Mending the gaps in social work education and research: two examples from a Swedish context
The gap-mending concept is an analytical tool that helps teachers and researchers in social work to reflect upon what, in their practice, increases, maintains or mends gaps between professionals and service user groups. The article suggests a theoretical background on how gaps in social work practice can be challenged. This includes theories about power and recognition. It then moves on to describe the development of gap-mending strategies in research and education at the School of Social Work at Lund University. Lund University was one of three partners that took the initiative to the international network PowerUs that has focused on gap-mending strategies in social work education. The authors have been working over 10 years in collaboration with service user participation in the education of social workers and in different research projects. In the article, they give examples of gapmending practices and of challenges that they have faced. The first example is an experimental course that has been given since 2005 where social work students study together with students from service user organizations in a university course. The second example is an attempt to combat homelessness in several Swedish municipalities. Supported by researchers, the development project has been a collaboration between homeless groups, politicians and social workers.