Session: Peer Co-Production of Human Services: How Staff with Lived Experience Make Differences in Service Provision Processes in Diverse Service Fields (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

102 Peer Co-Production of Human Services: How Staff with Lived Experience Make Differences in Service Provision Processes in Diverse Service Fields

Wednesday, January 20, 2021: 6:30 PM-7:30 PM
Cluster: Organizations & Management
Symposium Organizer:
Sunggeun (Ethan) Park, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Theresa Anasti, PhD, Oakland University
Preservation of service users' autonomy and self-determination have historically been core values of the Social Work profession. To better understand and accommodate service users' complex and multifaceted needs, service users and providers are expected to collaborate in ways including sharing users' experiential knowledge and providers' technical expertise, discussing the implications of multiple care options, and determining mutually agreeable care plans. However, due to the lack of trust and working communication channels between service users and providers, such collaborations might be difficult in some fields--particularly those serving the most vulnerable and stigmatized populations. Service users might be unwilling to work with service providers based on prior experiences of stigma and coercion. Service providers might be reluctant to work with service users who may be characterized as undeserving, untrustworthy, and manipulative. Despite these challenges, many human service organizations and their providers strive to engage service users in service provision processes. One such effort is hiring service providers with shared lived experience or vulnerable identities of service users (e.g., experience of intimate partner violence, experience of behavioral disorder, being racial/ethnic minorities, etc.) as mediators and translators between service users and providers--a mechanism referred to as peer co-production.

The use of the peer co-production mechanism can be found across human service fields (e.g., domestic violence shelters, substance use disorder treatment clinics, immigrant community-based organizations, etc.). Most research on staff with lived experience is focused on their clinical effectiveness as service providers with little attention on other roles they play. Organizations may have various motives for hiring staff with lived experience. Normatively, some organizations may believe it is the right thing to do (e.g., providing employment opportunities for individuals who have completed an organization's job training programs). Practically, some may expect staff with lived experience to practice (and educate other staff members on) culturally sensitive and trauma-informed practices to improve service responsiveness and effectiveness. Although less discussed, organizations may also prefer to hire staff with lived experience with limited employment options to save labor expenses. With different motives, how organizations use, the outcomes of, and how service users experience the peer co-production mechanism may vary. Besides, it is important to understand how and why the peer co-production mechanism produces adverse outcomes, so managers and practitioners can anticipate and identify ways to reduce shortcomings while leveraging strengths.

This symposium is an attempt to demonstrate the importance of the peer co-production mechanism in social work practice and showcase current studies exploring diverse peer co-production efforts and their implications in multiple service fields. Four papers included in this symposium explore how peer co-production is used in the fields of substance use services, higher education, and HIV prevention with various methodical approaches--from quantitative analysis of a representative dataset to case study, from multi-level mixed-methods to in-depth interviews. This symposium invites social work scholars to examine the unique capacities and expertise of staff with lived experience in diverse human service settings and encourage practitioners and managers to reconsider their perspectives on staff with lived experience.

* noted as presenting author
Peer Co-Production in Syringe Exchange Programs
Theresa Anasti, PhD, Oakland University
Implementing Change: Analysis of an Epis-Based Peer Co-Production Capacity Building Intervention
Megan Stanton, PhD, MSW, Eastern Connecticut State University; Samira Ali, PhD, LMSW, University of Houston; Marcus Stanley, MPH, University of Houston
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