Social Work as a Space for Dialogue, Cooperation and Diversity

One of the important features of The international Social Work and Society Academy is its combination of the Pre Conference for PhD students and the Plenum conference for all participants, including researchers, policy makers and practitioners. As always, this year’s conference kicked off with the Pre Conference on Friday August 25th. We had the honour to host the conference in the wonderful University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Poland where prof. dr. Ewa Kantowicz was chair of the local organisation committee. Together with her team, she welcomed all Pre Conference participants on Friday morning, explaining the aim of the conference, its central theme and the aim of the Pre Conference.


After this introduction, Juri Killian from Germany kicked of the opening session. During the Pre Conference, presentation from over more than 12 different countries were held. These presentations varied in topics, including appealing themes such as migrants and refugees, social work arts, elderly social work, evidence based research and many more. In the following days, lively discussions were held about the content of the presentation, the methodological framework that was used and the result of the findings that were presented for social work research and social work practice. Of course, along the way, opportunities were created to network and to engage in international collaboration and exchange in order to create new and sustainable work relationships that can lead to further collaboration on the personal as well as the institutional level.


On Sunday, August 27th, all participants were invited to the welcome reception that was held at the renovated Old Boiler Room of the University of Warmia and Mazury. This was an excellent opportunity for all participants to meet the participants of the Plenum Conference and to exchange their experiences as well as to meet some of the researchers they cite in their research. The Plenum Conference itself started on Monday, August 28th with an introductory speech of prof. dr. Rudi Roose, who is the Chair of TiSSA, followed by prof. dr. Ewa Kantowicz, Chair of the Local Organising Committee, prof. dr. Ryszard Gorecki, Rector of the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn and prof. dr. Slawomir Przybylinski, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. The opening of the TiSSA 2017 Plenum Conference ended with the performance of the Kortowo Folk Team.


Afterwards, the first plenum session was held with presentation from Raf Debaene about politics in social work, followed by Anna Meeuwisse and Roberto Scaramuzzino about civil society elites and Florian Eber with a presentation about social pedagogy. This combination of empirical research and conceptual thinking was found interesting and appealing by many of the participants, who came from around the world to join this years’ conference. In the afternoon, the first parallel sessions were held, covering a broad variety of themes such as relational social work, social work research, knowledge creation and action research. In a fourth session, colleagues from the Belgian Artevelde University College held a symposium about the inescapability of the deradicalisation pitfalls in policy and practice. The first day of the conference ended with four more parallel sessions in the afternoon, again covering a broad variety of themes such as decision making, child welfare and protection, child rearing practices, professional social work, gender themes and social health.


The second day of the Plenum Conference is National Day. This implies that mostly participants of the host country will present their research or conceptual ideas. This year, Ewa Kantowicz, Mariusz Granosik and Jerzy Krzyszkowski presented, complemented by the presentation of Mel Gray from Australia about social work and just action. As the tradition describes, all participants were invited to the field visits in the afternoon. This year, the host managed to select a variety of field visits, including a visit to the European Association of Education and Progress, a Community self-help house, a social cooperation initiative and a residential house for the elderly. Afterwards, we created free time so participants had the opportunity to visit the Olsztyn Old Town and a Touristic Tour around the Old City with a guide was provided for those who were interested.


On the third and final day of the Plenum Conference, Hans-Uwe Otto, founding father of The international Social Work & Society Academy, opened with an presentation with the quest for new foundations for a flourishing human life in Europe, followed by Jochen Devlieghere with a presentation about accountability and the use of discretion from a managers’ perspective in relation to accountability.  After this opening session, a new wave of parallel sessions was organised, covering themes such as poverty, education, psycho-social work and conceptual social work discussion. The last day of the Plenum Conference ended with a plenum presentation from Martina Richter about parenthood. In the evening, all participants were invited at the Lake restaurant for a pleasant farewell diner and a closing party where all participants were once more able to network, exchange experiences and agreements on meeting each other again next year in Ljubljana for the TiSSA 2018 Conference.