The conceptualisation of SUI seminar I was done collaboratively between the two lecturers (the authors of this text Marion Laging and Thomas Heidenreich) and the student group of 8 students using input from professionals (a platform called “regional practice”) and service users. During these discussions it became clear that organizing the seminar as a week-long meeting was impossible: the user groups comprised unemployed people as well as people with regular working hours and for the latter it was judged to be highly unlikely that they would use their holiday time for the seminar. Thus, the seminar was organized as a weekend seminar (Saturday and Sunday) and a follow-up meeting (workday evening). Service users received compensation for participation. Nine service users (from the field of mental health services and addictions) agreed to participate. The main question discussed at the weekend – using a variety of different methods – was “What is good social work?” Table 3 shows the sequence of elements implemented during the weekend and the follow-up meeting. Wherever possible, service users, students and professors entered the discussions on an equal footing, e.g. when discussing experiences with social work; all groups were encouraged to report on their personal experiences. While a large number of qualities required by social workers were mentioned and discussed, the professional relationship of social workers and their clients was described as the most important topic. Other elements included informing service users about the format of the BA course in social work at Esslingen – this helped service users to experience students as “just ordinary people” who gain knowledge in this specific area. One key element of SUI seminar I was the production of a DVD in which service users were able to report on their positive and negative experiences with social work as well as formulate expectations for future generations of social workers.
Table 3: Contents and methods of SUI seminar I
Warming-up Postcards, guided introductions, experience with social work
Input – definition of empowerment
Experience-based sharing of experiences
Meaning of empowerment for myself
BA course social work in Esslingen Input by students, discussion
Personal experiences with social work
World café using different triggers, e.g. Where did I experience social work? What helped me? What hurt me? How should social workers act?
Wishes for social work? What should SW look like in the future? Work in pairs: student – service user
Reflection Discussion: What was important for me during the weekend?
Conclusion and feedback Guided plenary discussion: impressions, ideas for extensions,
DVD Watching the DVD produced during the weekend and discussion
Farewell and further collaboration
At the follow-up meeting shown in table 3, service users, students and teachers came together once more to watch and discuss the DVD produced at the workshop. Service users were enthusiastic about the content and quality of the film and felt that their aims in conveying their needs were well met.