The background for the Norwegian participation in PowerUs is the course “Empowerment: meeting face to face creates new insights” (5 ECTS-points) at Lillehammer University College. Since 2009 the course has been organised as a joint course for bachelor students in social work and social education together with students with experiences as users of welfare services. About 80 internal and 50 external students have since taken part in the course.
The course is inspired by the integrated course at Lund University. The title of the course, “Empowerment: Meeting face to face gives insights”, declares the goal: to create new insights for both groups. The intention is to give the participants new knowledge about the possible implications of marginalisation and powerlessness and how they could be challenged when user knowledge and professional competence are regarded as equally valid approaches to these problems. More specifically the goals are to give the students insight into:
- How power and powerlessness are created in the relationship between service users and professionals
- What empowerment can involve at different levels (individual/systemic level)
- How user competence and professional competence can complement each other
- How empowerment can be realised in practice
Most of the external students have experiences connected to mental-health problems and are recruited through their user organisation or a user-led regional centre. Another main group has user experiences relating to drug abuse. Additionally some students have user experiences caused by physical impairments, sensory impairments and more mixed problems. At the end of the course the students in mixed groups elaborate an idea for a project promoting empowerment and present and discuss their ideas in a plenary session.
The evaluations from the students show that both internal and external students have come to new understandings about each other and about the use of theoretical concepts in practice. At the same time the relationship challenges established attitudes and roles. The course make both parties reflect upon their roles and attitudes. The “us-and-them” distinction between the parties dwindles.
The following article in English is published from the project: O.P. Askheim: “Meeting face to face creates new insights: Recruiting persons with user experiences as students in an educational programme in social work”. Social Work Education, July 2011: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2011.590972
Contact person for the project is Ole Petter Askheim at Lillehammer University College: firstname.lastname@example.org