fundamental question is what role digital tools should or can play in the future development of societies, social services and for improving individual quality of life. It should be noted that advancing digital transformation generally raises questions that affect not only equal access to new tools and technology but also ‘classical’ social work questions such as that of the relationship between help and control (cf. Schädler et al., 2021, in publication). Against this backdrop, the presentation will conclude by outlining further research needs at the intersection of social work and informatics.

Informal social work practices in times of crisis


Author: Mieke Schrooten

From collective rounds of applause for caregivers, to teddy bear hunts, and people sewing mouth masks and running errands for their neighbours: during the months where people were asked to socially distance themselves, social involvement, solidarity and a sense of community were stronger than ever. These small initiatives are part of a revival of collective action that has been steadily growing in many European countries for a few decades already, but which may have been further spurred by the consequences of the pandemic. At the same time, many of the spontaneously emerging solidarity practices largely ignored people living in a socially very vulnerable position, such as people with mental health problems, people without legal residence status or homeless people. Despite the fact that they were the first to feel the effects of the measures taken against the virus almost immediately, many of them found little or no connection to many of the practices of spontaneous citizen solidarity. In this paper, I try to draw lessons from the experiences of a number of informal social work practices that did succeed in connecting with these groups. It concerns a range of informal players, such as citizens' initiatives, religious organisations, online communities or socio-sporting practices. Some of them already had a social focus before the pandemic, and were challenged to adapt their daily functioning, whereas others started to take on a social role due to the crisis. I end with a few reflections on the social organisation that is emerging in the current corona era between citizens, informal, non-formal and formal social work.

Poverty as a Political Choice


Author: Dr Ian Cummins Professor Emilio José Gómez Ciriano

Neoliberalism has seen the dominance of the market at the expense of the role of the state and the institutions of civil society. Austerity policies that were introduced following the banking crisis of 2008 were an extension and deepening of the neoliberal attack on the welfare state.This paper is based on a a comparative analysis of two reports by the UN Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, one for Spain and one for the UK. In both countries, austerity policies were introduced following the banking crisis of 2008. The UN Rapporteur reports document the impact of austerity on the most vulnerable individuals and communities. The reports also emphasise that social workers and other welfare professionals work alongside individuals, families and community groups to mitigate the impact of welfare retrenchment. The paper argues that these developments underline the importance of social workers practicing with a ‘poverty aware paradigm’. Poverty aware practice recognises the structural factors that create poverty, discrimination and marginalisation but also community and individual agency that can challenge them. The paper will discuss the implications for individual social workers’ practice and the role of social work as a profession in tackling poverty and marginalisation.

Keywords Human rights Austerity Poverty Citizenship Poverty Aware Practice

Sustainable empowerment? Social work and political agency in a German street paper project


Author: Ingo Bode

Throughout advanced welfare states, social work is widely deemed a public affair, based on professionalized people- processing organizations. While, historically, private endeavor was long endemic to social support systems broadly speaking, the bulk of current social work scholarship suggests that we need public frameworks to (re)empower disadvantaged citizens. This is because extant frameworks endow social work with democratic legitimacy, even as public settings are widely assumed to be the best place for social work-related knowledge processing and dissemination. However, for some time now, these convictions are challenged by private initiatives positing that, in some instances, these functionalities can be better achieved by collective action outside this universe. This trend started with alternative community work projects in the 1970s and has gained new momentum with the rise of entrepreneurial approaches to empowerment agency from the 1990s onwards. In the wider adacemic debate, empowerment is about people's ability to make choices, to become active (again), to gain access to resources and to strive for higher social status (Haugh and O’Caroll 2019, Bode & Moro 2021). The aforementioned initiatives claim that they are perfectly able to contribute to this. Creating and running ‘social enterprises for marginalized populations’ (Gidron 2017) is perceived as a promising way forward, including by making deprived populations economic subjects. A case in point is street papers sold by citizens going through, or threatened by, an episode of homelessness. These are hybrid nonprofit projects of which many seek to combine economic integration, social support and public advocacy (Bode 2021). Gathering and diffusing knowledge about the life of marginalized populations and malpractice of welfare bureaucracies, street papers have even been conceived of as a forum for ‘communicative democracy’ (Howley 2003). At the same time, with the ambition to help disadvantaged citizens become self-sustaining economic subjects, they intend reducing stigma and alleviating poverty in a sustainable manner.
This paper is drawing on results from an in-depth case study of one street-paper project located in a big German agglomeration, based on interviews with core agents and a review of written material (the project is run together with Dr H. Turba and social work students). Exploring practical experience with this project, it discusses whether and how far entrepreneurial agency combines with social support and political action to achieve sustainable empowerment. It finds that these projects, while managing to become a quasi-institution in the social welfare field, are trapped in paradoxes that set limits to their empowerment potential.

Bode, I. (2021), Moral total? Wohnungslosenzeitungen als prekäre Hybridprojekte, in: Armbruster, A. and Cristina Besio (eds.), Organisierte Moral. Zur Ambivalenz von Gut und Böse in Organisationen. Wiesbaden: Springer VS
Bode, I. & G. Moro (2021): (Dis-)Empowerment in Context: A Proto-evaluative Perspective on Welfare Reform Agendas and their impact, North-West and South. European Societies (early view), DOI: 10.1080/14616696.2021.1966071
Gidron, B. (2017). The Dual Hybridity of Social Enterprises for Marginalized Populations. Journal of Social Entrepreneurship 8(1): 1-12.
Haugh, H. M. and M. O'Carroll (2019). Empowerment, Social Innovation and Social Change. In: G. George, T. Baker, P. Tracey and H. Joshi (eds.), Handbook of Inclusive Innovation. The Role of Organizations, Markets and Communities in Social Innovation. Cheltenham, Edward Elgar.
Howley, K. (2003). A Poverty of Voices. Street Papers as Communicative Democracy. Journalism 4(3): 273-292.

The impact of online learning on students' knowledge and academic results


Author: Prof. Assoc. Dr. Artur Rada; Prof. Assoc. Dr. Irida Agolli (Nasufi)

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, online learning became the main way of learning for students. As an alternative way of learning it has influenced the performance and academic results of students. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences and perceptions of social science students on the impact of online learning on knowledge and academic results. Methodology: The scientific method used in the study was qualitative, exploratory model. The instrument used for data collection was in-depth, semi-structured interview. The data were collected through the process of online interviewing of 21 students from the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tirana. Results: The study showed that online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic for almost all participants had an impact on knowledge and academic results. In terms of knowledge acquisition, most students stressed that the impact had been negative because communication and the benefit of online learning had been difficult and with technical problems. According to most students, online learning over time had become very tedious, while emphasizing that classroom learning was more attractive, interactive and discussion-based. Regarding the impact on academic results, more than half of the students stated that the impact had been positive, while for others it had not had an impact.

Key words: online learning, impact, knowledge, academic results, student

Frictions in the common ground of social work. An activity theory perspective.


Author: Hans Grymonprez

In recent years Social Workers in Flanders attempted to reposition themselves in the light of the many challenges social workers have to face. A research project culminated in a social work conference and a report in which the common ground of social work was outlined in 5 building blocks: (1) politicising work, (2) proximity, (3) process logic, (4) generalist practice, and (5) working in a connecting way (Vandekinderen et al., 2018). Interconnecting these building blocks, it is believed, contributes to the realization of a rights-based approach to social work. Nonetheless, defining a common ground might distract the social work community that while each of these building blocks are fundamental to social work practice, putting them into practice in a coherent way may be far from obvious. We examined this question in the context of community-oriented social work practices, geographically organized throughout the city of Antwerp (Belgium). Starting from the activity theory of Engeström (2015), we identified multiple frictions in and between building blocks arguably hampering the agenda of human rights and social justice. In this presentation we shed both light on three of these frictions as we illuminate how social workers in these community oriented frontline services depict or deploy strategies to deal with these frictions. Our results exemplify the nuanced and multi-positional stance of social work practitioners but also testify of the gap between the actual and the possible.

‘Safe spaces’ or ‘brave spaces’? From deradicalisation to repoliticisation in youth work with youngsters in socially vulnerable positions.


Author: Reyhan Görgöz (presenter), Bart Van Bouchaute and Denoix Kerger

After the attacks in European cities by home-grown terrorists the concept of ‘radicalisation’ became intertwined with issues of integration and radical Muslim beliefs. This cultural-psychological narrative became dominant in prevention policies and practices. In earlier research we examined the effects of these prevention policies on youth work with youngsters in a socially vulnerable situation in Flanders (Belgium). These organisations are highly critical of these prevention policies because of their stigmatising effects on the youngsters and the undermining of their trust bond with youth workers. However, their own pedagogical approach, focused on individual identity development, involves a paradox: it protects the youngsters against the stigmatising effects of the radicalisation discourse, but trumps out more politicising work on discrimination and inequality.
This should bring out renewed attention for politicising practices in youth work to support vulnerable young people in expressing their grievances. To realise this, youth work needs to provide vulnerable youngsters ‘safe spaces’ in which they can have discussions on sensitive topics and are supported to raise their voice in public. In current research in four pilots (developed in the EU Interreg project Orpheus) we explore the possibilities and dangers of this ‘safe space’ approach for the politicisation of grievances. Safe spaces can provide a climate where young people can express and test radical ideas without repressive reaction. On the other hand, they can degenerate into an environment where any friction or discomfort is excluded, undermining the public expression of grievances. That is why we ask ourselves whether we should not develop a pedagogy of ‘brave spaces’ rather than ‘safe spaces’. We present some preliminary outlines of this framework.
Keywords: politicisation, radicalisation, prevention, youth work, safe space.

