In 2018, the Flemish Social Work community formulated the 'DNA of social work' in five lines of action: proximity and low threshold work, politically involved work, generalist work, connective work and following the logic of the process. These principles contribute to the realisation of human rights and social justice; the core objectives of social work. Of course, these principles are not new; they have always been at the heart of social work. But now they are encapsulated in a coherent and updated framework that should support social work to provide answers to today's challenges. However, more research is needed to further operationalise and disseminate these principles in the professional field, society and social education. In doing so, it is important to align with the way in which social workers are already working towards these core objectives of social work.
In this project, we are doing this on the basis of research into neighbourhood teams. Attention to the neighbourhood level as the place for socially innovative interventions and for new forms of governance and cooperation between a variety of local actors has increased significantly in recent years. This shift towards the socialisation and inclusion of vulnerable citizens should provide an answer to various challenges that society is facing.
This project offers an excellent opportunity to understand the meaning of neighbourhood teams from the perspective of their current activities. Specifically, we examine how they shape their own working principles to address the issues at hand. These issues lie in societal challenges but also in the meaning other actors give to the activities of neighbourhood teams. Inspired by the activity theory and the activity system, we start from an analysis of the frictions between the current capacity to act and the repertoires of community workers and their working principles. From there, we look for levers to expand, keep open or adjust that current capacity to act and those repertoires. We do this by testing them against the principles of strong social work. At the same time, we ask the question of how these principles can be further operationalised on the basis of this research. In a rapidly changing social context, strengthening the DNA of primary social work is an important challenge.
The research question of the project is: how can frictions between working principles and action repertoires of neighbourhood teams further develop the DNA of strong social work with a view to strengthening primary social work?
This project contributes to the further development of the neighbourhood team model tested against the five principles and to the further operationalisation of the five principles of strong social work and the strengthening of primary social work.