Mariusz Granosik, Anita Gulczyńska, Małgorzata Kostrzyńska, Brian Littlechild (Eds.): Participatory Social Work: Research, Practice, Education. Łódź: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego, 2019

Gunther Graßhoff

Although Participatory Action Research (PAR) approaches are currently used in many studies, methodological reflection and even handbooks have not yet progressed as extensively. Above all, there is a lack of specific discussion for the field of social work, because special challenges have to be overcome here. It is not easy to edit a collected international monograph about Participatory Social Work, because research and social work “practise” is defined very differently in different countries. The editors have explained the idea of the book in the introduction very convincingly. Participatory approaches raise anew the issues of credibility of knowledge, its creation and relationship to politics. The book has a “longer history” and is the result of a discussion about PAR in different professional, disciplinary and theoretical contexts. It focuses on methodological and practical experiences of the approach with a more radical perspective. Not only opportunities but also pitfalls and challenges are worked out. The book can be read as a methodological introduction to the theory and practice of PAR. The PAR theme is difficult to structure (theorise) due to its open nature, and the approach is still struggling for academic recognition, especially against positivist approaches. The structure of the book is good, there are separate parts on community work, intercultural participation, participatory issues in academic education, but also on the challenges of this approach. The last part is a reconstruction of current debates representing enthusiastic as well as critical voices. The editors did a good job in supporting the writing process of the authors. Most of the chapters have a similar composition but not the same, because authors need some space to be “creative”. Not all articles are at the same academic level, but in general the book is very important, some chapters even groundbreaking, and show new perspectives on PAR in international discourse. Though we have many publications on this topic, fewer articles focus on the implementation and reflection of PAR. In this respect, the monograph is innovative, because new perspectives on PAR are being worked out and aspects (theoretical, empirical, practical and methodological) are reflected. The international examples, particularly how service users are included as co-researchers, are important not only as examples of good practice, but also as experiences that need to be compared. This is particularly noteworthy, since there are fewer concrete experiences of peer research. Also new is the examination of 66 Book Reviews SP/SP 1/2019 questions of coproduced education and studies. Generally, the book offers important insights as well as ideas on how PAR is understood, processed and advanced in different counties. At the end of the review, one criticism could be raised. Although the publication is definitely interesting for the academic community, it may be not so interesting for professionals and service users. Most of the contributions are written in a very academic style. The question might be raised here: how can coproduced knowledge be disseminated for wider groups of interest with the regimes of academic standards for peer-reviewed publication?



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