Symposium - Supporting youth resilience in challenging times, towards inclusive crisis management: comparative empirical explorations from Dutch metropolitan areas


Author: Sarah Uitman, dr Lieke Wissink, Zulia Rosalina, dr Femke Kaulingfreks

Youth appeared in Dutch media in predominantly two ways during the corona crisis; they were portrayed as victims given their decreased wellbeing or as culprits due to their suspected reluctance to adhere to containment measures. Both depictions – passive victims or unruly troublemakers - tend to position youth outside social practices to manage the crisis rather than recognizing them as active contributors to such practices. In this symposium, we look at resilience as one of the key factors that was required of individuals and communities during the pandemic and focus on the crucially diverse ways in which various youth actually managed to mobilize resilience. Doing so, we argue, is crucial to further enhance youth inclusion in national crisis management and to offer them adequate social support.
We rely on data gathered in three qualitative studies among young people between age 15 – 26, each highlighting different aspects of youth resilience between 2018 and 2021; resilience in the transition to adulthood, resilience in the face of structural crises, and political youth resilience. The views and experiences of youth facing various forms of marginalization are central – among them homeless youth, youth dealing with psychological problems and youth disengaged from formal politics. Methods used are in-depth interviews, surveys, participant observation, focus groups, and informal conversations. The projects took place in three Dutch urban areas - Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Haarlem – in which youth are dealing with growing inequalities.
By combining these three empirical projects each focused on different aspects of youth resilience, we provide recommendations on how to better equip social workers to help youth navigate crisis situations; by providing individual support that is attuned to their specific needs and social environment, by enabling collective practices of resilience that offer youth a materially and socially resourceful environment, and by stimulating youth involvement in (political) decision making. Therein, we emphasize the need to differentiate the category of ‘youth’ and recognize the importance of local initiatives to meet various needs and interests in collaboration with local youth instead of implementing generalized measures in national crisis management.
The first research project explores the experiences of youth in transition to adulthood (aged 16-23) during a four-year period. It provides an overview of youth's lives and their resilience before and during the pandemic. Rather than focusing on one particular life domain such as school, home or work, the research highlights the importance of accessible and ongoing support that reaches across the boundaries of youth's social worlds in order to anticipate to various ways of resilience building for youth in their transition to adulthood. The second project focusses on youth who already faced serious life challenges before corona. Based on participatory fieldwork among undocumented youth during ‘lock down’ periods, it explores homemaking as a collective practice of resilience. The study emphasizes the need to create physical spaces, both in social work landscapes as in urban design to enable a practice of homemaking for marginalized youth as a way of inclusive crisis management. Thirdly, the LinkJong Amsterdam project addresses political participatory inequality among youth; Youth living in suburban neighborhoods, youth with a lower social economic status and more practically educated youth have a lack of trust in governing institutions and vote less. Especially during the corona crisis the municipality was struggling to bridge the gap between youth and policy making institutions. We investigate what role social professionals can play in bridging that gap and, as a first step, calls for a broader recognition of political engagement among youth to ensure inclusive – hence resilient - politics.

The quest for ethically sustainable practice in the field of child protection: The possibilities of participatory action research in enhancing the capabilities of the workers


Author: Maija Mänttäri-van der Kuip

Child protection workers function in a challenging context: case overload, high turnover of personnel and chronic haste are part of the everyday practice, presenting an extra challenge to their intrinsically demanding work. Fulfilling one’s professional aspirations has become very challenging in the current era, leaving many workers to suffer e.g. burnout and moral distress. This presentation aims to address this challenge. The aim is to investigate the possibilities to enhance the capabilities of the workers i.e., their opportunities to practice in a way they have reason to value, by conducting participatory action research together with them (PAR).

The presentation draws from three separate PAR projects, which were carried out in public child protection service units in Finland in 2019-2021. The main objective of the PAR projects was to develop, implement and evaluate daily practices aiming at enhancing the capabilities of the workers to practice in an ethically sustainable way under conditions of increased austerity and transforming welfare services. The idea was to identify obstacles to the actualization of their capabilities and find ways to overcome or bypass them together with the workers.

This presentation sheds light on these participatory processes and their challenges in the field of child protection by combining findings from all the three separate projects. The data comprises for example of observations, reflective group discussions and group interviews conducted during the projects in the three agencies. The findings concerning the ethical capabilities and the attempts to enhance them will be presented.

Conducting research together with the workers can be a fruitful way to contribute to development of practice. In addition, PAR might offer emancipatory way to approach the well-being related challenges in the field of social work, by bringing people together in order to find solutions for shared concerns. Thus, PAR projects yield empirical knowledge that can be relevant for the practice, while also contributing to the revitalization of theory. However, this co-creation process with the practitioners working in a highly demanding context is by no means free of challenges.

The comeback of food support as an anti-poverty strategy


Author: Caroline Vandekinderen, Annick Verstraete, Ann Brabandt, Geertrui Van Vlem, Didier Reynaert

COVID-19 is hitting hard and despite the rapid response of the Belgian and Flemish government, the developed policies follow and confirm patterns of existing inequalities. As such, people in the most vulnerable situations are hit the most. The corona crisis has led to an excessive increase of people relying on food support. Every year records are broken in terms of visitor numbers to organizations offering food support, but the crisis has led to 15 to 20 percent more demand for free food. This need was captured by numerous volunteer organizations and citizens who took action to prepare and distribute meals to citizens in vulnerable situations. Situations of emergency require exceptional interventions and this “warm solidarity” could apparently be mobilized more flexible and efficient than the inert public apparatus.

However, it seems that the corona crisis is strengthening a tendency that is going on for some time now. We already noticed a shift from food support as a dusty phenomenon operating in the margins to an institutionalization of the charity economy as a poverty reduction strategy in pre-corona times. The slogan “emergency aid under protest” is never far away, although the echo seems to reverberate more softly. Moreover, the trend of food support is further driven by ecological and health logics presented as innovative.

In our presentation we will argue that it is a complex issue in which charity and rights-oriented approaches interact and unfold in sometimes surprising ways within social work practices and welfare arrangements. We collected a rich empirical basis in everyday charity economy and social work practices in Ghent – a city in the Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. We conducted semi-structured interviews with diverse policy makers (n=6), explored 25 food initiatives through visits and semi-structured interviews with volunteers (n=25) and set up ethnographic research and semi-structured interviews in one specific organization working with homeless people (n=15).

We discovered that food support is a question with many angels. First, it touches on the historically complex interplay between government, civil society and the market and the current concern about the erosion of the active role of the welfare state as a provider or at least guarantor of well-being. Secondly, it concerns the relationship between the sustainable anchoring of social justice on the basis of structural measures on the one hand and the much-needed remedial interventions to mitigate the effects of poverty on the other hand. Third, it concerns a balancing act between instrumental/conditional logics and democratic logics in social work practices.

Outreaching to Transit Migrants. First experiences, methods and concepts.


Author: Joris Kennis, Nils Baetens, Koen Van Rompaey

Introduction: Many EU Member States are facing a growing number of transit migrants who are stranded for the purpose of secondary migration, refraining from submitting asylum or regularization applications while waiting to move on. This phenomenon challenges authorities in their understanding of internally displaced persons within the EU and their concepts of specific approaches. Reaching these migrants is coming to the fore for policy makers, while the place and role of social work appears to be of particular importance in the development of a humanitarian approach. Integration and cooperation between state and non-state actors are at stake. Transnationalism and principles of social work are needed. However, little is known about reaching transit migrants, the methods of counselling and its effectiveness.

Questions: What are the outreach experiences in the specific context of transit-migration so far? What are important elements in the method and modelling of outreaching? Under what conditions can outreaching activities contribute to an integrated migration policy?

Method: This presentation descriptive. It takes the form of reporting, conceptualization and invites for further research.

Results: First, illustrating the transnational dimension, we present the experiences of an EU-funded outreach project in 2020-2021 between France (Calais) and Belgium (Brussels). Counsellors from both countries went out together, shared findings and discussed their methods in dedicated debriefings.
Second, an appropriate method was elaborated in semi-structured workshops. Main elements are the context sensitivity, migrants processes and networks. Decided was to differentiate counselling in stages: contacting, informing and referring. In every stage social work was assessed as a key factor in creating guidance and value.
Third, A concept of micro-counselling emerges, in which correct information and a safe space for discussion are provided in short but frequent contacts in the field. After that, a referral is made to a support network with competent actors. This could be the official services or various civil society organizations, some of which are already involved in assisting transit migrants.

