That social work

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Transcript That social work

Discourse and narrative analysis as approach to social
work and other ‘third way strategies’
Presentation at University of Iceland, MA in Social Work, May 2nd 2013
Søren Peter Olesen, associate professor, Department of Sociology and Social Work,
Aalborg University
Introductory section
What does ’discourse and narrative analysis and
other ’third way strategies’’ refer to?
How to proceed? - The course of the day
Not ’hands on’ – rather methods ’in principle’!
But have a try!
And apologies for my English as 2nd language!
Background for the presentation
• Education, work experience, ’normativity’
• Research subjects and methods
• Present position at Aalborg University
INTRODUCTION – potentials of social work
To focus on potentials of social work from my
point of view implies:
- That social work ’makes a difference’ – or at
least may do that
- Neither ’romanticising’ nor ’daemonising’
social work 
- We (i.e. I and my research colleagues) have
talked about a critical-constructive perspective
- Focusing on room for agency and ’solutions’ as
well as critique
- This could be based on actor-network-theory
and discourse and narrative analysis (including
sociological conversation analysis)
INTRODUCTION – potentials of social work
I see four paradigms of social work research:
Ethics and values
Structural frames
As a ’third way’: ’Looking inside professional
practice’ as a ’friendly visitor’, so to speak,
without going native, however, and tracing the
chains of connections through which social work
practice is assembled (cf. Hall & White 2005)
Brodkin, E. (2012): ”Reflections on Street-Level Bureaucracy: Past, Present
and Future”. Public Administraion Review, November/December 2012, 940949.
Ragin, C. (1994): Constructing social research. The Unity and Diversity of Method.
Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press. Especially pp. 47-76.
Olesen, S.P. (2006): “Un-wanted due to Age – Age as a Category in the
Experience of Unemployment”. Paper for Workshop 7: Institutional
Categorisation in Social Work at FORSA 2006 Conference, Helsinki, February
9th-11th 2006.
Olesen, S.P. & Eskelinen, L. (2011): “Short narratives as a qualitative approach
to effects of social work interventions”. Nordic Social Work Research, (1) 1,
Fina, A. de and Georgakopoulou, A. (2009) “Annalysing narratives as
practices”, Qualitative Research, 8(3), 379-387.
Hall, C. & S. White (2005): “Looking Inside Professional Practice. Discourse,
Narrative and Ethnographic Approaches to Social Work and Counselling”.
Qualitative Social Work 4(4), 379-390.
Uggerhøj, L. (2011): ”What is Practice Research in Social Work – Definitions,
Barriers and Possibilities”. Social Work and society, 9(1), 45-59.
Eskelinen, L. S.P.Olesen & D. Caswell (2010): “Client contribution in
negotiations on employability – categories revised?”, International Journal of
Social Welfare, 19, 330-338.
Caswell, D., L.Eskelinen & S.P. Olesen (2011) Identity work and client
resistance underneath the canopy of active employment policy in
Qualitative Social Work, 1(01), 1–16.
Koivisto, J. (2007): ”What evidence base? Steps towards the relational
evaluation of social interventions”, i: Evidence & Policy, (no. 4) s. 527 - 537.
OVERVIEW – points to be considered
1. Social work as street-level activity / front-line
2. Investigating similarities and differences in
social work practice
3. Combining applied conversation analysis and
narrative analysis in social work research
4. Practice research and research on everyday
social work practice
5. Employment-oriented social work as activitytype and professional practice
6. Metatheoretical reflections
Section about social work as streetlevel activity / institutional
Lipsky, M. (1980): Street-Level Bureaucracy. Dilemmas of the
Individual in Public Service.
Lipsky’s book was one, and the most outstanding, among a
number of publications adressing the problematics of
putting welfare reforms, public policy and professional
ideals into practice.
Just to mention a few:
Pressman & Wildawsky (1973) – Implementaion
Grumow (1978) – Alltagskontakte mit der Verwaltung
Goodsell (1981) – The Public encounter
Hasenfeld – Human Service Organisations
Lipsky’s approach is building on 4 core
• Policy should be understood as indeterminate
• Discretionary actions become in effect policy
• Discretion is of interest not when random but
when it is structured by factors influencing
informal behaviours to develop in systematic
• Street-level bureaucracies occupy positions of
political significance as an interface between
government and the individual
• A central aspect of Lipsky¨s theory is that street-level
bureaucrats due to structures in their work situation
develop various coping mechanisms and rationalisations.
