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Paper Abstract

Summer School 

3-7 September 2023, Sarajevo 

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Innovative Social Work Research in Southeast Europe: Integrating Justice, Human Rights, and Civic Engagement

A globally accepted definition of social work as a practice-based profession and an academic discipline (IASW, 2014) helps bridge the gap between the two components of social work: “academic” and the “field.” Indeed, traditionally this has been a complex and often, not an easily harmonious relationship. Research is the foundation of every academic discipline and profession. Research has been part of the social work discipline from the outset encompassing diverse methodologies such as needs assessment, practice evaluation, data collection on social problems, seeking to understand the experience of people with whom social workers work, exploring the dilemmas and contradictions of practice and (Ife, 2012) making visible the limitations of the welfare state and social policy. 

Today, social work research represents a vibrant activity with diverse epistemologies and methodologies gaining recognition and relevance. The time when social work was considered as lagging in research, and as a result labeled a “weak science” are past. Social work research has developed in scope, quantity, and quality recognizing and valuing diverse forms of knowledge production, embracing hermeneutics, emancipatory, local and indigenous forms of knowledge. Social work research also promotes research methodologies that give voice to service users, taking into account service users’ knowledge as equally relevant to scholarly knowledge, hence paving the way toward co-creation of knowledge, and embarking on participatory action research.  

In the last two decades, social work research has gained new momentum and relevance. Knowledge production is crucial for evidence-based policy-making to address social issues and promote social justice. Research plays an important role in social work, informing public policy and interventions to improve the well-being of individuals, families and communities. Research enables a deeper understanding of the social, economic, and cultural factors that impact the lives of persons and communities that social work is mandated and seeks to serve, and identify effective measures to address the challenges they face. Moreover, research provides valuable insights into different ways and modes of living in a given society, the logic behind and justification of human action, and is fundamental to formal education and civic engagement against prejudice and discrimination. 

In SEE countries, there is a longstanding social work research community, part of the global systems of knowledge production. Social work education is located predominantly wholly within universities and hence the bulk of social work research is conducted in academia. Diverse stakeholders engage in research to inform evidence-based public policy. Social work academics in the departments of social work are actively involved in the creation of new knowledge for social work curriculum and practice to support the vision of the SEE, part of the European Union.  Social work scholars in SEE are developing new, creative, and imaginative research methodologies to capture the new ontology of the SEE region shaped by deeply rooted authoritarianism, the legacy of violent ethnic conflicts and nationalism, and the rising social and economic inequalities. The social work research community is extending existing and developing new epistemologies and pedagogies in social work education for equitable access to welfare, social development, and an actively engaged citizenry. 

Social work research reflects the values of the profession.  That is, it encompasses human dignity and human rights, the individual right to development, social justice, social change, and the empowerment of people, and as well, it takes into account the ethics of responsibility for the “Other” as an epistemological principle.

The second summer school entitled “Innovative Social Work Research in Southeast Europe: Integrating Justice, Human Rights, and Civic Engagement” aims at showcasing, promoting and reflecting on diverse methodologies that lead towards social change, democratization, and just citizenship across the SEE region. The aim of the summer school is twofold: (i) to educate social work students to become critically minded users of research, and (ii) to educate the next generation of social work researchers to engage critically on epistemologies and methodologies in research and practice for social development, democratization, and social justice. 

The Summer School, an endeavor of the Southeast Women’s Academic Leadership Network, is organized by the University of Sarajevo and the University of Prishtina. The Summer school will take place on 3-7 September 2023 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Funding has been provided by the Dennis A. and Julia M. Watkins Foundation.


SUMMER SCHOOL 2023: Innovative Social Work Research in Southeast Europe: Integrating Justice, Human Rights, and Civic Engagement,  Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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