Conclusions: Achieving an integrated transit migration policy requires many state and non-governmental stakeholders to engage. As a result, we propose a way forward where transit migrants are informed, guided and referred within a network with a social approach. There is also a need for academic research and knowledge development oriented to the practice of this type of counselling.

Relevance: This EU-funded pilot project is getting interest from other EU Member States and major cities. It is followed by a recurrent activity in Belgium, making part of wider migration approaches.

Community Organizing for Social Justice: The Case of Diverse Communities in Israel


Author: Dassi Postan-Aizik

The purpose of this study is to explore the use of a Critical Adult Education (CAE) to overcome community organizing challenges in excluded diverse communities. Since the 1970's economic, cultural, and political forces have negatively impacted community efforts to organize. Nevertheless, recently there is evidence that community organizing is gradually attracting more attention in research, practice, and education. This renewed interest can be seen as a much-needed response to globalization and state-supported neoliberalism, which has encouraged individualism, expanded inequality, and adopted welfare austerity measures that marginalize communities. In supporting local organizing, community social workers face growing racial, ethnic and gender divisions, as well as political disengagement and social fragmentation. CAE offers a framework that can support social workers that facilitate community organizing for social justice action. Building on the case of Community-Academy in Israel, a partnership program between the University of Haifa and local communities, this research studied the experiences of activists and community professionals that learned together and organized to promote inclusive urban development.
Data were collected from 30 interviews, two focus groups, and multiple participant observations with local activist and community workers employed in municipal welfare services and other organizations. The data were analyzed according to a grounded theory approach. Triangulation through different data collection techniques was used to capture the participants’ various viewpoints. Bracketing was applied to diminish the influence of the researchers’ early assumptions and allow for deeper reflexivity in data analysis. Lastly, the main findings were communicated to several participants as a form of member checking to enhance research credibility.
Critical education was instrumental in organizing across diversities through three dynamics: transposing knowledge, disrupting power hierarchies and negotiating diversity. Transposing knowledge refers to the process by which activists and community workers learned new information, questioned traditional knowledge about urban development and about their own community, and developed new knowledge for action. The dynamic of Disrupting Power involves the experience of unconventional organizing that challenged boundaries and traditional hierarchies such as those set between professionals and activists or academia and community. The egalitarian dynamic that developed in class did not dismantle power, however it successfully modeled the interaction between activists and city officials as they struggled for inclusive development. The study identifies challenges to organizing in the historical and social context of a diverse area. Although, activists and community workers viewed diversity as an asset to organizing, Negotiating Diversity involved navigating ethnic and national differences, as well as awareness to discrimination and other forms of injustices. Personal relationships, built over time and forged by common goals, helped to withstand these conflicts. The outcomes of organizing in this framework were mixed. While activist perceived it as empowering at the individual-family level and it successfully promoted change at the local level, at the national policy level, limited change was accomplished.
Discussion and implications
One of the main goals of CAE is to build alternative forms of knowledge and tools for political praxis that promotes social justice. This goal supports organizing through transposing knowledge and disrupting power, moving some control from those who traditionally hold it, to excluded communities on the opposite side of the power equation. The dynamic of negotiating diversity in the context of social, ethnic and religious divides from a CAE framework departs from the classic Alinsky approach to organizing and may increase tensions, since it openly engages with diversity and internal conflict. The findings emphasize the importance of relationship building for organizing in diverse communities, while acknowledging that the cost may disproportionately affect minority groups within the community.
As sweeping social movements highlight the power of communities to inspire social action, social work is well-placed to support local change and promote social justice for excluded communities. The critical consciousness developed by applying CAE to organizing can serve to counter neoliberal policies that exacerbate the problems social work focuses on. It may also encourage the examination of traditional power structures and mechanisms that diminish human rights and the freedom to organize. This calls attention to the role of professionals and institutions involved in organizing as social work theory and practice must critically examine their institutions and their own positionality.

SYMPOSIUM Politicisation: new wine into old bottles? Politicisation and the political mission of social work


Author: Luc De Droogh, Andy De Brabander, Rudi Roose, Bart Van Bouchaute

Today, 'politicisation' is enjoying increasing attention in the practice of and reflection on social work in Flanders. The Social Work Conference 2018 defined politicisation as a core task for strong social work. In various sectors - from usual suspects such as youth work and community development to less obvious ones such as youth assistance or general welfare work - there is a search for an effective framework for reflection and action. From this Flemish practice development, a number of discussions have emerged about the meaning and delimitation of politicisation in social work. It is a delicate debate, because labelling a practice as 'non-politicising' can create the impression that it is less valuable.
Therefore, in this workshop we situate politicisation in relation to three more classical constructions of the political role of social work. We discuss three confusions between politicisation and (1) policy work, (2) any form of political action and (3) actions in the discretionary space, within social work. This is not a purely academic discussion. The point is to maintain the sharp and recruiting meaning of politicisation.
We develop an understanding of politicisation as practices that contribute to the public disagreement about issues in society. This democratic dissensus is intrinsically linked to the underlying discursive and material power inequalities. Practices of politicisation question and disturb the existing order. In processes of politicisation, issues and people become public. Politicisation therefore contributes to the vitality of a democracy.
If politicisation focuses on the democratic dissensus then in the context of social work this also means that this dissensus is given a specific interpretation. Politicisation is not primarily a methodical framework, but an ideological one, related to the core mission of social work.
After the presentation, all participants are invited to actively engage in the discussion on the meaning of politicisation for practices of social work. Several Flemish academics will contribute to the debate.

War - related motives in the trajectories of street children in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo


Author: Nancy SAY KANA

Worldwide, many children and young people live in the street. In the Eastern of D. R. Congo, there is an important number of “street children”, phenomenon that seems to be connected to the long lasting and recurring episodes of war. Yet, little is still unknown on the role of armed conflicts in the motives of children to join the street. This study therefore, aims to gain insight on the “role of armed conflicts in the trajectories of street children in Eastern R.D.Congo”. Community researchers (i.e., former street children) conducted semi-structured interviews with 102 street children aged 12-18 years. Two main categories of motives impacting children’s decision to join street were motives related to the armed conflicts (e.g. attacks of rebels, repeated displacement) and no war- related motives (e.g. poverty, change in the family, violence and abuse in the family, etc.). Most children indicated multiple motives which came into play in a chronological chain yet mostly starting off with one or more war-related motives. Our findings point to several preventive and curative actions in the phenomenon of street children, both for children themselves as for their families.

Keywords :
Armed conflict, street children, community researchers, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo



Author: Anna Smirnova

Background: In order for social work to cope with ever-changing challenges successfully, it requires social work professionals who are able to realise their mission for social justice and be willing to share common values to achieve it. Thus, the constructive future development of the profession depends heavily on social workers’ personalities and how they form their identities by obtaining a ‘set of professional traits’ and developing their ‘sense of being a social worker’ (Wiles, 2017). The key objectives of social work education, evident in the curriculum requirements, are to assist future professionals to accept their chosen profession as a means of self-realisation and development, to be more aware of belonging to the professional group, and to assess the significance of their membership in it, thereby facilitating the development of personal and professional identity.
Researchers (Peabody, 2013; Mulder & Dull, 2014; Leonard et al., 2018) demonstrate that bringing arts into social work education fosters more successful learning about social work values, ethics and concepts, facilitating critical thinking skills and creative capacities. Furthermore, using arts-based methods, such as Photovoice, helps students not only to gain their knowledge and skills by diverse ways, but also to reveal their problems in professional socialization and to ‘raise their voices’ in enhancing education programmes and professional paths.
Method: The presentation will discuss the case study of a Photovoice project and a number of arts-based sessions with social work students at St. Petersburg State University within the context of identity-formation and the phenomena of recognition. Drawing on the conceptual framework of recognition theories (Honneth, 1995; Ricoeur, 2005; Houston, 2015) the ways that arts can be harnessed as a tool for investigating and developing inter-subjective recognition of young people will be analysed and show how location therapeutic, educational and empowering effects of arts within ‘spheres of recognition’, such as ‘love’, ‘rights’ and ‘solidarity’ can provide a positive foundation for identity-formation.
The findings of the case study demonstrate that applying arts in the light of recognition theories for the formation of professional identity is very significant due to the possibilities of: (1) realising the influence of recognition by ‘significant others’, which can result in a smoother process of (professional) identification; (2) revealing blind spots e.g. in the denial of young people’s rights, thus starting a dialogue and a path to empowerment; (3) recognising the capabilities, expectations and limitations of a youth’s potential contribution to the professional community.

Implications: Using arts in educational settings develops new knowledge and provides students with a deeper understanding of a profession. In this way, enabling the readiness of social work educational institutes to use arts-based methods will ensure a new type of specialists who will realise the role of creativity in the profession, and who are capable of forming their own identity in this light while also shaping the entire profession. Thus, these new professionals will be able and ready to provide positive social change, inter alia, through the use of creative tools.

