The transforming methods of collaboration and social work practice research
MIRJA SATKA, LAURA YLIRUKA,
HEIDI MUURINEN, KATI PALSANEN,
UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI & HEIKKI
WARIS INSTITUTE AT SOCCA, HUS
NEW YORK JUNE 11TH, 2014
The transforming methods of collaboration
and social work practice research
M I R J A S A T K A
The transforming methods of
collaboration and social work
Background for the birth of the Finnish model
of Social Work Practice Research
The need for clinical (practical) training as an
element in social work MA education was widely
discussed since 1972.
1986-86 City and University of Helsinki had a joint
research program ’Social worker as knowledge
producer’ with the aim to gain practice-based
knowledge for a social political strategy of the City
(1989) followed by the joint planning of Heikki
Waris institute (2000)for the development of
urban social work.
Mutual interests behind Heikki Waris institute,
founded 2000 (Kananoja 2010)
University: need for a new structure which can
intermediate in the social relations of research,
teaching and social work practices.
City: need for knowledge and innovations in urban
social issues; need for skilled social work
Social work profession: need for new methods for
transforming urban social work practices.
Heikki Waris Institute
HWI aims 1) to combine the transformation of urban
social work practices and 2) research activities with
3) the university education of professional social
In this context, Social Work Practice Research
means knowledge production arising from social
work practices; it includes the cyclic processes of co-
development, co-research and co-learning.
The Web of collaboration partners in social work
practice research at HWI
H E I D I M U U R I N E N
A Method of Collaboration in Social
Work Pratice Research
”We shape the buildings and the
buildings shape us.”
”We shape the buildings and
the building shape us.”
What is experimenting and prototyping?
Used in industrial design and in service-design
Starts by defining the big problem to be solved or
the aim to be reached – dream big!
Designing an experiment that
1) tests a hypothesis or
2) helps to collect more ideas to solve one part of the
Visualizing the idea into a protype – trying out
Process of iteration
An experiment An experiment
Based on Pragmatism
Experience is created in the interaction with
When we act, the environment responds and we
experience this responce
When our action is disturbed, we need to reflect our
How can this be used in social work
Six cases during the project
Data consists of 7 employees interviews and 6 service
users short interviews
Conlusions of experimenting as
a method of collaboration
Quick, flexible, motivating, realistic to carry out
Changes the practice
Eases participation and collaboration
Enables co-learning process
Reveals the human and non-human agency:
makes it possible to research actants you cannot
Provides different kind of knowledge than
questionnaires or interviews
Conclusions of experimenting as
a method of collaboration
Leadership of the process
Commitment of the unit
Understanding the method
(failing is succeeding and small is big)
Continuum and iteration
UNIVERISTY OF HELSINKI
K A T I P A L S A N E N
Collaborative knowledge creation
– How can we increase collaborative
knowledge creation with clients?
Background of the project idea
The idea was discovered in a former practice
research project between social workers and clients.
Clients were empowered by the opportunity to be
heard and to make a difference with their own
Can this kind of collaborative approach
become a tool to develop social work in child
protection and adult social work services?
• Immigrant mothers
Adult social work
• Young adults
Adult social work
• Young people
• Young people
The principles of
collaborative knowledge creation
acting within a relationship
equal and open expertise
cooperation and co-planning
From clients’ viewpoint: collaborative knowledge
development is empowering. It increases control over
their lives and improves their self-image and self-esteem.
They have reported changes, such as increased
willingness to go to school or to work.
They even see themselves as citizens in a new light; they
do not feel any longer ‘clients’ but also, and primarily,
experts by experience.
The most important findings: the action itself, from
their viewpoint, it is the most effective social work.
The activities have also effectively influenced the
professionals, experts and politicians who have
worked with these service users and listened to them.
Working with the service users has sparked a new
kind of professional developments in social workers,
who have reported that their well-being at work has
We consider collaborative knowledge creation as
It is crossing the traditional boundaries in the field of
social work and welfare services
It promotes innovative democracy
It challenges social workers - and more!
L A U R A Y L I R U K A
How do we teach Practice Research in collaborative
relationships for MA social work students?