• According to Lipsky and research based on his theory
street-level bureaucrats rarely act with resistance or in
opposition to policy goals; they do not primarily follow
personal policy preferences. Their behaviour is rather a
matter of adaptions to the conditions of their work
situation. They sometimes tell about ’heroic’ efforts to
bend the rules.
• Responsiveness is however rather the exception and it
might be argued that it is malfunctions of the system that
make stories of ’heroic’ effort wanted or at all tell-able.
• Today street-level bureaucracies are supplemented with
private organisations and the context of research on
street level bureaucracy is contractions and privatisation
of wellfare arrangements
• The headline is New Public Management (i.e. the
introduction of market mechanisms and private sector
management thinking in the public sector, including e.g.
performance management and focus on accountability),
including performance measurement
• One major problem is that a number of studies show that
this development is followed by increased inequality
• The project of street-level analysis as part of a project of
• Policymakers and managers might benefit from adopting
what Brodkin calls an enabling (rather than controlling)
approach that is focused on creating conditions that
facilitate quality and responsiveness in policy delivery
• Brodkin recommends caution as regards the rush to
advance NPM reforms. Performance measurement can be
a valuable tool for monitoring aspects of practice. But its
selectivity is both its strength and its weakness. One get
what one measures, but this may come with unmeasured
consequences of equal or even greater importance. Better
performance scores do not necessarily indicate
• What kind of thinking and what type
of knowledge is predominant in
social work in Iceland?
• What is the main discourse among
Is it ’going by the book’? – i.e. acting according to:
• Law
• Administrative aims/criteria and managerial guidelines
• Professional ethics and standards
Is it reflecting critically over inequality, social problems and the
failures as regards social policy and social work to improve
conditions for the poor?
Is it acting according to the best available knowledge? And what is
considered to be the best available knowledge?
Is it acting according to what is known (tacitly or explicitly) among
peers and reflecting upon experience?
Is it doing what is best for the client according to involvement and
negotiation with him/her?
Is it ’muddling through’ from situation to situation?
Is it something else?
3 or 4 basic types of knowledge related to social work
Social work is basically:
• Intervention in people’s lives and the very central point of
knowledge about social work is knowledge about the effect of
the intervention
• Institutional activity and basically central knowledge about social
work is knowledge about the problem identities and the solution
strategies that are institutionally available
• Contextualised professional activity in order to transform
aspects of social life and the central knowledge accordingly is
knowledge about social problems and about professional
conceptions about generative mechanisms in the production af
solutions to social problems
• Assembling specific, often problematic, aspects of social life.
Assemling social life involves a complex handling of actors and
artefacts in hybrid metworks. Knowledge bout relations and
translations is central – HOW TO STUDY THIS? 
Section about designing social work
research and about social research
as an on-going dialogue between
ideas and evidence
Among many different strategies of social research
Ragin emphasizes three very broad approaches:
• The use of qualitative methods to study
• The use of comparative methods to study
diversity, i.e. similarities and differences
• The use of quantitative methods to study
relationships among variables
Across various strategies ’case of what?’ is a
central question
Identifying broad
Making predictions
Exploring diversity
Giving voice
Advancing new
ANALYTIC FRAMES (by case/aspect)
IMAGES (of cases/aspects)
Design – Problem-Based
Section about discourse and
narrative analysis, including
sociological conversation analysis
Overview of the section about conversation analysis
• An example: Harassment in action
• Introduction
• The theoretical tradition from which CA as research
methodology derives.
• The analytical specifics of CA
• The type of research questions, CA can answer
• What makes CA unique compared to other discourse and
narrative analytic methodologies?
• Concluding remarks
Harassment in action
… When shall we go for a ride then.
What did you say.
When shall we go for a ride.
Hey listen I don’t k_now_hhh
h What?
Are you coming with me then.
Do you dare to come.