The chronically ill people amongst the inactive population: from being perceived as freeloaders to an empowered return-to-work trajectory


Author: Elise Pattyn, Ludo Moyersoen, Lien Agache

Introduction to the research question: The chronically ill people that make part of the inactive population are often portrayed as ‘freeloaders’. Policy makers react with a ‘push’ towards employment in order to activate the inactive population, using different control engines as suppressive mechanism.

We offer a counter narrative framework departing from the concept of empowerment. How can we support the person dealing with a chronic illness to make an informed choice with regard to (gradual) return to work? How can we remove some barriers and facilitate the return-to-work trajectory?

The Interreg2Seas-project I-KNOW-HOW focuses on the case-study of cancer due to its high prevalence.

Methodology: In Flanders, we did 45 in-depth interviews and 4 focus groups in order to create prototypes of supportive instruments. In addition, during 9 cocreation sessions, the content of the tools was improved based on the feedback of the target audience.

Results: Departing from the principles of Supported Employment, different tools have been developed to offer support in the return-to-work trajectory (including job carving techniques driven by the individual him/herself). Preliminary findings will be shared during the conference.

Discussion: We will highlight the recent changes in the Flemish, national and European policy related to this topic. This refers not only to the characteristics of the job itself (tasks, work processes, workplace circumstances,…) but also to the structural conditions regarding the possibility of combining a part-time job with sickness allowance.

Implications: The results of the case study of cancer can be extrapolated to other chronical illnesses such as burn-out. And in the aftermath of Covid-19, we can even transfer it to the issue of ‘tailor-made activation for all’ as part of a preventive HR-policy.

The Un/Deserving Child: Neo-philanthropic philosophies and practices in combating child poverty


Author: Nicolas Jacquet, Coline Generet, Caroline Vandekinderen, Daniel Zamora Vargas, Didier Vrancken, Griet Roets

Child poverty remains a complex and multi-dimensional social problem in most Western societies. In the context of the changing relationship between citizens, the welfare state, civil society, and the market, a complex historical reconfiguration of the institutional welfare state framework can be observed in relation to charity- and rights-oriented assumptions in anti-poverty strategies towards children in poverty situations. Whereas critical scholars have referred to newly emerging ideas referred to as ‘neo-philanthropy’, ‘new philanthropy’, and ‘new charity economy’, we tackle how a discursive distinction between un/deserving children can be at stake in anti-poverty strategies, based on blaming ‘incapable’ parents for being responsible for the structural conditions and inequalities in which their children live. We focus on a qualitative research project in which we investigate the philanthropic philosophy and practice of a foundation that provides support to ensure food security and educational and leisure time activities for children in poverty in collaboration with social partners. While exploring the practices and normative value orientations of the foundation’s social partners, we tease out whether, and if so, how the foundation might be a little stone in the shoe of public actors in the welfare state. Preliminary results show that “new-philanthropy” practices and strategies are drastically moving away from strategies that are developed by historical welfare actors in terms of governance (1), poverty reduction (2) and funding methods (3).

Poverty-Aware social work - updates from Israel and UK


Author: Michal Krumer-Nevo

Poverty-aware social work: Recent developments in theory, research and practice
Prof. Michal Krumer-Nevo, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
This symposium will present the current developments of the Poverty-Aware Paradigm (PAP) in Israel after the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services have adopted the paradigm as a leading model for social workers and in the UK, where PAP gains interest among academics who work at the field of child protection. Offering a revamped connection between social work and the body of knowledge known as 'critical poverty knowledge,' the paradigm is a full theoretical framework that addresses core facets of theory, ethic and practice with people living in poverty. Seeing poverty as a violation of the right to dignity and acknowledging the everyday resistance of people to their predicament, the PAP enables a critical interpretation that contextualizes service users’ behavior. As a method of intervention, the PAP offers an array of rights-based and relationship-based practices that aim to work against injustice in the realm of both redistribution and recognition
This symposium will be dedicated to the latest scholarly developments of PAP in various levels of practice and research: the first presentation will focus on poverty-aware organizational practices in public social services. The second presentation will describe the development and validation of a new scale for examining attitudes regarding the etiology and relational–symbolic aspects of poverty. The third presentation will describe the utilization of material assistance – an essential feature of poverty-aware practice. The fourth presentation will be dedicated to the challenges of incorporating poverty awareness into the field of child protection in England.

Social Policy for Young People?


Author: K.- Ulrike Nennstiel

While the pandemic has been changing the life of many people all over the world, it has done so in quite different ways depending on the state and region the persons live in, their age, ethnicity, skin colour, occupation, occupational position, socioeconomic status etc. All governments have had to face analogous three challenges, varying to degrees: 1. The challenge of suppressing the spread of the virus, 2. The challenge to mitigating the economic hardships resulting from social distancing and lockdown policies, and 3. The challenge of preventing (or at least alleviating) the social and psychological impacts of the pandemic and its direct effects as well as those of government policies intended to limit further transmission of the virus (Tom Christensen, “The Social Policy Response to Covid-19, 2021). While governments approached these challenges in different ways, some common tendencies have been widely observable across numerous countries. Those persons who had already been disadvantaged before often became the ones beaten worst by the pandemic, its direct and indirect influences. Although not a (socially or economically) disadvantaged group in general and rarely considered a client of social policy, this tendency has arguably applied also to young people.
Many of them having often seen their future as rather bleak and unpromising, at least in regard to economic and environmental aspects, this has been aggravated by the pandemic and its manifold implications. Still, while this has contributed to an alarming suicide rate in some states, in others, even facing a high probability of unemployment young people try to find an economic niche to commit in, or start to involve themselves in political activities in order to change prospects for the future on a broader scale.
In the paper, based on opinion polls and scientific research, the situation and attitude of young people in selected countries (e.g. Finland, Switzerland and Japan) will be compared with regard to the conditions they consider decisive for their future and the ways they tend to handle them. It will be asked to what extent social policy influences these different approaches, and what kind of policies are generating or encouraging them. Provisionally, the probable finding is that specific attitudes depend centrally on an atmosphere of overall prosperity and the effect of educational characteristics rather than on particular measures of social policy do. This demonstrates even more clearly the necessity of encouraging political education, and of offering low-threshold chances for participation in various political, social and economic activities, without the constant threat of isolation and competition.

Case files and information sharing in youth care and protection, a blessing or a curse?


Author: Jan Naert, Wendy Eerdekens, Denoix Kerger

Background: In Belgium, young people in youth care and their parents have a 'right of access to reports’. Access to the youngsters’ files and potential information sharing with third parties is regulated by law.

However, there is a lack of clarity on how information is handled on different levels. Moreover, there are some signals that there is room for improvement as fieldworkers as well as youngsters indicate a lack of transparency regarding the access of their own files. Therefore, the goal of this empirical research is to find out the difficulties in relation to the filing of information of youngsters and their context. Secondly, by participatory dialogue with youngsters (ages 12 to 25), parents and social workers, potential recommendations for policy are obtained and validated in relation to existing legislation.

The theoretical framework is based on a life-world orientation . This approach gives direction to an ethical stance of the research team, with some guiding principles such as: voices of service users are central in the research, the research approach is participatory, the research methodology is adaptable and tailored to the participants, and researchers use an appreciative and multi-perspective approach.

Methodology: in this empirical research, the experience of young people (12-25 years) and their parents is mapped out through interviews (N=36) and focus groups (N=2). In addition, professionals are interviewed (N=12). In a last stage, interactive meetings are organised with fieldworkers to discuss and reflect upon the research findings.

Conclusions: The results show varying experiences of youngsters and their parents regarding the access of their case file. There is a lack of knowledge on what information is registered by the youth care system. This causes a lot of uncertainty, dissatisfaction and mistrust in the way reporting is done and in the youth care system as a whole. Filing and information gathering is seen as interfering with the way a care trajectory should be developed. Youngsters as well as parent do not feel in charge of their own files and top down control seems to increase. There is a large discrepancy between the current tendency towards filing more information, in more open information sharing systems that mainly operate digitally and the mainly negative experiences with these systems by service users.

The recalibration of formal, non-formal and informal social work during the COVID-pandemic. Neo-philanthropy or prefigurative politics?


Author: Debruyne Pascal

During the ongoing COVID 19-pandemic, not only illness but also solidarity went viral. As social services closed or had to be reoriented to retain their function, a range of non-formal and informal social work-agencies jumped the scene. Some authors would argue ‘the comeback of neo-philanthropy’. (Villadsen, 2007, 2011). Especially pointing to the social practices of ‘emergency’ material service delivery: giving people access to food, financial means, masks and hygiene material, ‘papers’ (legal-administrative documents),…

In contrast, the lens we look through is the one of “prefigurative politics” and “mutual aid networks” (Spade, 2020; Izlar, 2019). Yates (2015) states that ‘prefiguration’ may be understood as being based on five processes: experimentation as a community, continual and collective reproduction of the group’s political framework, the creation of group norms and values that draw on the desired future, consolidation of the results of these processes into a cohesive vision, and the dissemination and diffusion of this vision within the wider community (Yates, 2015, also; Yates, 2020).

