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This chapter presents the origins, process, and findings of an online research project, Social Work in 40 Objects. The project is ongoing, and its aims are to explore the possibility of discovering meanings in social work through material objects and the stories that attach to them. The experiment is proving to be a quantitative success, with over 160 objects to date (2020) from 26 countries donated to a virtual exhibition of social work. Qualitative success is evident in the many facets of social work refracted through the objects and the wide variety of relationships to social work apparent in those who are participating. The research methodologies that support the experiment are explored, as well as the theoretical perspectives that have deepened the analysis of the findings: these include material culture theory and museum ethnography, especially the notion of ‘charged objects’. The ‘snowball’ method speeded and broadened the donation of objects and a ‘bricolage’ process helped in the playful clustering of groups of objects into themed ‘collections’. The chapter explores the learning from this experiment and presents a suggested typology of objects.

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This chapter describes the use of different artistic expression strategies in a participatory action research process. The protagonists of this project are young people with intellectual disabilities and their families in the context of a socio-occupational training programme at the university. The main objective of the research is to explore themes around the overprotection–autonomy continuum from the participants’ perspectives. A set of artistic techniques from different disciplines (visual art, performing art, and music) were used as a means to discuss and define the terms and their implications. Critically, this was in a participatory manner. At the beginning, the young people and their parents worked separately and independently following the same research steps and performing similar activities. The process and the methodology created opportunities to bridge the gap and increase mutual understanding that would not be possible through the daily interactions of normal life. Concrete examples are presented that highlight the benefits and difficulties of introducing activities not commonly found in a university environment. The analysis also includes a critical reflection about the possible use of art techniques in participatory action research projects with people with intellectual disabilities.

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Arts exposure and engagement have been used throughout the history of the social work profession, particularly in community-oriented forms of social work and social group work. As one of the leading voices of the settlement house movement, Jane Addams, along with cofounder Ellen Gates Starr, championed the use of the arts at the Chicago-based settlement, Hull House (). This practice lives on today as practitioners, researchers, and scholars argue for the inclusion of arts- and music-based activities in social work practice, education, and research (; ). While several expressive therapies have grown into substantial fields of practice with bodies of literature to support their efficacy and effectiveness (), including art, dance, music, and play therapies, these areas of practice tend to focus on micro-level interventions to address behavioural and medical health problems. There is a small but growing body of literature exploring the use of music-based activities to create opportunities for empowerment (Travis et al., and to engage participants’ talents, strengths, and interests (, While these studies show that music-based activities have the power and potential to engage, harness, and foster participants’ strengths, less is known about how these types of activities might be used as nondeliberative participatory research methods to build connection and community, particularly within groups. This chapter will explore this idea, beginning with brief reviews of Norma theory of nondeliberative practice and participatory research methods, followed by a case study of a research project I conducted that used audio documentary as a nondeliberative participatory research method.

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Academic and professional knowledge have dominated the history of social work research and practice. As a result, new knowledge has been grafted predominantly onto an existing base of professional authority and expertise. Arts-based research is emerging as an alternative approach to knowledge production, broadening the understanding of how scientific evidence is created and who is in the position to create it (). It is intended to open space for deliberately engaging with voices from the margin, hence rendering it a meaningful approach to advance social inclusion and social justice in and through social work research. In this chapter, we draw on our experience with arts-based research projects to contemplate this potential and to contribute to a critical dialogue regarding the impact of arts-based research on power relations and structures in social work academia and practice. We start by briefly introducing our research collective, explaining our rationale for working with arts-based methods, and describing two projects in which visual arts were used. We continue this chapter by elaborating on the merits and challenges of this methodology in relation to co-creating knowledge and altering power relations, derived from our own experiences in relation to the strand of literature on arts-based research.

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The situation of families and the transition to new motherhood are experiencing deep changes globally. Parental roles and family models are transforming from traditional ones. There is a growing concern about family needs and family’s socialising and educational function, which has led to the development of the positive parenting approach and family support measures, focusing on supporting parenting roles for optimal child development. But, what are mothers’ needs and challenges within their parenting role? What is their perspective of what parenting means? We have observed that, despite the advances made in terms of women´s rights and equality, motherhood still has profound implications for women´s lives and identities, as it is related to strong social expectations. Usually, maternal care is undertaken from within the physiological and medical frameworks, but such care rarely takes into account the emotional, relational, and cultural aspects of the transition to motherhood. In fact, cultural representations mostly show an idealised image of motherhood, making real mothers’ first-hand experiences invisible. From an intersectional feminist perspective, there is the need to develop new references and the collective imagination of what being a mother means. What kind of models of motherhood do we want to create? What could be the role of arts-based methods for understanding the needs of new mothers and family support? This chapter will present a research project set in Spain, which focused on exploring and evaluating arts-based support for new mothers and families (). The programme is in response to the Comprehensive Plan for Family Support 2015–2017 (Council of Ministers of Spain, 2015) and is focused on addressing the socio-cultural dimensions of reproduction and nurturing.

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‘Migrant children represent a significant share of the refugee population’ (IOM & UNICEF). Many are growing up in bleak conditions, surrounded by poverty and violence. Education is widely recognised as a mean to foster successful integration, but it is not always available or is sometimes too formal with a focus on the values, norms, and experiences of the native population. This can lead to migrant children and ethnic minority pupils gradually developing a sense of inferiority, irrelevance, and resentment (, p. 67) Fieldwork supports the importance of informal arts-based education by showing that ‘almost all youths enjoyed taking part in certain remedial and recreational educational activities. For most of them, participation in a wide range of off-site activities, such as language courses, football and basketball, music, painting, and break-dance classes, was a source of excitement’ (). Such engagement in combined educational and recreational activities has therefore led many educators to turn to art as a facilitator for learning, socialising, understanding a difficult past, and exploring new directions for the future. During the last 20 years, many artists have been contributing to these arts-based educational experiments. They are convinced that art has a role to play in providing a wider and more complex vision of reality. Then too, researchers have recognised art as a legitimate and useful methodological approach () to explore the acquisition of knowledge and social inclusion (). Arts-based research (ABR) uses art as a methodological research tool in its data generation, analysis, interpretation, and representation.

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This chapter focuses on how autoethnographic playwriting and performance can be used as research pursuits in social work. It lays out (1) a rationale for using playwriting and performance as a research method to engage in self-healing and to advance social change; (2) a case study including theoretical approach, research procedures, and dissemination; and (3) a discussion for future social work research and practice. Autoethnographic playwriting and performance provides a tool that researchers can use to explore the experiences of research participants.

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Research into arts-based interventions is complex as art cannot be directly translated into words. Increasingly, there has been a global incessant call for research into using the arts in a range of mental health disciplines. Ongoing debates over methodology, primarily quantitative and qualitative, persist and this just may affect one’s decision to engage in research. However, research is needed for a range of reasons including providing evidence of the integrity of a discipline, asserting core competencies of practitioners, for third party and stakeholder purposes including advocacy, the formation of relevant laws, protections, and access to services, and, of course, to highlight emerging trends and contemporary best practices to effectively address a plethora of the complex needs of clients. As such, arts-based practitioners are uniquely situated to make significant contributions to the research base given their direct engagement with the arts with individuals, families, communities, and society at large (; ). Art is rich with metaphor and symbol, and often can be accessed and applied when answers to questions are not easily obtained nor addressed through words alone, even if the art may seem abstract at first (; ; ; ; ). Indeed, art is not the opposite of research as in the dichotomic paradigm of arts versus science, but rather art, and art making, are a type of research in and of themselves, just as research can also involve creativity and nonlinear engagement (; ).

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