<I don’t know. Hhh
But come along,
Why is that
Harassment in action
… underpinning her (Tainio 2003) analysis is an
attempt to show how actions which can be
heard as a form of harassment (and, indeed,
which did come to be heard that way by the jury,
journalists and the public at large) are
predicated on, mobilised in and resisted through
mundane practices of interactional organisation.
And in this Tainio makes a significant
contribution, because she shows that it is
possible to develop a conversation analytic
account of the infrastructure of sexual
(Wooffitt 2005)
Introducing conversation analysis –
central in discourse and narrative analysis
CA is about ‘what comes after what’ in talk-in-interaction (Antaki
According to CA participants orient to interaction (Heritage
• Addressing themselves to the immediately preceding talk; talk is
• Projecting some next action; talk is context-shaping
• Showing an understanding of what is going on; talk represents
sequential intersubjectivity  categorisation and narrative
CA is dedicated empirical/’objectivistic’ and qualitative
Two tracks in CA (ten Have 1999:8: at least two kinds of
conversation analytical research going on today):
• The institutions of social interaction
• The social institutions in talk-in-interaction. ‘Applied’ CA
The ’birth’ of CA
Data: Taperecordings of telephone calls to a help-line at a
psychiatric hospital (Sacks 1992a+b)
(1)A: Hello
B: Hello
(2)A: This is Mr Smith may I help you
B: Yes, this is Mr Brown
(3)A: This is Mr Smith may I help you
B: I can’t hear you
A: This is Mr Smith
B: Smith
The ’birth’ of CA
Data: Talk in therapeutic settings. Turn-taking – example of a ’list’
and of collectively produced talk:
Bob this is uh Mel
Bob Reed
We were in an automobile discussion
discussing the psychological motives for
drag racing on the streets
(Lectures on Conversation 1:136)
The ’birth’ of CA
Data: Talk in social work setting. Turn-taking; categorisation
and category bound activities; narrative; ’objects’ and
’machinery producing that kind of objects’
A: Yeah, then what happened?
B: Okay, in the meantime she <the wife of B> says: “Don’t
ask the child nothing.” Well, she stepped between me
and the child, and I got to walk out the door. When she
stepped between me and the child, I went to move her
out of the way. And then about that time her sister had
called the police. I don’t know how she … what she …
A: Didn’t you smack her one?
B: No.
A: You’re not telling me the story, Mr. B.
B: Well, you see when you say smack you mean hit.
A: You shoved her. Is that it?
B: Yeah, I shoved her
(Lectures on Conversation 1:113)
Theoretical tradition
A functional conception of language (Wittgenstein 1953):
Language as performative and functional; language as
constructive and constitutive of social life (Rapley 2007); using
language  producing a world of communicative practice
Inductive, qualitative and ‘objectivistic’ (Sacks 1992)
Ethnomethodology (Garfinkel 1967; 2002)  Focus on member’s
rather than researchers’ knowledge and methods
Interaction ritual / interaction order (Goffman 1967; 1983) 
reproducing vs. softening and loosening structural traits
‘Objects’ and ‘devices’; the machinery producing them; a ‘social
microphysics’; sequentiality and categorisation; ‘inferencemaking machine’ (Sacks 1992)
‘What comes after what’, not letting an a priori theoretical
framework ‘colonise’ description and analysis  How members
‘assemble the social’ (Schegloff 1999)
Theoretical relevance
Focus on ‘What comes after what’ (Antaki)  How members
‘assemble the social’ (Latour 2005) and categorisation,
positioning and rhetoric – rather than on causal explanations and
sociological theory about actors and their motives, dispositions
and positions
Focus on the situational and the situated (Goffman 1983) 
Situation, disposition, position (Mouzelis 1995)
Social constructionism (Burr 1995)  questioning everything we
might take for granted, however not departing from a specific
critical theory and an emancipatory project
Critical realism (Archer 1995): Generative mechanisms (Pawson &
Tilley 1997) producing the social; structure vs. agency; devices
vs. interaction and relations
• Ontology: a world consisting of
communicative practices
• Epistemology: the knowledge and
methods produced and used by
members; ’objectivity’
• Methodology: Qualitative (and
qualtitative), authentic data, specific and
clear procedures (strength and
• Nomativity: Description and analysis
before explanation and evaluation
Research questions
The type of research questions, CA (and discourse and
narrative analysis) can answer:
Why that now? – in the sense that members look at things
How rather than why?
