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Oplæg ved Eileen Munro


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Oplæg til FORSA/NOUSA-konferencen, Institut for Socialt Arbejde, Metropol, nov. 2016

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Oplæg ved Eileen Munro

  1. 1. Dealing with uncertainty and complexity in research and decision making Eileen Munro
  2. 2. To what extent is it possible and feasible to formalise social work practice?
  3. 3. Outline • The key features of social work • Reasons to turn to science and formalisation – Good and bad • The generalisability of research • The contribution of research to decision making • What else should we be doing?
  4. 4. What is social work? • A human service aiming to resolve human problems • Takes place within a human interaction – a relationship • Seeks to find solutions that fit the recipient’s world – not imposing our values on less powerful groups
  5. 5. Strategies for increasing formalisation • EBP • Proceduralisation • Decision making tools • All represent a shift to more formalisation of practice and reduction in individual judgment and decision making
  7. 7. Good reasons for this • Some confidence in the findings of scientific research so share the learning • Standardising practice, greater equity • Reducing scope for personal bias, e.g. values, prejudice
  8. 8. Bad reasons for this • Laziness – over-simplifying • Ignorance – not understanding social work • Cheapness – less need for training/supervision, just check if have followed the rules • Fear – of taking responsibility for judgments- ‘it’s not my fault, I was just following the rules’
  9. 9. Objectivity: More layers of meaning than a mille-feuille’ Daston & Gallison (2010) * Ontological claim: – An objective world of particulars independent of experience • Character claim: – Impartiality, detachment, disinterestedness, and a willingness to submit to evidence • Epistemological claim: – beliefs, judgments, or products of thought about what is really the case
  10. 10. 10 Truth-to-nature Species Archetype
  11. 11. Mechanical objectivity
  12. 12. Trained judgment
  14. 14. Three distinct kinds of claim in ‘this works’ [1] It works somewhere. This is the kind of claim we can clinch with objective methods like RCTs; the kind of verdict about a programme that a good post hoc evaluation can deliver. [2] It works. Means: ‘It works almost everywhere’, or at least ‘widely’, or perhaps ‘everywhere, other things being equal’. [3] It will work here. This is what we want to know when we deliberate about whether to adopt a policy.
  15. 15. Context matters • Social level differences • Organisational level differences • Recipient level differences
  16. 16. Does EBP avoid value bias? • Choice of question – Maltreatment arises from multiple factors, some structural, some individual – Where to focus change effort? – How to define ‘success’ – a value • Choice of method • Definition of terms – social construction
  17. 17. Does EBP remove the personal? • Aspire to empower the recipient – respecting their wishes and feelings • Significance of worker variables – people respond to specific individual
  18. 18. Does EBP achieve greater equity? • Probably • But …. – In practice, most interventions include scope for adaptation to recipient – Recipients respond differently so receive different service
  20. 20. Decision making • Decision tools in child protection build on research evidence about frequency of variables in pathways to harm • But rely on cases known to child protection agencies • And on data recorded by them
  21. 21. How much confidence should you have in the outcome of an actuarial prediction? Need to know: • Sensitivity – true positives • Specificity – true negatives • Base rate – prevalence in the population
  22. 22. Gerd Gigerenzer-style tree
  23. 23. Different ways of making decisions Formal, conscious – decision trees, maximising utility value Intuitive – pattern recognition, checking as you act on the basis of intuitive decision
  25. 25. Strengthening intuition  articulating, checking, receiving additional ideas, being challenged, Importance of colleagues/supervisors/recipients Improving feedback – what happened after your judgement or decision?
  26. 26. Conclusion • In a complex world, we need ‘requisite variety • The unique worker does matter • Formal methods all entail some intuitive reasoning • We need to work on improving intuitive reasoning
  27. 27. References Cartwright, N. & Hardie, J. (2012) Evidence based policy, A practical guide to doing it better, Oxford, Oxford University Press. Deaton, A. & Cartwright, N. (2106) Understanding and misunderstanding randomized, controlled trials. National Bureau of Economic Research,NBER Working Paper No. 22595 Munro E., Cartwright N., Montuschi E. & Hardie J. (forthcoming) Improving child safety: judgment, expertise and using research, Durham University. Email for details of publication