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  • Author or Editor: Sascha Van Gijzel x
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In this chapter, we describe and analyse a collaborative practice in social work education that is applied in a similar way in different European educational institutions, namely co-teaching in tandem. For the purpose of the chapter, we focus solely on the Flemish (Belgium) and Dutch (the Netherlands) context, since both have many characteristics in common. Typically, the involvement of service users has started with the involvement of people with experiences of poverty and social exclusion. Flanders is internationally known for its participatory anti-poverty policy. Through a scientifically informed, structural vision of poverty integrated in policy thinking, we focus on ‘vulnerable people in society’ who have multi-dimensional problems but also many strengths. With the recognition and subsidisation of associations wherein people in poverty cooperate to influence policy and practice (Dierckx and Francq, 2010) and of the non-profit organisation De Link – which since 1999 has developed the methodology and a training programme for ‘experts by experience in poverty and social exclusion’ (Spiesschaert, 2005) – Flanders, with the act on the fight against poverty (Decreet betreffende de armoedebestrijding, 2003), has enabled people in poverty to participate in anti-poverty policy and practices (Driessens and Goris, 2016). De Link stimulated ‘working in tandem with an educated expert by experience’ in various settings. Bind-Kracht, anchored at the Karel de Grote University of Applied Sciences and Arts, developed training programmes in qualitative social work, in which people in poverty are recruited by the associations together with researchers and lecturers. Both organisations inspired lecturers from universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands to implement this method of working in tandem in their own educational programmes (Bouwes and Philips, 2016).

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In our Research Centre for Social Innovation, which is part of Utrecht University of Applied Sciences (the Netherlands), we are developing ways to involve service users in education and research in the field of social work. There are several reasons for this development. Firstly, we believe in the value of social inclusion. Since social workers promote ‘social cohesion based on principles of social justice, human rights, and respect for diversity’, according to the international definition (IFSW and IASSW, 2014), social workers by default contribute to social inclusion. We believe that students should not only be taught theories about social inclusion but should also experience what inclusion and exclusion mean in the daily lives of service users. This means that stories of people experiencing exclusion should be part of education. The second reason is that the best way to hear stories and to acquire understanding about discrimination and stigmatisation is to listen directly to people with these experiences and engage in dialogue. Therefore, we invite people into the classroom, or vice versa, the students into the places where people live. We often use the tandem model developed in Flanders by Driessens and others (Driessens and Van Regenmortel, 2006; Vansevenant et al, 2008) for working together with people with mild intellectual disabilities. We also use gap-mending principles as developed in Sweden and throughout the PowerUs network (Heule et al, 2017; Askheim et al, 2018;). 1 More and more we use the experiences of students themselves; for instance, their experiences with illness, impairment or family care. We do this, for example, in a peer-supported recovery course for students with mental health experiences (Karbouniaris and Wilken, 2019), and in our learning teams, small groups of students form a learning and support group throughout the programme (Van Slagmaat and Karbouniaris, 2020).

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