Although the critique of neo-philanthropy is more than legitimate, it’s based on schemes that are too often based on an anachronistical logica: historical schemes of the past are projected to the future: assuming that the historical transformation from ‘charity to a rights-based approach of structural social work within the boundaries of a welfare-state regime, is now being turned back. As if history always repeats itself twice, “first as a tragedy followed by a farce”? As if relations between government, market and citizens, and social work in ‘the in-between position’, have not been under transformational pressure in a dialectical sense?

In this paper we argue that non-formal and informal social work practices are far more complex than theoretical schemes of social work practices caught between ‘charity versus rights’. Based on participatory research and ‘on the field presence’ between April 2020 up to today, the formation of a network approach between non-formal and informal social work agencies is explored in Ghent. In April 2020, ‘the Ghent Solidarity Fund” was established; a grassroots network of 13 small mostly volunteer-based social organizations. Instead of going through this sanitary crisis alone, this network build strong bridges between non-formal and informal social organizations, surmounting ‘the archipelago-realities’ of social work in the city.

The Ghent Solidarity Fund established new practices, emerging from this network-practice. They were one of the only easily reachable social spaces that remained open, although ‘all had to change in order for things to remain the same’, in contrast to a range of ‘formal services’ and ‘formal service organizations and/ or providers’. Together with thousands of citizens they assembled laptops, took care of hygienic material, distributed shopping coupons and assembled tens of thousands of euros from citizens.

But more than charity or ‘neo-philanthropy’, the Ghent Solidarity Fund was all about politics. In several ways. Not only in the way power was accumulated by working together. But also, in the constant public interventions that ‘redistributed the sensible’, making the social issues at hand visible and hearable (Rancière, 2004). But what is more ‘innovative’ in their interventions, is the engagement with “mutual aid”-networks and practices: citizens helping other ‘citizens’ (or ‘denizens’) at risk: people who have pre-existing health conditions that make them particularly clinically vulnerable, but also includes those who are susceptible to the negative impacts of the pandemic and lockdowns (e.g. those without personal transport, individuals who are unemployed, those with history of social or psychological conditions like addiction or depression) and people with precarious and/or non-existing residency rights. The last group being a range of undocumented people that lost their informal work and thus means of income. As such they established ‘a geography of care’ in the city (Springer, 2020).

In the face of the challenges that the current pandemic and post-crisis struggle pose to societies and the field/discipline of social work itself, the Ghent Solidarity Fund established a practice of “prefigurative politics”, based on mutual aid-principles and autonomous social practices (Firth, 2020; Cham & Bell, 2021). They succeed in establishing a practice that challenges the status quo in times where government social services and other formal service providers were closed or were experienced as ‘unreachable’.

Theater as a means of empowerment


Author: Joop Hoekstra

Theatre as a means of empowerment

By: Joop Hoekstra, senior lecturer at Social Studies, NHLStenden, University of Applied Sciences – Leeuwarden, The Netherlands.

Type of presentation: plenum conference, (interactive) workshop, practical experience.

Theatre-making with target groups of Social Work is a strong tool to empower people. I have gained considerable experience in working with theatre as a means of empowering people. I worked with groups in Serbia, Poland, Russia, Vietnam, Togo, Uganda, and in my homeland, the Netherlands. Themes were (among others): normalizing life after war, homosexuality, living with a disability, healthcare, environmental issues, sexuality, norms and values in life. Based on these experiences the following conclusions can be made.

The theatre approach is very effective because of the work process. Participants share their experiences. They learn that they are not alone struggling with life-questions. They discover that acting on their story is much more effective than just telling the story. Performing in front of an audience, standing up for themselves literally liberates them.
The combination of the group-process and the dramatic expression, gives the participants a total new experience and new insights. It empowers them.

There is no doubt that theatre-making with groups is a great tool for Social Workers. Therefore Social Workers need some specific skills. They must be able to switch easily between different roles: the journalist, the team builder, the drama teacher and the director. They must understand the different steps in the work process, they must be able to get along with group dynamics, and they must have experience whit dramatic art.

The necessary knowledge can be transferred; the skills can be trained.

Prioritizing cases in youth care: A moral and a political challenge


Author: Koen Gevaert, Sabrina Keinemans & Rudi Roose

Social workers often have to negotiate and make decisions concerning resource allocation on a micro-level, in the context of scarce resources. The scarcity creates a need for decision-making on prioritization: who should have priority to whom in receiving care, and why? Many social workers meet this problem every day.
These prioritization decisions, be it in social work or in other domains such as health care, are always accompanied by a lot of doubts and controversy. They are often perceived or labelled as moral dilemmas: situations in which people are enforced to choose between two equally undesirable options. Indeed, prioritization is a morally challenging task, as it urges professionals to actively decide who receives care and who doesn’t and hence, to actively refuse care when it is needed. The fact that one must prioritize actual, real-life cases adds a dilemmatic character: service user A is denied access to social services in order to provide service user B with necessary care, knowing that, in the here and now of everyday practice, there is no option not to decide. Decision-makers are often left with an uncomfortable feeling, sometimes described as the ‘moral residue’ of a dilemma, or as ‘moral distress’.

This moral distress is one of the main focus points of the existing literature on prioritization, next to the question which substantive principles are used to justify a decision, and which procedural principles should be taken into account. This existing literature is mainly situated in health care. From a social work perspective, three interrelated criticisms can be formulated on this existing research. Firstly, we know that professionals in social work inevitably use their discretion in implementing social policy, something that seems quite absent in the health care literature. Secondly, from the perspective of social justice and human rights, the question is not so much what is the ‘right’ decision, but what is a ‘just’ decision, knowing that there is no ‘right’ decision. Thirdly, social work practices are characterized by the relationship between the moral and the political dimensions in decision-making. This shifts the attention from the individual moral dilemma as such, to the question how this moral dilemma relates to the policy framework that regulates the decision-making.

In this presentation, we discuss the findings from several research activities where the following two questions were the central thread : which kind of decision-making practice actually takes place when professionals use their discretion in these prioritization decisions, and how does this practice of prioritization relate to its social policy context?
We analyzed video-recordings of meetings where professionals decide about priority cases, and we collected in-depth interviews with these same professionals, probing at their lived experience with this decision-making process. We confront this empirical material with a thematic analysis of the policy and legislation documents that form the official frame of reference for their decisions.

We will present the findings along three lines: 1/ What should theoretically happen according to the policy and legislation documents?, 2/ What does really happen in practice?, and 3/ How do the professionals themselves look at their own practice?
The policy and legislation documents are based on three normative assumptions: one should decide from an objective position, one should decide by managing scarcity and one should decide by applying pre-defined formal criteria. The actual practice shows us the internal contradictions between these three assumptions. It appears that there is little active deliberation by the team of professionals. But where there is such a deliberation, professionals clearly take a stance by making their own interpretation of the situation on the one hand and of the formal criteria on the other hand. Finally, the video-recordings also show how the professionals bring in other arguments, next to the formal criteria. The decision-making process seems to be all but a neutral activity. This is confirmed by the analysis of the in-depth interviews. The concept of moral distress seems a useful starting point to capture the lived experience of the professionals, but it also has its flaws. In fact, the analysis leads to some critical notes about the conceptualisation of ‘moral distress’ in existing literature.
We end the presentation by raising the question how prioritization could be theorized as a moral-political practice in its own right, in stead of a technical-rational activity, and how such an approach would support professionals in developing a well founded practice.

From a need to demonstrate impact to democratization the policy making process with a community of practice: a process evaluation


Author: Michelle van der Tier & Joost Weling

Social workers in the Netherlands experience a public pressure to demonstrate the societal value their practice. This accountability pressure is mainly coming from the local government. With the Social Support Act, the local government subsidises social work organisations to provide social services. This outsourcing comes along with performance expectancies to align service provision with the policy goals of the government. The funding relation provides the government a powerful mechanism to influence and steer social work practice. Resource-dependency theory (Austin, 2003; Hasenfeld & Garrow, 2012; Feldman et al., 2017; Verschuere & de Corte, 2015) shows that government funding contributes to a relation of dependency between social work and the government, in which the power balance is tilled towards the government.
In this paper, we argue that this relation of dependency has two consequences on social work practice which need to be addressed to fulfil social workers’ professional mandate in taking responsibility for the social dimension of public life (Lorenz, 2005; Van der Tier, Hermans, Potting, forthcomming). The first consequence is that this relation of dependency affects social workers’ autonomy and ability to fulfil their advocacy role (Feldman et al., 2017; Mosley, 2012; Van der Tier, Hermans, & Potting, 2020). The second consequence is that the relation between social work and social policy is constructed based on principle-agent instead of collaborative-stewardship principles (van Slyke, 2007), which makes it harder for social workers to deploy their political role in the policy-making process.
We addressed these two consequences in our Community of Practices (CoP) (Wenger, McDermott, Snyder, 2002) with social workers and policy workers. In these communities’ social workers, researchers, students and policy workers gather and build practice knowledge regarding these issues. In this paper, we aim to evaluate the community building process that took place in these CoP’s and how this contributed to bridging the gap between policy and practice.