How is this done in this case, in this situation, this time?
How this is perceived from from a participant’s point of
Analytical specifics - 1
The analytical specifics of CA: Ways of making available and
of making up existing materials (rather than researchergenerated) for analytical purposes (Flick quoted in Rapley
Analytical specifics - 2
Institutions of social interaction: Seeking ‘universal’ or
general rules about talk-in-ineraction, e.g.:
Turn-taking, sequentiality and turn-design
Analytical specifics - 3
Social institutions in interaction / Institutional talk: Applying
CA on particular cases of talk-in-interaction; institutional
interaction, e.g. education and pedagogy, health and social
care, social welfare and employment
Institutional interaction is normally characterised by
(Heritage 1997:163f):
• Specific goal orientations
• Special constraints on what is considered allowable
• Particular inferential frameworks and procedures
CA and other discourse analytical methodologies
Various selected approaches to the analysis of
institutional interaction:
• Institutional ethnography
• Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis
• Sociolinguistics and pragmatics
• Critical Discourse Analysis
(Sarangi & Roberts 1999)
CA and other discourse analytical methodologies
CA (and partly DA) focuses on language use,
everyday interaction whether mundane or
institutional, authentic data  triviality?
Recordings (sound or video) of verbal
CA’s empirical strengths!?
(Wooffit 2005:88)
CA and narrative analysis
The development in narrative analysis
Grand narratives
About a nation or ethnic group, about the role of a social class, a political
organisation or a specific way of organising society etc.
Big (biographical) narratives
About the life history of an individual
Small narratives
Ad hoc positioning in everyday settings, moves taken in concrete present
situations vis-à-vis others, often unnoticed as narratives
From grand/big to smal narratives and from structure to interaction
CA and narrative analysis
“‘Big Stories’, i.e., life stories or autobiographies, or at least stories
of life determining (or threatening) episodes have come to take
the center stage in narrative studies in the human sciences. ‘Big
Stories’ are typically stories that are elicited in interview
situations, either for the purpose to create research data or to
do therapy – stories in which speakers are asked to
retrospect on particular life-determining episodes or on
their lives as a whole, and tie together events into episodes and
episodes into a life story, so that something like ‘a life’ can come
“to existence”. Situations, I will argue, in which ‘Big Stories’ are
constructed, are particular kinds of occasions in which speakers
have been provided with a particular opportunity for
reflection; occasions in which they have been lured or seduced
into a particular type of accounting practice (also often called
‘disclosure’); occasions to which the participants have agreed, but
occasions that are also quite different from situations in which
“small stories” emerge.“
(Bamberg 2006, s. 2-3)
CA and narrative analysis
“…the term “small stories” is meant to refer to stories told in
interaction; stories that do not necessarily thematize the
speaker, definitely not a whole life, but possibly not even events
that the speaker has lived through – and now, retrospectively,
reflects upon and recounts (often termed “personal stories” or
“narratives of personal experience”). Rather, “small stories” are
more the kinds of stories we tell in everyday settings (not just
research or therapeutic interviews). And these stories are most
often about very mundane things and everyday occurrences,
often even not particularly interesting or tellable; stories that seem
to pop up, not necessarily even recognized as stories, and
quickly forgotten; nothing permanent or of particular importance
– so it seems.”
(Bamberg 2006, s. 1-2)
In sum: What makes CA unique compared to other
discourse analytic methodologies?
Turn-taking and sequentiality
Categorisation and narrative in interaction
Existing materials
Specific analytic procedures
Transcriptions of data
Authentic data from concrete situations
Sound or video-recordings
The words as spoken
Sounds that are uttered
Inaudible or un-understandable sounds and sections
Pauses / silences
Overlapping talk and sounds
Tempo, intonation, strength
Format of transcription
Addition of visible information
Selection, ’cases of what?’
