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Exploring the Usefulness and Validity of Democratic Professionalism for Social Work Practice: A Cross-National Qualitative Case Study

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Democratic professionalism challenges social workers to see social institutions as potential fields for democratic action and to act as bridge agents between citizens and social institutions. Although scholars have identified democratic professionalism as a promising theory, the relevance of this approach has hardly been empirically explored and operationalised in social work practice. To address this gap, this article explores empirical examples of bridging practices in social welfare organisations and private shelter organisations in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Data were gathered by means of a mixed method design (interviews N13, and focus groups N10). Based on our case analysis, we identify three types of practices that aim to close the gap between citizens and social institutions: task-sharing with citizens; raising public awareness about social issues and facilitating a public dialogue about social issues in close proximity to the lives of citizens. We found indications that the policy environment shapes both the relationship between social institutions and society, and social workers’ actions and beliefs. Although we conclude that democratic professionalism is a promising theory for social work, more research is needed to further substantiate our findings and to explore the relevance of other aspects of democratic professionalism for social work practice.
Journal: British Journal of Social Work
ISSN: 0045-3102
Issue: 5
Volume: 52
Publication year:2021