The project started in April 2020 as an activity of the Werkplaats Sociaal Domein of the Zuyd University of Applied Sciences. Table 1 shows the participants of the two CoP’s. Since the meetings are online, the participants come from Limburg, but also from other regions in the Netherlands. One of the participants comes from Flanders.

Table 1: participants of the Community of Practices
Stakeholder groups Number of participants
Policy workers of social work organisations 9
Social workers 9
Policy workers of the government 5
Advocacy groups 3
Researchers 16
Social work students 6

We designed the community building process around the five developmental stages of Wenger (Wenger, McDermott, Snyder, 2002). As part of this process, we organised 12 online thematic meetings, which addressed specific interest and challenges articulated by the CoP members. We also have an online platform where the members can post messages, share ideas, and share documents and research.

Results and discussion
Based on our evaluation of this community building process, our preliminary conclusions are that social work organisations struggle to find ways to demonstrate and to prove their societal value to the government. As such, their focus lies mainly on the last phase of the policy-making process: the evaluation of social work practice (Geelhoed, 2002). Because they are hardly involved in the other phases, their street-level knowledge and expertise are hardly embedded in the policy making process, which makes it more difficult to take up on their advocacy role (Van der Tier, Hermans, & Potting, forthcoming). As de Corte and Roose (2018, p.227) argue: “social work should consider the entire policy process as an open-ended and democratic practice in which they might intervene in several ways to realize their social justice mission”. However, we have experienced that social workers can and should not consider this alone. Our two CoP’s revealed that social workers and policy workers of the government hold different perspectives on what is needed, because they are situated in a different context: an administrative and professional context. In order to move forward, we are looking for ways to foster a dialogue where they can express their views, expectancies and struggles, and search for shared language and ways to democratize the policy-making process. In this regard, we found that the concept of Community of Practice of Wenger has been viable to provide a safe environment to share knowledge, experiences, including pitfalls and dilemmas, and to build crossover communities.

When place-based solidarity becomes spaceless: re-inventing the social professions in vulnerable neighborhoods during covid-19


Author: Griet Roets, Mare Knibbe, Sander van Lanen, Evelyne Deceur, Simon Allemeersch, Ceren Sezer, Sara Willems, Klasien Horstman

Introduction: Since the introduction of distancing covid-19 measures in European countries and cities, the efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus and to enable a slow return to a ‘new normal’ have transformed everyday life for a wide diversity of urban citizens across Europe. The pandemic particularly led to an intensification of social inequalities and caused new socio-political frictions, fractions, and conflicts in vulnerable neighborhoods. The measures have also limited the functioning, accessibility and quality of public services, which might be considered essential vehicles for the social professions in their quest for social justice in times of uncertainty, crisis, and struggle (Pentini & Lorenz, 2020). We rely on a theoretical framework that emphasizes the importance of place-based solidarity to explore the vital role of the social professions in vulnerable neighborhoods, who might deal with the political struggles over (the use) of place and space yet can also strengthen and create new forms of local social resilience, social cohesion, and networks of interdependency amongst citizens (Harcourt & Escobar, 2002; Crowe & Foley, 2017). Since the public mandate of social professions is also intrinsically aiming at shaping the relationship between local struggles and systemic resources, we are also interested in their strategies in relation to local governments.
Description of methods: We engage in a comparative, qualitative analysis of social dynamics during the covid-19 pandemic in 4 very diverse neighborhoods (Maastricht, Groningen, Aken, and Ghent), and explore the professional strategies in dealing with challenges and complexities in these neighborhoods from a socio-spatial perspective. A socio-spatial perspective entails that space is both the producer and product of social interactions (Soja, 2003). This entails that space not only refers to a given physical-spatial place where things happen, but also refers to the symbolic meaning of ‘space’ with reference to interrelationships in which material, social and discursive power relations are dynamically interwoven (Spatcheck, 2019). A socio-spatial orientation crucially focuses on the place-based and context-specific ways in which the social professions try to substantially realize the citizenship rights of people living in these neighborhoods (Lister, 2007; Spatcheck, 2019; Warming & Fahnoe, 2019).
Results, discussion and implications: Although the social professions have been vitally affected by the implementation of stringent covid-19 measures, our qualitative study shows how professional social work actors reinvent their public mandate and develop sensitive, creative and innovative initiatives based on existing dynamics and processes of meaning-making of local inhabitants and their vital social networks. Our analysis reveals different aspects of these strategies, such as digitalization, an increased emphasis on boundary spanning in local social policy contexts. In spite of this work to maintain and support neighborhood collectives and solidarity professionals also observed that, with the loss of public neighborhood space their work had become more focused on individual support in crisis situations. While place-based solidarity enabled the kindling of social networks, the character of this solidarity transformed when it became ‘placeless’, digitalized, and scattered.

What we should remember in 'times of crisis' - some remarks from a feminist (social work) perspective


Author: Susanne Maria Maurer

This paper wants ro reflect some of the very diverse experiences within the 'Corona-Situation' - spontaneous acts of solidarity and community organizing, as well as the ongoing, and even sharpening, reproduction of social and gender inequalities. Taking into account the notion of social work as "society's memory of social conflicts" it highlights the importance of social work (and civil) practices that consciously respond to, and even enlarge, emerging creations of socialities in solidarity, especially in 'times of crisis'. Which spaces should and could be created - by, for or together with social work actors -, as to imagine and as to remember what a social sustainable society could be?

Sustainable community work? Pandemic and climate crisis as triggers for rethinking the key values and future direction for community work


Author: Maja Ročak & Chantal van Lieshout

Community workers are faced with new challenges when tackling the extremely complex developments in the society. These developments lead to an intensification of structural issues in society and as such pose disturbance in its equilibrium which has consequences for the practice and future development of sustainable community work. Last year pandemic as well as the climate crisis have challenged community work to respond and to rethink its key values: how to ensure that the social impact as an outcome of these kinds of developments remains in the spotlight? The premise is that the perspective of residents should be put first and that the voices of people who are not seen and heard should count. This raises the questions: What are the (im)possibilities of community work when tackling extremely complex social developments such as a pandemic and climate crisis? How can community work in these circumstances fulfil its three main tasks: protecting & strengthening, stimulating & supporting, connecting & influencing (Bouttelier & Boonstra, 2009) in the best possible way?
We present results from two case studies conducted in Limburg, The Netherlands: (1) Community work in times of COVID-19 (Ročak, van Lieshout, & Keinemans (2020); van Lieshout and Ročak 2021) and (2) Community work and energy transition (Ročak and van Lieshout, 2021). The experiences and practices of community workers were explored through fifteen in depth interviews, discussions with experts and one focus group. Data were analysed by two researchers using traditional content analysis.
Results of Community work in times of COVID-19 study indicate community workers found creative strategies to deal with pandemics and conduct their main tasks. However, operating in the context of pandemics generated some fields of tension: how to stay close to the communities with distancing measures? Moreover, community building itself was at risk due to, among others, decreased motivation for voluntary work, financial pressures on voluntary organizations and limited communication possibilities. Community workers were not only hampered by the general COVID-19 measures but also by the policies of their own organization. Finally, with new tasks at hand, for example enforcement of COVID-19 rules, community workers felt restricted in their professional identity.
Results of the Community work and energy transition study indicate that, despite common requests from policy makers, involvement of community workers in the energy transition is not a given. Community workers are busy dealing with other urgent issues and (investing in) energy transition is not a prominent one in the daily lives of the residents they work with and therefore also not prominent in their work. They struggle with how to deal with this topic: is this a task for community work, and, if so, where does it fit in their professional identity?
Both studies raise questions on the profiling, signaling and politicizing function of community work. Community workers are searching for ways how to position themselves in these new circumstances in a polarized civil society as well as how to realize their signaling and politicizing function in the face of growing social injustice triggered by both developments. When faced with extreme societal challenges community workers see it as their task to protect the interests of residents, support and give them a voice on the basis of the principles of democratic decision-making and social justice. Yet, this comes with challenges for their professional identity. How do they balance the interface between service provision and social action? How do they deal with power and conflict? What role and position do they assume, and how do they ensure that they can fulfil this role without coming into conflict with their own organisation? Pandemic and climate crisis amplify these questions making searching for answers even more urgent.
In summary, on basis of these two case studies we raise questions and discuss implications for the repositioning and sustainable future of community work.