(Ten Have 1999; Nielsen & Nielsen 2005)
Concluding remarks 1
Concluding remarks:
• Critique and discussion
• The Sacks-heritage (Silverman 1998)
• The short-sightedness of CA!? (Wetherell 1998; Schegloff
1998; Billig 1999; Schegloff 1999; Scheuer 2005; Kjærbeck
• Immediate vs. mediate contexts (Schegloff 1997; Linell
1998; Erickson 2004)
• CA and other discourse analytical methodologies
(Wooffitt 2005; Rapley 2007)
• CA and narrative analysis
Concluding remarks 2
Concluding remarks:
CA and e.g. social work research; a profound relevance associated with
social work and counselling as authentic communicative practice /
language use / language games; a conflation of activity types and
discourse types (Sarangi 2000)
What is actually turns and how do you observe turns; is there a ’nanophysics’and a ’meso-physics’ of interaction?
At a mezo- and macro-level: the occurrence and character of turns not
lying immediately close to each other as well as the occurrence and
character of monological traits
The characterisation of everyday life as primordial and immortal and as
realised in comunicative practice including assumptions dialogue,
equality, reciprocity and balance is problematic; interaction is allways
embedded and social institutions maybe allways present
Two extracts illustrating resistance
Extract 1
C: You promised me. I am not going to take antabuse. There is nothing to do
about it.
No, no.
C: I have been through that a 117 times, and I can’t bear it. There is nothing
to do.
C <name of client>, listen to me. It is not the first and foremost
duty of B <name of alcohol treatment specialist> to fill you with antabuse.
That’s up to you.
C: No. Because I’m not going to do that.
C: You might just as well use them to … to light the fire in the fireplace,
Yes, but that is not at all the question.
C: That’s how poisonous it is. It is much more poisonous than alcohol.
Try to listen here, my friend. It is not a question about that. That’s
not what we are going to do.
C: It is pure sulphur.
Extract 2
That is not at all what we are going to do. What we are going to use
B <name of alcohol treatment specialist/social worker?> for is to obtain a
description/clarification of, whether you shall be able to receive alcohol
treatment or not, and whether you shall be able to get something out of
it. We, you and I, might agree on beforehand that you cannot. However,
we just need to get some other clever people to wright it down, also, in
order to convince the municipal medical adviser <sociallæge>. Because she
is not an alcohol treatment specialist, you know. But, that’s what we need
to have, and that’s what we are going to use B <name of alcohol
treatment specialist> for. And the, they are really such nice people down
there, and they offer you coffee and things like that down there.
C: Yeaahh. I get that here too, you know, also very nice place. But … now,
listen to me … since the time …
When the King of Diamonds was a Knight and wore short trousers
Extract 2 - continued
C: And you nearly even weren’t born yet … erm … it is over 25 years ago
Yes, I know that very well, C <name of client>.
C: … that the boy <whistling sound> disappeared together with the mother.
Since then I have been on this, and I have been on all possible, odd
alcohol-hubbob-things, even at that place on <road where the alcohol
treatment unit is placed> and at my own doctor several times and things
like that. And you know what … you must not …
Yes, but I know this very well C <name of client>. However, we
need to get this kind of documentation. And the good thing about B
<name of alcohol treatment unit> is then that this is not a place where
you have to meet at seven o’clock in the morning. And it’s only two times
a week.
• Is it important to study language use, or are the
most important things happening, so to speak,
behind the back of the participants in social
work practice?
• What do you think?
A few comments on practice research
• Research that focuses on what is actually going on in the
concrete practice of professional social workers and other
agents producing / constructing that practice (Hall &
White 2005)
• Research that focuses on collaboration between practice
and research (approach A) is defined as practice research
(Uggerhøj 2011; cf. The ’science of the concrete’ and the
distinction between techne, episteme and phronesis;
Flyvbjerg 2001)
• Research that focuses on processes controlled and
accomplished by practitioners (approach B) is defined as
practitioner research (Ramian 2003, 2009)
• Research that focuses on user participation in the research
process is defined as user- controlled research.
Uggerhøj (2011):
Just as social sciences have not contributed much to
explanatory and predictive theory, neither have the
natural sciences contributed to reflexive analysis and
discussion of values and interests, which is the prerequisite
for an enlightened political, economic, and cultural
development in any society, and which is at the core of
phronesis (Flyvbjerg 2001:3).
