I’ve just spent three days at JSWEC -the annual UK Joint Social Work Education Conference with the UK Social Work Research Conference.
It is the third time I have attended the conference over the last ten years. This post is about this experience so it’s not obviously about research. But yet it is. It’s a personal reflection on being in a collective academic space. And a rather sad reflection as an academic from Aotearoa New Zealand about how isolated we are by our lack or resources because of the repeated failure of governments to invest in social work. Our professional bodies can’t fund what we need and so few social workers can access resources to attend conferences it becomes risky to host them. We haven’t had a decent sized social work education/ research conference since 2009. What this means is that I often don’t know what research is being done until I read about it in an international journal. Let’s change that. More later.
On to JSWEC where boundaries and borders were crossed in real and virtual ways.
The first time I attended JSWEC I think I knew three people. This time I knew maybe 30 people well enough to say more than “hello, I’m @BeddoeE ” [Twitter username]. Because we mainly know each other through Twitter. Each time I attend a conference where people gather who use Twitter to make professional connections I meet more great people. Sometimes (actually quite often) they are people that I know through their published work and hugely admire. Occasionally they are people who I am somewhat in awe of because of their research and leadership in the profession and in the community.
This JSWEC didn’t disappoint and I enjoyed catching up with many wonderful researchers and professional practice leaders.
So what were the highlights? Apart from the many people to whom I have tweeted my thanks, greetings, arrangements for future meetings and so forth I want to mention a few experiences which will stay with me.
David McKendrick and Jo Finch’s paper ‘Under Heavy Manners’ which critically examined the idea of non-linear war, social policy and the attack on social work practice and education. This was thought provoking and I’m looking forward to reading the published article.
Anna Gupta’s keynote on social work and social justice. The composite stories she told about links between poverty and children being taken in to care were chilling.
Martin Webber’s keynote for its passionate articulation of an innovative model that makes social capital central in mental health – Connecting People. There’s a great website for exploring the model here. http://connectingpeoplestudy.net/the-model-2/
Harry Ferguson’s session on social workers’ clothing and professional identity. Why do so many social workers wear blue jeans?
As always an opportunity for hearing about research and exploring our own experiences. With some laughter and a sense of fun.
Seeing the Justice for LB quilt
Click here to see the quilt and read a short account of what happened to LB. The quilt tells the story of the brilliant campaign for justice for Connor Sparrowhawk and his amazing family. I was disappointed to miss meeting members of the team because of illness but was delighted to meet the indomitable George Julian. This is a harrowing story – what can I say that hasn’t been said. The Justice for LB campaign is a net of support that has wrapped around Connor’s family in their search for justice. Nothing at all can change the facts of a preventable death in “care’ but the campaign is a lesson to us all in social work about real advocacy for justice. And the power of rage, passion, love and the determination of some clever, committed people to speak truth to power. Even though in this case power isn’t listening. This little mention doesn’t do it justice but is my way of honouring the dude, his mum and family and all the young people who get so much less support than they should. All the dudes everywhere. So seeing the quilt was amazing.
There were many other wonderful experiences. Some will be explored in my research project blogs. And that’s where you will find out more about boundaries and cartoons.
Thanks again JSWEC team and all the great participants. We made a community of practice happen- talking across borders, invigorating and inspiring each other. And many moments to consider reimagining better social work and a better society.