Participation and institutional Change: within the field of social work with 'at risk youth

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Almost 15-17 % of the young population in is Denmark considered ‘at risk youth’. This number has remained constant throughout the last 20 years, and the consequences are that a large group of young people live lives disconnected from the realm of society. Furthermore, they will lack educational training, lack of labor market training and lack of more societal and social training when entering the adult world (SFI 2010/2014). In addition, an increased risk of becoming criminal or part of crime related problems are at hand. The Danish government, municipalities and a large number of civic organization is trying out different approaches and efforts due to the problem. Several researchers and research institutions and practitioners and their institutions has worked both with examining the efforts and their outcome and has been part of trying out different new (or known) approaches to the problem. From this, there is an extensive knowledge to be drawn. For one thing, the knowledge about involving the young people as a tool that creates results (Bladt 2013, Arnstein 1969), another thing the interdisciplinary, inter-professional and inter-sectorial cooperation as a form of collaboration that also increase the rate of success of the effort at hand (Edwards 2011). However there is not much research on how the structural, level has assimilated these different types of participation and collaboration as anything but yet another technique or mean embedded in a neoliberal effort to align the young people into a normalization strategy. The ladder being queried by both professionals, researchers and organizations as a sustainable strategy for work within the social sector (Arnkiel, Warreng, Nielsen, Schmidt and Sommer 2012). Is normalization or alignment the answer to these young people’s problems and problematic lives? Is creating subcultures? Or is the answer to create arenas in which the young people, themselves can experiment with how to reconnect with society? and in this is there a demand for change of society? In this abstract, we will present a project connected to the field of ‘at risk youth’. The project is preoccupied with participation and sustainability on different levels. Firstly, the project will create knowledge on how to generate participatory processes for ‘at risk youth’. Secondly, the project will create knowledge on how professionals can work with participatory processes and thirdly the project will work on how to incorporate this participatory work forms into a structural level. In the project, there is a specific concept of participation at stake, which we call ‘Upturned participation’ (Nielsen and Nielsen 1997, see methodology). Upturned participation is a specific concept, which we strive to bring into a structural framing of the institutions general work and efforts with at risk youth. We are taking into account, that research shows that participation has become an inherent part of the global political rhetoric, and participative methods has become part of a huge industry within the management sector and consultancy work. This development has in some ways disconnected participation from the democratic agenda, which was an important part of both the Salamanca statement and the Convention on the Wrights of Persons with Dissablities (2006/2010). Putting forward the concept of upturned participation, is a way to connect once again to the notion of democracy and bringing it once again into welfare state strategy and the efforts connected to this? Method Action research is the core method and philosophy of science in the project (Brydon Miller 2003, Park et al 1993, Elliot 1995, Horton and Freire 1991, Marshall 2001, Nielsen and Svensson 2006, reason and Bradbury 2001, Toulmin and Gustavson 1996). This means that change, participation and democracy is key dimensions of the research done in the project. In our specific project the notion of participation, obtain a specific role as we engage in critical utopian action research (Husted and Tofteng 2006, Bladt 2013, Nielsen and Nielsen 2007). Here, participatory processes is not just something that the participants, the ‘at risk youth’, is invited into. Her, the participatory processes is ‘upturned’, meaning that it is the ‘at risk youth’ who is at the center of the initiatives or experiments at stake. In the project the professionals (i.a. Teachers and pedagogues) invites young people into the project and within this frame they are invited to create experiments based on their own hopes and dreams for the future. Thus an important aspect of this research is professionals engage experiments together with young people and thereby they get new insights about what is a good life for these young people. But hopefully the professionals also gets new insight about their professions and