From this position, practice research may very well be a way
to transform phronetic social science into everyday
practice as well as phronetic social science constituting
both a theoretical and a methodological framework for
practice research in social work.
Section about employment-oriented
social work
Case study of content and consequences of employment efforts
from the perpective of cash benefit recipients
• What changes in their situation do benefit recipients
experience in the course of the employment efforts and
through their contact with case workers? Do contacts with the
employment service, the content of the contact and the
efforts that are provided, make a difference for benefit
recipients? Can this be traced in their narratives?
• What kind of research methodology could be developed as a
relevant strategy for data collection and analysis covering the
benefit recipients’ perspective on the consequences of the
employment effort?
(Eskelinen & Olesen 2010)
Benefit recipients’ perspective on efforts and consequences
A case study of a limited number of benefit recipients,
intensively following their experiences at job centres and outside
administrative contexts
The study was conducted over a period of one year, and included
nineteen long-term cash benefit recipients from two
Different data types were combined. The primary material is
composed of interviews with benefit recipients, observation of
their interaction with case workers and other professionals +
interviews with case workers. Even written material was
A narrative approach, examining the benefit recipients’ point of
view based on their narratives of how they saw their situation in
relation to the labour market, their problems other than
unemployment, the employment effort they had been and still
were part of, and the ways in which the effort was applied to
• The frame of reference of the cash benefit recipient at the
beginning of the follow-up period: Working life
perspective; how the unemployed regards him/herself in
relation to the labour market and participation in working
life; earlier experiences; the situation here and now; ideas
about future working life participation
• The sequence of events during the follow-up period: How
the cash benefit recipient experience employment efforts
over time; the perception of the choice and design of the
employment effort as well as of the initiatives of the
employment system
• Contexts that are referred to: Opportunities and
hindrances associated with the employment measures
brought up; resources and barriers in the situation of the
• The development in work identity and agency: Changes in
the narratives of the social welfare recipients about their
attitude towards working life participation; specific
changes related to work
• Connections between ’treatment’ and consequences to
the unemployed including the central point in the
narratives of the social welfare recipient: The specific
content of the ’treatment’ selected for the unemployed in
question and the coupling of this with specific
consequences of the measures from the point of view of
the unemployed. A central formulation of the main point
of a specific case, e.g. a clear goal or intention, or on the
contrary a lacking clarification or even hopelessness
Olesen, S.P., L. Eskelinen og D. Caswell (2005): Faglighed i socialt arbejde
som forskningsgenstand – et kritisk konstruktivt perspektiv. akf working paper
Eskelinen, L., D. Caswell og S.P. Olesen (2006): En kritisk konstruktiv
tilgang til faglighed i socialt arbejde.Tidsskrift for Arbejdsliv 8 (1): 82-95
Eskelinen, L., S.P. Olesen og D. Caswell (2008): Potentialer i socialt arbejde
– et konstruktivt blik på faglig praksis. København: Hans Reitzels Forlag
Eskelinen, L., S.P. Olesen og D. Caswell (2010): “Client contribution in
negotiations on employability: categories revised?” International Journal of
Social Welfare, 19(3), 330-338.
Olesen, Søren Peter and Eskelinen, Leena (2009): Korte narrativer i
analyser af beskæftigelsesindsatser. Tidsskrift for Arbejdsliv 11(4): 38-51.
Eskelinen, Leena and Olesen, Søren Peter (2010): Beskæftigelsesindsatsens
indhold og konsekvenser set fra kontanthjælpsmodtagernes perspektiv.
AKF Workingpaper. København: AKF. Download:
Olesen, Søren Peter and Eskelinen, Leena (2011): Effects of social work: A
qualitative approach. Nordic Social Work Research, 1(1) – submitted.
Connections between efforts and consequences in case AA
• Dental treatment; substance abuse treatment 
(improved health, self-respect, daily life)  the possibility
of/interest in planning the future more than one day ahead
ready to look for a job  employment with wage
• Previous rejection of application for dental treatment 
deterioration in a ’vicious circle’ (increased substance
abuse, toothache, feeling down, absence from job training)
 increased distance from labour market ; concern about
possible damage to own health and mental well-being
• (AA emphasises the contact with his case worker, but is
ambivalent about the substance abuse treatment: was it
necessary for changing his life situation or simply a means
to get free dental treatment?)
