ERG SES H 09, Inclusive Education
Research highlights the importance of professionals working with people in vulnerable situations to see and assume political participation as an integral and relevant part of their work (Weiss-Gal, 2016).Several authors emphasize the political power of community intervention (Coimbra, Duckett, Fryer, Makkawi, Menezes, Seedat & Walker, 2012; Reich, Riemer, Prilleltensky & Montero, 2007) and advocate the prioritization of social justice and a praxis that promotes awareness, conscientization and the transformation of oppressive structures (Freire, 1970, Martin-Baró, 1986; Menezes, 2007).
The vision of educational/social/community intervention as political, critical, emancipatory and liberating (Freire, 1970) reinforces the importance of problematizing and understanding the work of educational, social and community intervention professionals, as an intrinsically political work, which can be based on differentiated conceptions about the purposes to be favored by education/intervention with oppressed populations.
There is no guarantee that the commitment to social transformation, as a critical and political process, is implemented in education/intervention with oppressed populations (Freitas, 2010), and that professionals’ appreciation of social justice and transformative action is synonymous of their effective implementation (Speight & Vera, 2008). All in all, and despite the fact that political action towards social justice is embedded in the professionals’ discourse, little is known about their engagement in this process (Weiss-Gal, 2016).
Hence, a growing body of research underlines the need to understand why and how these professionals engage with political work, namely with activism, to identify the dimensions that promote and inhibit this involvement, understand the changes that occur in professional role perceptions to fit the forms of political engagement and to know how it is implemented (Goodman et al., 2004; Petrarca, 2016; Speight & Vera, 2008, Weiss-Gal, 2016) considering its valuable power as an educational/intervention tool towards social justice. Moreover, it is important to open up spaces for professionals to tell their experiences to inspire others and legitimize this important work of political influence of policies and practices (Wolff, 2013).
Considering activism potential as an educational/intervention tool to counteract exclusion and oppression and assuming our commitment to social justice, we have been developing this research project intending to answer the needs identified in literature, through the conceptualization and characterization of activism as a professional practice, in the scope of educational, social and community intervention with people in vulnerable situations.
Focusing the Portuguese context, this project will answer the following research questions: How is activism constructed as work practice by professionals doing educational, social and community intervention with people in vulnerable situations? How do they engage with Activism?What type of action and value-orientations do they assume? What are the potential impacts of this type of activism?
This project will integrate a mixed method design with three complementary studies, aiming to accomplish the following objectives: 1)
Explore the meanings of “professional activism” in educational, social and community intervention; 2) To know why and how professionals engage with this type of activism, and the factors that favor or inhibit it; 3) Understand how professionals, target populations, and stakeholders experience activism in these contexts.
It is also planned to explore the research object in Brazil – and establish bridges of knowledge with the Portuguese context –, as this constitutes a context of reference in the field of educational/social/community intervention, especially thanks to its roots in the Freirean pedagogy of liberation and popular education.
Our proposed contribution for this paper communication consists in the project presentation, focusing mainly on the results of the Study 1, that answering the project objective 1, consists of a reflexion on the concepts and meanings attributed to activism by educational, social and community professionals/activists.
This project integrates a mixed method design with three complementary studies: Study 1 – Semi-structured interviews were applied to professionals more and less experienced in activism, to explore this professional field, its concepts and meanings. Study 2 – A cross-sectional study with a questionnaire to will be applied to professionals, including questions related to related to socio-demographic characteristics, personal experience and contextual dimensions which, according to the study 1 results and the literature, contribute to explain the involvement with activism (Speight & Vera, 2008; Nilsson Nilsson, Schale, & Khamphakdy-Brown, 2011; Torres-Harding, Siers, & Olson, 2012). Study 3 – Two short-term ethnographies, intending to explore how professionals produce and transform their knowledge on Activism, how is it implemented and experienced. This paper will present the findings from study 1, involving semi-structured interviews with 8 professionals with diverse socio-demographic characteristics (gender, age, …), professional field, and experience in “professional activism”. Data will be analyzed using Thematic Analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) and Nvivo. The interview script will explore the experiences of these professionals, the motivations, and perceived barriers as well as the perceived benefits (and downsides). The potential effectiveness of “professional activism” for transforming practices and policies, and to generate social change, will also be explored.
We believe this project will bring relevant contributions to the scientific knowledge in educational sciences and to future research and intervention in the field of Activism, namely through the provision of in-depth knowledge about the educational character of Activism for professionals and their professional practice; and about the educational orientation that Activism assumes in its practical implementation, which principles/values are inherent to it, which purposes/aims. This paper will bring new relevant contributes to research about “professional activism”, reflecting on how this professional field is constructed – which concepts and meanings define it; how professionals experience Activism as a professional practice – the motivations, promoters, barriers and benefits; and about their engagement with Activist practices committed to social transformation.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative research in psychology, 3 (2), 77-101. Coimbra, J. L., Duckett, P., Fryer, D., Makkawi, I., Menezes, I., Seedat, M., & Walker, C. (2012). Rethinking community psychology: Critical insights. The Australian Community Psychologist, 24(2), 135-142. Freire, P. (2002 ). Pedagogia do Oprimido. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Paz e Terra. Freitas, M. F. (2010). Community Psychology as Political Education and Awareness Raising: Resistances and Possibilities in Everyday Life-Suggestion for a Model of Analysis. In Acosta, E.M. (Ed.), International Community Psychology: Community Approaches to Contemporary Social Problems Vol.I (pp.73-93). Puebla, México: Universidad IberoAmericana Puebla. Goodman, L. A., Liang, B., Helms, J. E., Latta, R. E., Sparks, E., & Weintraub, S. R. (2004). Training counseling psychologists as social justice agents: Feminist and multicultural principles in action. The Counseling Psychologist, 32, 793-837. doi:10.1177/0011000004268802 Martín-Baró, I. (1986). Hacia una psicología de la liberación. Boletín de Psicología, 22, 219-231. Menezes, I. (2007). Intervenção comunitária:Uma perspectiva psicológica. Porto, Portugal: Livpsic. Nilsson, J. E., Schale, C. L., & Khamphakdy-Brown, S. (2011). Facilitating trainees' multicultural development and social justice advocacy through a refugee/immigrant mental health program. Journal of Counseling and Development, 89(4), 413-422. Petrarca, F. R. (2016). Carreira profissional e ativismo social: as lógicas do engajamento na defesa de causas. Estudos de Sociologia, 21(40), 99-116. Reich, S., Riemer, M., Prilleltensky, I., & Montero, M. (2007). International community psychology. New York, USA: Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. Speight, S. L., & Vera, E. M. (2008). Social justice and counseling psychology: A challenge to the profession. In Brown, S. D., & Lent, R. W. (Eds.), Handbook of counseling psychology (pp.54-67). Torres-Harding, S. R., Siers, B., & Olson, B. D. (2012). Development and psychometric evaluation of the Social Justice Scale (SJS). American Journal of Community Psychology, 50(1-2), 77-88. Weiss‐Gal, I. (2016). Social workers’ policy engagement: A review of the literature. International Journal of Social Welfare, 26(3), 285-298. doi: 10.1111/ijsw.12239 Wolff, T. (2013). A community psychologist's involvement in policy change at the community level: Three stories from a practitioner. Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice, 4(2), 2-12.
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