Saturday, January 15, 2022: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
Independence BR B, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement
Tanzilya Oren, MA, MSW, Columbia University, Maryann Broxton, ATD Fourth World, Cristina Diez, ATD Fourth World and Virginie Charvon, ATD Fourth World
Social workers are at the forefront of the fight against poverty, whether through direct interventions, the creation of knowledge, or the elaboration of social policies and programs. And yet training of social workers in the U.S. is based almost entirely on academic and practitioners' learning and not on the knowledge and direct experiences of people who are the intended beneficiaries of social policies and programs. We hypothesize that if social work students and researchers understand the lived experience of people in poverty and build on the knowledge of people living in poverty, they will be able to develop policies and programs that are better suited to eradicating poverty. At the same time, by recognizing their own experience and knowledge, people in poverty become agents in their relationships with institutions and their communities. This workshop introduces the Merging of Knowledge approach to social work education and practice, the results of piloting this approach in two Universities, and an example of an international project conducted using this methodology. Merging of Knowledge is an expansion of the participatory method that the International Movement ATD Fourth World has developed over decades of work alongside people living in poverty. The difference with the traditional community-based participatory methodologies is that Merging of Knowledge recognizes that at least three types of knowledge are equal and necessary to address poverty - the knowledge of people with direct experience of poverty, practitioners' knowledge, and academic knowledge. Merging of Knowledge is a tool to meaningfully include people living in poverty in knowledge production and discussions of solutions to overcome poverty. Different perspectives intersect, and new knowledge can emerge from a step-by-step process involving a series of in-depth interactive discussions among different peer groups and during the joint sessions. This approach brings people from different socio-economic backgrounds together and leverages the field so that the disadvantages in education, language, culture, communication, and analysis skills can be reduced to create an environment of mutual trust and respect in which all participants feel that they are on an equal footing. Using the Merging of Knowledge principles and tools and the results of the recent projects, the members of the ATD Social Work Training Project will discuss the following questions: (1) What are the conditions so people with a direct experience of poverty can meaningfully participate and have an impact in social work classrooms and practice settings? (2) How to design meaningful dialogue and a decision-making process where power is equally distributed around the table? We will use the Merging of Knowledge guidelines, tips for facilitators, general and specific designs to ensure that we think together. (3) How to evaluate the educational outcomes and practice changes with the direct inputs of the people involved in this process? Using this unique approach tested over forty years of bringing together people from vastly different backgrounds, social work students, practitioners and researchers can create the conditions necessary to include diverse voices and gain a more nuanced, accurate, and effective understanding of the complex issues of poverty.
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