Title PowerUs - Service Users in Social Work Education
Project Number 2011-1-SE1-LEO05-08400
Project Type Transfer of Innovation
The main goal of PowerUs is to develop and improve methods and opportunities for service user involvement in Social Work education in Sweden, Norway and the UK. We also want to make contact with good practices in other European countries.
By building national support structures and networks we hope to overcome some of the difficulties we´ve had to find sustainable ways to finance and mainstream service user involvement in education, research and practice development of social work, focusing on:
•The British experience of requirements.
•The Scandinavian experiences of integrated courses
•How to deal with the devaluation of experiential knowledge.
•Mobilizing service users into the academic world.
We have a comparative approach as we develop new knowledge between countries, service users and academics in partnership. The result of the workgroups will be presented in conferences and in written material.
There has been a growing understanding about the problem of social exclusion in many European countries and new methods of inclusion are being sought. Social Work has not always responded to this need, neither in education nor in practice.
In the UK - service users and their organizations have become systematically involved in social work by involvement in its professional education and training. Service users have seen this as a crucial way of improving the appropriateness of professional practice. This has culminated with requirements in English social work for user involvement in all aspects and all stages of professional qualifying and post-qualifying social work. Groups that had previously often been hidden, have gained a greater presence in societies. Their viewpoints have begun to permeate the mainstream, just as they have made major steps along the long road to inclusion and equal rights.
In Scandinavia this development has recently begun. In Sweden an innovative course integrating service user students with social work students has been the inspiration to a national network of schools of social work – BRUS. In Lillehammer, Norway teachers have developed a similar course and have tried different ways to empower service users within education and research. However, these methods are not as common or regulated in Scandinavia as in the UK, and therefore, they face more resistance within the university system.
The main goal of this project is to develop and improve possibilities for service user involvement in Sweden and in Norway. By building national support structures and networks we hope to overcome some of the difficulties we´ve had to find sustainable ways to finance and mainstream service user involvement in the education of social work.
The consortium consists of service user organizations and university teachers that are leading the development of service user involvement in social work education in Norway, Sweden and in the UK. The partnership that received the name PowerUs has increased the knowledge about these innovative methods nationally and internationally. During the two years the project has been running gapmending courses has been held in many new places in new European countries. The participants have been strengthening the support structures around these initiatives as the network has been growing stronger.
In Norway we have initiated a national network of universities that collaborates with service user organizations. A similar network already exists in Sweden. In Sweden we have set up a supportive network of municipalities and other stakeholders to participate and to support the gapmending courses at the Swedish universities.
Description During the project time we have held four effective workshops - two in London, and one in Lillehammer and one in Lund, where we have cooperated in developing the project presentation and joint products. In Lillehammer a Norwegian network was created and does now have a national coordinator. The project has been very successful in dissemination, and focused especially on the world conference of social workers in Stockholm in June, where we were represented with 20 persons from all partners. We had many presentations and made contact with interested colleagues from all over the world. The PowerUs network were also represented at the European conference in Istanbul 2013, and were well exposed and seen by many. After the Istanbul conference we have had contact with many teachers from other countries in Europe who are trying to set up a gapmending practice. The term gapmending was developed within the partnership and is a word for a practice that mends the gap between service users and social workers. One way of doing this is to have courses where social work students and service user students learn togehter. We have received a lot of requests after the conferences by people who wants to be connected to the network. We have developed a facebook-group and a home page (www.poerus.info) . Every country has two web masters for the page. During 2013 we have developed an international charter of principels, and we have developed a report that reflects the situation for social workers and service users in four different European countries. This will be a tool for future contacts, as we hope the PowerUs network will live on and develop further. A brochure about the gapmending pedagogy have been developed in Swedish and has been translated into English. The Leonardo project ended in Oktober 2013, but the network has plenty of activities planned during 2014. We will have joint action in the 9th annual social Work Action Network Conference in Durham in April 2014, and will launch our charter of principles there.PowerUs are qey note speakers on this conference, as well as in a conference on Empowerment methods in Zurich April 9. PowerUs also plans joint action in the world conference in Melbourne in July 2015. Three new countries has joined the PowerUs network after the project time: Denmark, Germany and Japan. So the network has expanded from the initial participants from Sweden, Norway and Germany. Please read the two publications that has been made during the project time about gapmending methods, and about PowerUs.
material for open learning
We have developed
A homepage (www.powerus.info)
A facebookgroup (Powerus)
Flyers about Powerus
A 16-page broshure about the gapmending pedagogy (Swedish and English version)
A 36-page publication about Social work practice in four countries and about service user involvement and PowerUs.
A rollup about the powerus network
A rollup about the gapmending pedagogy
A network logotype saying "mend the gap"
T-shirts with the logotype for conference
Postcards with the PowerUs charter of principles