The question behind practice research course:
How should the we teach the research
methodological and professional skills and
competencies, in order to create dynamic and alive
relationship and forum for university teaching and
social work agencies for knowledge creation
purposes? (Kääriäinen 2012, Karvinen-Niinikoski
• Practice research study unit is part of Master´s degree
in Social Work.
• The unit is equivalent to 16 credits and the work takes
about 8 to 10 months to be completed.
• The study period contains four phases: 1) lectures of
doing practice research and making a study plan, 2)
students gather research data during a two-month
collaborative practice research period and 3) students
write a research report 4) the results are shared in
different collaborative forums.
• A further goal and objective is to strengthen research
mindedness in our students.
How is practice research taught
at the University of Helsinki?
Hakkarainen Kai (2008) Toward trialogical approach to learning.
B E R E I T E R ( 2 0 0 2 )
N O N A K A &
T A K E U C H I ( 1 9 9 5 )
E N G E S T R Ö M
( 1 9 8 7 )
Study about practice research course
Aino Kääriäinen (2012)
25/28 students wrote an essay about the
experiences from the course.
1)Me as an researcher, 2) My professional identity
3) What did I learn, the benefits 4) Negative
experiences 5) The participation of social work
28 practice research reports.
• The goal is to develop professional identity towards reflective,
research minded expertise.
• Practice research has mainly been a rewarding experience for
social work students.
• Students need to be quite independent in conducting a piece of
study but also able to collaborate with social workers and clients
throughout the process.
• "My development towards professional social worker has been great. I feel that I
can use my experience to develop my work later on in the future. The seeds of
research have been planted in me."
• ”As an employer we greatly appreciate a social worker who is competent to make a
study when needed, and is able to deal with various data at workplace. Hereby we
feel better equipped for the uncertain future.”
Practice research course is a mutual effort of The
Web of collaboration partners.
We have decided to focus during the next three year
period on the common theme:
How to break off intergenerational social
Practice research course is connected to the
developmental work in social work agencies
concerning that theme.
Developmental work in social work agencies are
alinged with the strategies of involved cities.
PROF. MIRJA SATKA
UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI
HEIKKI WARIS INSTITUTE
The viewpoint of researcher social workers
in the Social Work Practice Research collaboration
relationships at Heikki Waris Institute
The research data
Focus group interviews of the recent reseacher social
workers at HWI 2009-13.
Questionnairs filled by the same informants.
Content analysis of the R&D publications of the six
most recent practice research projects completed by
the same informants.
1. What is practice research agency like
from the viewpoint of a researcher
2. How have the researcher social workers
experienced the relationship of research
and developmental work in their daily
Social work practice research agency
- the viewpoint of researcher social workers
Collaborative knowledge creation presumes:
1) Well-defined aims & tasks and supervision;
2) Stimulating, research-oriented and intellectually
supportive environment with role models;
3) Possibility for dialogical exchange and pre-testing of
the novel ideas in practice research communities;
4) Outcomes which inform and indicate the powers and
possibilities for change in social practices.
Important events for meaningful personal
learning as RSW
1. Teaching social work students;
2. Experiencing the consequences of data gathering in
the informants/participants’ life;
3. Experimenting change in the daily routines of a
social welfare agency;
4. Struggles for balance between research tasks and
R&D relationship in social work practice research
Finnish Practice Research commonly consists of
developmental work and of research tasks.
How they become combined depends on the aims,
the chosen theoretical – methodologiacal approach,
and the intrests of the stakeholders.
R&D relationship in
social work practice research process
The aims for R&D are different, also the role of the
researcher social worker is varied when working with
In development phase the focus is on the
relational matters and process management;
In research phase the work is focused on data
processing, data analyses and writing in which - in
the end - the whole process is typically re-reflected
by the researcher social worker(s).
A way to future?
1. Methods of collaboration will expand and evolve; new collaborative
innovations will be discovered.
2. Collaboration with NGO’s is goig to strenghen.
3. Promotion of local democracy and dialogue between service users,
social workers, and communities will be emphasized.