Udsat for samskabelse. Bottom-up perspektiver på samskabelse mellem udsatte grupper og frontmedarbejdere i socialt arbejde

Maja Müller

Research output: ThesisPh.D. thesis

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Co-production is today a popular political phenomenon, which fits into the NPG agenda and the municipalities’ ideals of welfare innovation via network, communities and active citizenship. This dissertation has focus on how the coproduction discourse unfolds in social work with vulnerable groups who often lack capabilities and resources to enter on normal conditions in society. Their preconditions to contribute to democratic processes are influenced by their marginal position and vulnerability – including their social problems and physical and mental health problems. Our knowledge about how this group is involved in coproduction processes; how the front level workers implement coproduction and how the vulnerable citizens experience to be involved, is limited, because most often are the focus on the positive consequences of coproduction and not on the possible exclusion mechanisms. Further on there has not been written much about the significance of this discourse to the professionals and their role just as the citizens’ experiences rarely are given space in the research literature. That is why I in this dissertation explore: How is citizen participation in coproduction practiced in social work with vulnerable groups, and what is the importance of the citizens’ vulnerability to the experience of coproduction and to the roles that are developed between the professionals and the citizens. The dissertation’s research question is explored with an empirical starting point in three selected coproduction processes at Drop in centers for vulnerable groups. The three processes are investigated as independent cases studies. The empirical data consists of interviews with 8 front level workers, 5 project managers and 19 citizens from the drop in centers, observations and documents (strategically notes and project descriptions) from the different cases. This dissertation is based on articles which illuminate the research question from different angles and with different contributions to answer the research question. Article 1 illuminates how the coproduction discourse is investigated and described in previous research, specific related to the social work field. The article built on a systematic review of the international research literature. In the search process 15 relevant articles were identified and from a narrative analysis we developed a typology of the collaborative relations between front level workers and the citizens in public social work. The typology illuminates three different forms of innovation where the users are involved in social work and it identifies the users’ roles in the three different forms of collaborations. The typology is further on used in the dissertation as inspiration to the empirical case selection and as an analytical tool. By this the article contributes with a theoretical conceptual frame. Article 2 has focus on the citizens’ experiences with coproduction processes, and what they gain out of their participation. The analysis point out that the citizens emphasizes: Influence, social participation and practical involvement in the coproduction processes. These dimensions are not depending on the type of collaboration and the way they are involved but depend on the person’s vulnerability and needs. Especially the social participation is prioritized by those who lack social networks while the practical involvement is prioritized by those who wish to develop their capabilities and influence is prioritized by those who have ideas and wish to be heard and recognized. Throughout is shown that they all experience a form of growth by participating in the processes, where, in particular, horizontal empowerment processes create a basis for their participation. The article contributes with a nuanced understanding of co-production and public involvement as seen from the citizens’ perspective, which could inspire working with differentiated forms of public involvement in social work in the future. Article 3 collects the ethical dilemmas that may challenge field work with vulnerable and marginalized citizens. With a point of departure in my own study together with three other studies of vulnerable and marginalized groups, I, together with two co-authors, discuss these challenges with illustrative examples of ethics in practise and on-the-spot ethical decisions in the field. Here is a particular focus on what building trust and what trust relations mean in the field work with marginalized groups, as well as how the vulnerable position of the citizens challenges the researcher’s balance of closeness and distance in the field work. The article concludes that trust is both what enables inclusion of vulnerable groups in the field work, but also what creates the ethical dilemmas. This calls for acceptance of the fact that we in the research environment should be aware of how ethical demanding it is to include vulnerable groups in research, and that we should consider alternative ethical understandings and instructions, since the ethical codes are not adequate in relation to the experienced dilemmas in the field work with these groups. Article 4 reflects the professionals’ practice of coproduction with vulnerable citizens and the challenges that are related to the coproduction. The article takes empirical departure in the employees’ perspective on coproduction and analysis with inspiration from Lipsky´s Street Level Bureaucracy (2010) the front level workers’ role in the coproduction processes. In the article it is concluded that in social work there is a risk that the employees keep the role as initiator and as the responsible when they have to collaborate with participants in vulnerable positions. This is caused by their professional identity as the ”expert”, where their knowledge of the citizens’ social problems and their caring of the citizens makes them prevent them from having any responsibility and expectations. The professionals’ consideration to the citizens’vulnerability and the inherent power relation in social work conflicts with the ideal of an equal partnership in the coproduction processes. When coproduction succeeds in terms of a partnership where the employees deliver power and the citizens receive it, it has to with the development of the employees’ roles, where they accept the loss of power and they act as facilitators who makes sure the frames does not exclude the citizens with special needs, and they support the citizens’ participation based upon their vulnerability and their needs. This calls on attention to the qualifications of the employees who coproduce with vulnerable groups. All in all, the dissertation illustrates how co-production is practised in the social work with vulnerable citizens and which implications are associated with this. It points to different inclusion and exclusion mechanisms in the co-production processes, where the professional identity, the embedded power relations and focus on normalizing the social work as well as the citizens’ vulnerability are significant markers for how co-production unfolds in this field. The dissertation contributes with an employee as well as a citizen perspective on co-production, which gives an indication of how to, in practise, work with co-production between professionals and citizens in the future, and which pitfalls there might be when we are dealing with vulnerable groups.
Original languageDanish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Southern Denmark
  • Pihl-Thingvad, Signe, Principal supervisor
  • Kjær, Ulrik, Co-supervisor
  • Holm Pedersen, Lis, Supervisor, External person
External participants
Date of defence12. Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

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