Bouttellier, H. en Boonstra, N. (2009). Van presentie tot correctie: Een nieuw perspectief op samenlevingsopbouw. Utrecht: Verwey Jonkerinstituut.
Ročak, M, van Lieshout, C. & Keinemans, S. (2020). Nieuwe regels, nieuwe mogelijkheden: Opbouwwerk in tijden van COVID-19. Onderzoek naar uitdagingen en nieuwe strategieën voor het opbouwwerk in tijden van COVID-19 en 1,5 meter samenleving. Sittard: Lectoraat Sociale Integratie.
Ročak, M., van Lieshout, C. (2021). Geen aanjagers, maar bruggenbouwers. Vakblad Sociaal Werk 22, 22–25.
Van Lieshout, C. & Ročak, M. (2021). Waardering voor opbouwwerk tijdens corona alleen is niet genoeg. Sociaale Vraagstukken. Accessed on 7 june 2021, from https://www.socialevraagstukken.nl/waardering-voor-opbouwwerk-tijdens-corona-alleen-is-niet-genoeg/

Reforming social work in Albania: Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic


Author: Eliona Kulluri, Marsela Dauti, Erika Bejko

One of the lessons that we have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is that social workers should have a stronger influence on political decision-making – push for policy changes that address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals, families, and communities. But do social work programs equip students with knowledge and skills on how to push for policy changes that address the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and more generally crises? We address this question in the context of Albania where the profession of social work is relatively new and – within its short history – little emphasis has been placed on pandemics and more generally crises. We bring together two types of data: first, how social service providers and users have coped with the COVID-19 pandemic and their policy priorities and, second, the extent that social work education equips students with knowledge and skills to engage in policy change processes and address the priorities of service providers and users. The first type of data is based on a study conducted with social service providers and users in 18 municipalities during September – October 2020, and the second type of data on our examination of the curricula taught in the Advanced Social Work program – a two-year Master’s program taught in the Department of Social Work and Social Policy at the University of Tirana – the largest public university in the country. In bringing the two types of data together, our goal is to provide suggestions on how to strengthen social work in Albania and prepare social work students for greater policy influence during crises. The case study of Albania will advance our understanding of how the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic can help us reform social work and advance the social justice agenda on a global scale.

Acting methodically: the bicycle of social work


Author: Judith Metz

Social workers, like many volunteers, are committed to promoting social justice, human dignity and freedom (International Federation of Social Workers, 2014). One of the core aspects of their profession is that social workers have learned to approach this methodically, as a means of ensuring the quality and effectiveness of their interventions. In thinking about the professionalism of social work, attention to methodical acting should not be missing (Metz, 2017; 2020). The current times of crisis (Covid-19, climate, growing inequalities) demand a common ground within the different variants and traditions of methodical acting as the core of the own professionalism of social work. The central question in this paper is what is characteristic of methodical acting in social work, compared to, for example, in health care, education or technology?

The provisional conclusion is that despite the many variants and traditions, methodical acting in social work has a common ground. Characteristic of the methodical acting of social workers is that it is goal-oriented, systematic, situational, relational, reinforcing, moral and groping [feel one’s way]. Based on these characteristics, methodical actions takes shape in interaction with various grabbing points, ambitions, manifestations [appearances] and contexts.

In my presentation, I will elaborate on how I arrived at this preliminary conclusion. I start with the importance of methodical working for Sustainable social work in times of crises, after which I focus on the value of methodical action for social work profession and people, communities and societies. Working methodically ensures that social workers can come to an appropriate approach which fits with goals, wishes and needs in micro, meso and macro level. My contribution is based on an ungoing study of a broad variety of descriptions, articles, handbooks, theoretical reflections of social work interventions, methods and methodologies.

"Competency deficit in social workers and management in the era of COVID-19 pandemic and postpandemic."


Author: Marek Kawa, Mirosław Grewiński

The article will present the results of the report of the Polish Sectoral Council for Competences in Healthcare and Social Welfare, which identified competency deficits among social welfare staff in 24-hour care facilities and nursing homes, taking into account new tasks related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other things, the conducted analyzes show that the largest competency deficits among social assistance staff before and during a pandemic occur in the field of psychology and coping with stress, in the field of crisis management. There were also insufficient digital competences in the field of available digital-tools and their operation, poor system and legal knowledge in social assistance and in terms of better cooperation and coordination of activities. The new pandemic reality surprised everyone, and naturally also created new competency needs, especially in the areas of social care and its services.

Empirical approaches to social pedagogical relationships: the question of coherence and subjection in socio-educational contexts


Author: Sarah Henn and Fabian Kessl, Mountain University of Wuppertal, Germany

The mediation between the individual and society is concretised in youth welfare as a mediation between the specificity of the "individual case" (Braun et al. 2011, p. 22) and the "generality of the reference norm" (Olk 1994, p. 15). In the welfare state context, the socio-educational organisations and the professionals working there have the function and task of both - being dedicated to the everyday lives of their users/addressees, i.e. enabling them to cope with everyday life in a self-determined way, as well as ensuring the normalisation of their behaviour.
In view of the "basic contradiction" of professional action (Urban 2004, p. 61), socio-educational actors are confronted with this necessary mediation as a requirement to establish a relationship of coherence between two very different positions: the position of individual users/addressees and diverse societal ideas of norms, represented by certain institutionalised organisations.
The responsibility of mediating these positions lays with the professional organisations and their experts. However, this process must be shaped and moulded by all those involved in the concrete social-pedagogical situation and constellation.
On the one hand, this has already been explained in detail in terms of professional theory. On the other hand, empirically, the process of gaining coherence in pedagogical relationships has only rarely been considered (i.e. see Graßhoff 2012, Karl 2015, Walter and Stauber 2017). This is where our research project comes in. Our empirical study of “fitting”-relationships puts the focus on the connection between provision and take-up, which means that the everyday process of creating coherence will constitute the centre of attention but will be framed and contextualised by interviews regarding the different perspectives on the case-history. The research question is 'In what way do the actors involved in the concrete social pedagogical situation and from their position as users/addressees and as social pedagogical professionals, succeed in mediating individual needs and social normative expectations with each other?’
This question will be investigated in the research project by means of a multisite ethnographic design (Marcus 2010), where pairs of researchers will observe the same situation but each focussing on one participant. In addition, interviews with both positions about the case history will give deeper insight into the specific perception of the ongoing relation. Our methodological approach for reconstructing the establishment of relations, as coherent, crisis, nonfit or subjection will be guided by the ethnographical openness for different analytical tools and concepts. So, we will use categorizations-tools from the GT-inspired situationanalysis by Clarke (2012) and refer to a social theoretical background of the mediation of subjective and objective approaches, as the documentary method (Bohnsack 2017) suggests.
Starting from the thesis that “non-fit” is the normal state and the production of coherence is something exceptional, the systematic observation of the production of coherence will shed light on the interplay of pedagogical professionalism, the organization-culture and the societal context as the conditions of successful pedagogical relationships, since the basic problem of social pedagogical facilities consists of institutionalized interventions in subjective everyday coping of people.
In our presentation at the conference we will reflect on the methodological design on the basis of first findings from a (students)pre-study.

It's lonely at the top - Leadership in times of COVID-19


Author: Catharina Nickel

COVID-19 has a profound impact on the lives of people around the globe. It is a disease that puts the wellbeing and lives of many people at considerable risk and destabilizes communities. The necessary restrictions, such as physical distancing policies with their widespread effects on almost all aspects of daily life, have forced people worldwide to adopt new ways of learning, working, and socializing. Increasingly, scientific research addresses the impacts of the pandemic on various aspects of people's lives. While many long-term effects remain to be seen, evidence shows already that the pandemic resulted in mental health impacts triggered by social isolation and loneliness, such as increased anxiety (cf. Smith and Lim 2020) .

It’s lonely at the top

This presentation aims to discuss the conceptualization of loneliness and its often-used framing as a possibly unpleasant yet unavoidable necessity for the role of senior leaders. Building upon observations and lessons learned of the COVID-19 pandemic, the presentation argues that it is time to overthink the concept of leadership and its connection to loneliness. It does not aim to tab into the discourse of proximity and distance in professional social work, which is a research topic in itself. Instead, it focuses on the conceptualization of leadership and its theoretical underpinnings. It draws from anecdotal evidence gained from senior leaders in humanitarian and peace operations worldwide - a field of work often characterized by harsh living conditions and loneliness even in the absence of a pandemic - and is inspired by concepts of feminist leadership as Bela Kapur and Srilatha Batliwala present them. Furthermore, it considers Hofstede's conceptualizations of the distance to power, long-term orientation, and indulgence .

Leadership is a concept with different connotations in many parts of the world. Images of the "inner circle" around a leadership figure and the characterization of leadership positions that are lonely per se circulate in different forms in all parts of the world. In a situation like the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, this loneliness is reinforced by restrictions, such as physical and social distancing rules. Some influential people do not recognize these rules as valid and break them. But for the majority, a situation like this bears the risk of psychological stress. It raises the larger question of to what extent this additional form of loneliness is bearable for an individual and can be justifiably demanded. In addition, it appears questionable to what extent the "loneliness of the powerful" has ever been beneficial, either for the human wellbeing of those affected or for the effectiveness of the work, especially if the work is ultimately intended to drive social transformation processes.

Leadership as an end in itself?

Despite the tremendously adverse effects of COVID-19, this pandemic could invigorate a renewed call for social work research to gain a deeper analytical understanding of leadership and argue that it is supposed to bundle capacities to achieve change, work towards something bigger, or help solve a problem and that it does not exist as a means in itself, potentially painful and isolated.