Short narratives about work identity – examples from the case BB
• ‘At that time <by the beginning of the mandatory activation> I had no
ideas about on-the-job training. That about remittance of debts was
the thing that inspired me to, that now it made sense to get out of the
’I can say it in two ways. The course of events at K <activation project>
has been fine. It has of course been a little rough, but you get
accustomed to that. But it has been fine to get away from home
somewhat, because the place where I came to, it was somehow people
that were similarly disposed (illness and stress among others); many
‘models’; and you could choose many different things. – That’s if I look
at it from the outside. – However, if I look at myself personally, then I
think it was infuriating; it was simply too rude; it was too much;
because, well I have taken care of my son; he has schizophrenia, but he
is not dangerous or something. I have been allowed to take care of him
for 5 years.’ … ‘I felt I had made an agreement with them.’
Three concluding points - 1
Benefit recipients’ knowledge of the efforts and their consequences
• The study offers qualitative information on effects of employment efforts.
• This information includes useful knowledge about programme effects, the
professional praxis of front-line staff, and participation by benefit recipients
• The analyses show that if such knowledge is ignored, there is a danger of
ignoring not only important potentials, but also important barriers to the
achievement of desired results from the efforts
• This knowledge – of the fact that in every new situation an adaptation or
translation of the efforts to the specific circumstances takes place – has
significance for the action to be taken; it is possessed primarily by the
actors directly involved in the employment efforts
• The benefit recipients’ narratives provide us not only with summary
statements on how public service is generally perceived, but also with
detailed descriptions and assessments of the significance of specific
employment efforts in relation to specific issues
Three concluding points - 2
The actors’ role and the design of the efforts
• Examination of the benefit recipients’ narratives demonstrates that the
quality of relations in the front line is very important; the efforts are
formed by the actors
• This is based upon a view of efforts and their consequences that differs
from the usual view, in which efforts are regarded as effective or not
• To use a common metaphor, we enter the “black box” between the input
of a given intervention and the output that it produces. Efforts and effects
in the present context are entities that are not given in advance, but come
into being and develop and have consequences over time
• This takes place through processes, mechanisms and relations that include
both human actors and a number of other circumstances and factors
• The primary actors in the efforts, including in particular the benefit
recipients, are seen in this perspective not primarily as objects (of
management), but as co-constructors or co-producers of the efforts
Three concluding points - 3
Short narratives combined with relational evaluation as an approach
• Central to the study’s delineation of a qualitative effect concept is a
• A type of knowledge that is missed by the usual studies and
understandings of effects, a knowledge that is important from the
point of view of the individual and the professional as well as from
the management perspective
• The short narratives are both identity markers and sources to the
content and consequences of the employment efforts
• Focusing on the benefit recipients’ point of view has confirmed that
the content and consequences of the employment efforts form
chains of connections through which actors are assembling the
elements of the efforts into specific progressions, which sometimes
maintain the status quo, but sometimes even involve change
Conclusions about content and consequences of employment efforts
• A prerequisite for a successful effort seems to be that
the employment service includes the benefit recipients’
knowledge and engage in mutual interaction with them
• The contact between the benefit recipients and the
representatives of the employment service is therefore
crucial in relation to how efforts eventually function in
terms of the benefit recipients’ participation and
• When these elements are present, employment efforts
can be the beginning of constructive processes with
possibly quite considerable impact on benefit recipients’
prospects and perspectives as regards work
Meta-theory and methodology
CONCLUSION – metatheory and methodology
Metatheory and methodology in social work
• What kind of phenomena? Realism vs.
constructivism; structures and mechanisms vs.
networks and relations  Ontology
• What type of knowledge? Dualism vs. monism;
causality vs. imitation  Epistemology
• What kind of research? - Design, data and
analysis. Priority to authentic data 
• Cui bono? / Whose interest? Critique vs. focus
on solutions. A critical-constructive perspective
 Normativity