the institutions that they working in. Taking the young people’s hopes and dreams in consideration questions like: are the institutions then meaningful institutions for young people at risk? Should we start to change the institutions instead of always trying to change the young people? Will arise. The project forms in close collaboration with partners in the municipality of Copenhagen, a social partnership connected to a housing association and the university college of Copenhagen. Approximately 60 professionals (pedagogues, social workers and others) is part of the project. They will participate in the project in to groups. The activities consists of nine joint workshops spread equally over a period of 1 ½ year (and then repeated for the next group). The participant will divide into smaller groups and in these groups; they will work autonomous in the period between the joint workshops. In these periods between a representative from the research group will supervise them. The purpose is for the minor groups to work with a group of at risk youth trying out the upturned participation model. The themes of the groups will be created by the young people alone or in joint ventures with the professionals. Expected Outcomes Denmark has been a welfare system since aproxx 1933, based on the Scandinavian model, with free educational sector, health sector, childcare, kindergartens etc. Also compulsory education. Professionals working in formal welfare institutions primarily conduct the social work with ‘at-risk’ youth and in general (and very little in the private sector). There is seven different administrations in the municipality of Copenhagen. This is creating a lot of bureaucracy for the professionals working in the different areas of the welfare sectors and it creates a lot of confusion for the young people at hand (and every one else). From the project, we expect to create knowledge on how participatory processes, in which ‘at risk youth’ will find it fulfilling and relevant to be part of, can be conducted within the frame of an institutional system. Concurrently our expected outcomes on this topic will most likely lead to conclusions that will challenge the system of the welfare state and the bureaucratic ways in this exact system. Hence our findings will also provide us with knowledge on what types of potentials and barriers our partners experience when working with ‘at risk youth’ in upturned participatory processes. Hopefully, this will also create knowledge on how to renew welfare institutional work to be fit to comply with the new ideas at hand. References Arnkiel et al (2012): daginstitutionen til hverdag – den upåagtede faglighed, frydenlund Arnstein, Sherry R. (1969): "A Ladder of Citizen Participation," JAIP, Vol. 35, No. 4, July 1969, pp. 216-224. Bladt, M. (2013): De unges stemme – udsyn fra en anden virkelighed. Ph.D. afhandling. ENSPAC. Roskilde Universitet Brydon-Miller et al (2003): Why actions research? Action research, vol 1(1), p9-28, Sage Publications Committee of the Wright of persons with disabilities, 2006, UN Elliott, J. (1995). Action research for educational change. Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press. Horton, Myles & P. Freire (1991): We make the road by walking. Conversations on education and social change: Temple University Marshall, J. (2001). Self-reflective inquiry practices. In P. Reason & H. Bradbury (Eds.),Handbook of action research (pp. 433–439). London: SAGE. Nielsen, Kurt Aagaard Nielsen and Birger Steen Nielsen (2007). Demokrati og naturbeskyttelse – dannelse af borgerfællesskaber gennem social læring – med Møn som eksempel, Frydenlund Svensson, L., & Aagard Nielsen, K. (2006). A framework for the book. In K. Aagaard Nielsen & L. Svensson (Eds.), Action research and interactive research (pp. 13–45). Maastricht: Shaker Publishing. Park, P., M. Brydon-Miller, B. Hall & T. Jackson (Eds.) (1993), Voices of change: Participatory research in the United States and Canada. Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey. Reason, P., & Bradbury, H. (eds.) (2001): Handbook of action research. London: SAGE. SFI 2010/12014: The Salamanca Statement and framework for action – on special needs educaton, 1994 Toulmin, Stephen and Bjørn Gustavsen(ed.) (1996). Beyond Theory. London. John benjamins publishing. Tofteng, D & Husted, M (2007): Respekt og realiteter. Ph.D. afhandling. ENSPAC. Roskilde Universitet Author Information Ditte Tofteng (presenting) University college capital, denmark Research and development Copenhagen N Mette Bladt (presenting) UCC Research and development Copenhagen Lisbeth Madsen Professionshøjskolen UCC FoU Frederiksberg C
Publikationsdato23 aug. 2017
StatusUdgivet - 23 aug. 2017
BegivenhedECER 2017: Reforming Education and the Imperative of Constant Change: Ambivalent roles of policy and educational research - København, Danmark
Varighed: 22 aug. 201725 aug. 2017


KonferenceECER 2017


  • socialforskning