Ultimately, this presentation would like to contribute to a discussion around the various forms of leadership, their actual purpose, and their ideological foundation. It aims to contribute to already existing debates in social work research around leadership and wishes to consider new insights gained during the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting this debate at an early point might eventually help social work research to draw a clearer picture of the foundations of leadership and its practical implications for social work practitioners and those who offer leadership support - be it at the local kindergarten or to the senior leaders of an international humanitarian operation, to achieve social transformation subsequently.

Reforming social work in Albania: Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic


Author: Eliona Kulluri Bimbashi, Marsela Dauti, Erika Bejko

One of the lessons that we have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is that social workers should have a stronger influence on political decision-making – push for policy changes that address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals, families, and communities. But do social work programs equip students with knowledge and skills on how to push for policy changes that address the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and more generally crises? We address this question in the context of Albania where the profession of social work is relatively new and – within its short history – little emphasis has been placed on pandemics and more generally crises. We bring together two types of data: first, how social service providers and users have coped with the COVID-19 pandemic and their policy priorities and, second, the extent that social work education equips students with knowledge and skills to engage in policy change processes and address the priorities of service providers and users. The first type of data is based on a study conducted with social service providers and users in 18 municipalities during September – October 2020, and the second type of data on our examination of the curricula taught in the Advanced Social Work program – a two-year Master’s program taught in the Department of Social Work and Social Policy at the University of Tirana – the largest public university in the country. In bringing the two types of data together, our goal is to provide suggestions on how to strengthen social work in Albania and prepare social work students for greater policy influence during crises. The case study of Albania will advance our understanding of how the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic can help us reform social work and advance the social justice agenda on a global scale.

Researching vulnerable adolescents perspective on working life by using photo-based narrative futuring


Author: Maritza Gerritsen

The Netherlands, amongst other countries, is known as a society in which people’s position is determined by individual merit. Examples of individual merit are educational achievements and efforts someone makes to achieve a higher position on the societal ladder (Beer & van Pinxteren, 2016). This societal model is called a meritocracy. The level of education plays a key role in this concept of meritocracy, whereas social background or gender, for instance, is less a factor of importance. This, basically appreciative, idea should give citizens an equal chance to be successful. On the other hand, a meritocracy is a burden for those who are not capable of grabbing their chances in education and on the job market. People who cannot climb the societal ladder, cannot count on much solidarity with their situation. Success is seen as something that can be reached by doing your best. Not having enough merit to be granted status in society is seen as their own fault (Swierstra & Tonkens, 2008). Previous research shows that people that live on the low rank of the societal ladder experience less self-respect and acknowledgement. In this research we study the expectations on future work and independency of youth that are supposedly the next generation on the lowest ranks of the societal ladder. We know that in the Netherlands this group of citizens experiences trouble finding work, keeping their job and develop needed employee resilience. The problem of this group of adolescents is not only apperent in the Netherlands. European research revealed that in most countries that are part of the European Union, the percentage of people with a need for support that are involved in the competitive workforce is less than their independent counterparts. Percentage differ from two percent in Luxembourg until as much as 39 percent less participation on the job market in the Netherlands and Hungary (Büscher-touwen, Groot, & Hal, 2018). More specific for adolescents, percentages of ten to fifty percent job participation is mentioned, in regard to an average of 72 percent of adolescents without a need for professional support (Oldenhuis, Holwerda, Polstra, & Brouwer, 2016). Thereby, adolescents with a need for professional support are mostly the ‘last to be hired and first to be fired’ (Engelbrecht, Shaw, & Van Niekerk, 2017) and do have a bigger chance on pervasive poverty and depths as their independent counterparts (Engelbrecht et al., 2017; Lindstrom, Hirano, Mccarthy, & Alverson, 2014; Magill-Evans, Galambos, Darrah, & Nickerson, 2008). But do these adolescents themselves know how difficult it can be to find work and independency at the time they start their school-to-work transitions? And what do they believe they can achieve in life?

We chose to interview 18 adolescents at a secondary school for special needs. They are enrolled in two classes where theyare prepared for transitioning into work, in stead of moving towards vocational education. This group of adolescents will not reach a formal starting qualification, which is seen as neccesary in the Netherlands to provide a healthy chance on finding a sustainable work environment. By interviewing them we gained information on what their future goals are and what they think is needed to find and keep work. On the other hand, the limited verbal competence of this group made it hard to get in-depth information. That is why we chose to adjust our strategy and developed a photo-based variant on the method of narrative futuring. In this method, normally the respondent is writing a letter to themselves out of the future. With this adolescents, writing a letter wasn't a suitable way, so we shaped a model that withholds the main subjects of independent life, e.g. work, financial situation, housing, leisure, family. By giving them a variety of photo's and asking which foto's fit in their 'picture of their future', their stories became more detailed, multi-layered and more personal.
One of the main results of this study was that this group of adolescents are likely to present themselves with more opportunities than can be expected based on their level of education. They know they are not finishing school with a diploma, but still expect to reach high goals in about five to ten years such as being owner of a gym of teacher in primary school. We suspect these adolescents are setting this goals as a way of coping with the high expectations of nowadays society and that the way they feel about their future is recognizable as cruel optimism. Cruel optimism means their desires will always be out of reach and therefore they will not flourish. This means a different approach of their situation might be needed but also a critical reflection on meritocratic values that implicitely and/or explicity pull weight on adolescents that are not able to strive for the best and the highest positions in society.

The comeback of food support as an anti-poverty strategy


Author: Caroline Vandekinderen, Annick Verstraete, Ann Brabandt, Geertrui Van Vlem, Didier Reynaert

COVID-19 is hitting hard and despite the rapid response of the Belgian and Flemish government, the developed policies follow and confirm patterns of existing inequalities. As such, people in the most vulnerable situations are hit the most. The corona crisis has led to an excessive increase of people relying on food support. Every year records are broken in terms of visitor numbers to organizations offering food support, but the crisis has led to 15 to 20 percent more demand for free food. This need was captured by numerous volunteer organizations and citizens who took action to prepare and distribute meals to citizens in vulnerable situations. Situations of emergency require exceptional interventions and this “warm solidarity” could apparently be mobilized more flexible and efficient than the inert public apparatus.

However, it seems that the corona crisis is strengthening a tendency that is going on for some time now. We already noticed a shift from food support as a dusty phenomenon operating in the margins to an institutionalization of the charity economy as a poverty reduction strategy in pre-corona times. The slogan “emergency aid under protest” is never far away, although the echo seems to reverberate more softly. Moreover, the trend of food support is further driven by ecological and health logics presented as innovative.

In our presentation we will argue that it is a complex issue in which charity and rights-oriented approaches interact and unfold in sometimes surprising ways within social work practices and welfare arrangements. We collected a rich empirical basis in everyday charity economy and social work practices in Ghent – a city in the Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. We conducted semi-structured interviews with diverse policy makers (n=6), explored 25 food initiatives through visits and semi-structured interviews with volunteers (n=25) and set up ethnographic research and semi-structured interviews in one specific organization working with homeless people (n=15).

We discovered that food support is a question with many angels. First, it touches on the historically complex interplay between government, civil society and the market and the current concern about the erosion of the active role of the welfare state as a provider or at least guarantor of well-being. Secondly, it concerns the relationship between the sustainable anchoring of social justice on the basis of structural measures on the one hand and the much-needed remedial interventions to mitigate the effects of poverty on the other hand. Third, it concerns a balancing act between instrumental/conditional logics and democratic logics in social work practices.

Reflection and self-reflection among social workers and nurses


Author: Michal Ruzicka

Reflection and related notions such as reflexivity, self-reflection and reflective practice have often been considered as cornerstones in many professions and their ethical practice. Being able to critically reflect upon one´s own professional experience and practice has been regarded as crucially important especially in helping professions such as social work and nursing where reflective notions are part of their educational training. Competency for reflective practice is not a direct result of educational training, but it also mirrors one´s own professional trajectory and one´s own work experience. This paper reports on the results of a qualitative study of the processes of reflection and self-reflection among social workers and nurses. The objectives of this research project was (1) to explore the facets and dimensions of self-reflection and reflection that social workers and nurses employ while working, and (2) to understand how social workers and nurses perceive the impact of their respective educational and professional environments´ on their practice of reflection and self-reflection. The data were collected by means of conducting in-depth interviews with experienced social workers and nurses working in various working conditions (long-term residential social service or nursing care, outpatient services, homecare, and emergency/crisis care). Reflection and self-reflection were found not to be a direct result of profession-specific educational training, but rather a universal competency modified / molded by particular organizational cultures and organizational hierarchies within which the professionals have been gathering and embodying their experiences and competencies.
At the local level, findings of this research will be used for designing educational and organizational strategies to help helping professionals make a better use of their capabilities for reflective practice. At the global scale, current state of political culture and public opinion is being influenced by anti-democratic and nonliberal currents and tendencies. We believe that these processes can be disrupted not only by directed educational practice, but also by facilitating and boosting of critical tools of the human mind where reflection and self-reflection play a critical role.