In this workshop, we will discuss the methodological challenges in engaging young people in research and development of social work practice. Focus will be on how different project designs create different spaces and possibilities for dialogue and collaborative knowledge production - and on discussions of how the knowledge produced can contribute in the development of social work practice. We take two research projects as our point of departure, one from Denmark and one from Norway. In the Danish study, young people in contact with different social services (for young people experiencing self harm, suicide attempts, drug abuse, and sexual abuse) are involved in a research project – the aim of which is to bring users’ perspectives on their meetings with the Danish welfare system and its professionals into the further development of services. Participants have been involved in life history interviews, in commenting the analyses and interpretations, and in communicating the knowledge produced in the research project. In the Norwegian study, young people who live in foster care or in institutional care are co-researchers. The aim of this study is to explore the young people’s everyday life, with focus on how they experience the care giving from the Child welfare services. The co-researchers were involved in monthly group discussions, from the early phases of the project, trough data collection, interviews, analysis and writing a publication (book). In two presentations (of approximately 20 minutes each), we discuss the certain definitions and enactments of participation and co-research which each project holds – and the ways the young participants influence research questions, data production and analysis, and publication of the results. This point to a discussion across the two projects of how these studies and research processes can inform each other, and how this kind of knowledge (productions) can contribute in the development of social work practice across different national contexts. We would like workshop participants to actively discuss central questions – like for instance: What particular potentials or problems does this kind of knowledge hold when it comes to developing social work practice? What kind of power relations and ethical/methodological dilemmas characterize this kind of knowledge production? What is needed to successfully establish collaborative relations between researchers, service users and social work practitioners? We suggest facilitating an exercise (of about 30-35 minutes) where central questions are written on cards. Each workshop participant draws a card, finds a conversation partner in the room and asks the question on the card. They have a discussion and then the partner asks the question on his/her card. After discussion of the second question, the partners switch cards and find new conversation partners, and repeat the exercise. The purpose of the exercise is to let participants reflect and relate these questions to their own context and practice. We conclude the workshop with a (15-20 minutes) sharing of important insights and new questions put forward in the exercise.
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2nd European Conference For Social Work Research, 2012