Participatory research and relational social work: an intersection of knowledge

Chiara Panciroli, Giulia Avancini, Francesca Corradini

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in libroContributo a convegno


The model of Participatory Research (PR) has been used for a long time in the field of social research, particularly in social work research (Fleming et al., 2014). In this context, its use is growing, and is suitable for investigating conditions such as vulnerability and social fragility (Aldridge, 2015). Within the Research Centre on Relational Social Work of the Milan Catholic University, researchers are experimenting with participatory research methods in different fields (poverty and social exclusion, elderly people suffering from dementia, child protection and foster care). In this research the participatory methodology was used in investigating a particular methodological paradigm known as Relational Social Work (RSW) (Folgheraiter, 1998; 2003; 2007) and connections between the two areas were observed and studied. More specifically, it was possible to observe that the fundamental principles inspiring the RSW model are able to provide PR with a clear theoretical framework and that the operational RSW methodology can offer useful guidelines applicable in the context of PR. In the oral presentation, we will highlight the contribution that Relational social work can offer to participatory research in order to better explain the basic steps of the research, the role of the participants and how we can address some critical issues. The guiding value principles of RSW are the same that can be found in PR: promotion of empowerment, enhancement of experiential skills of citizens and service users, reciprocity in the process construction and recognition of equality between practitioners and service-users, and promotion of an anti-oppressive work perspective. Starting from these inspiring principles, the methodology developed in RSW can contribute significantly to defining the role of researchers in PR, intended as a facilitator of joint work and relationships within the group, and that of co-researchers, whom can be seen as a coping network moving collaboratively towards shared purposes. Even during the various stages of a research, it is possible to derive meaningful insights from RSW. In particular, the initial phase is crucial, since in it all participants are required to jointly define the purpose and recognise themselves as members of a group (or network) in which each member provides a unique and priceless contribution, regardless of the professional role. Starting from this setting it is possible to promote real, non-rhetorical participation across all research phases and the helping process. From RSW it is also possible to obtain elements to constructively address some critical issues and ethical questions that open within PR. Firstly, we can reflect about the gap from the freedom of expression of co-researchers and the need to ensure the scientific value of research. Secondly, RSW can help to go beyond the imbalance of power between professional researchers and “experts by experience”.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospite7TH EUROPEAN CONFERENCE FOR SOCIAL WORK RESEARCH. Challenges in social work research - conflicts, barriers and possibilities in relation to social work
Numero di pagine2
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2017
Durata: 19 apr 201721 apr 2017




  • Relational Social Work
  • participatory research


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