Detailed Program of the Conference

Parallel session - E.10.2 Reinventing University. Public Engagement As Participative And Collective University
Thursday, 03/June/2021:
2:15pm - 4:30pm

Session Chair: Fiorella Vinci
Session Chair: Tiziana Tarsia
Session Chair: Vincenza Pellegrino
Location: Room 6

Session Panels:
E.10. Reinventing University. Public Engagement as Participative and Collective University

External Resource:


Mara Sanfelici1, Andrea Bilotti2

1University of Trieste, Italy; 2University of Siena, Italy

In the last two decades, social work practice has been substantially influenced by advancements in digital technologies and media. A well-established body of literature describes the history of technology in social work and the potentially transformative impact of digitisation on professional practice. Digital media can be useful to help deliver and enhance communication with service users and facilitate the access to services. Technologies are being used to engage hard-to-reach and more marginal populations. Moreover, digital media can be effective to foster the active participation and inclusion of community members as equal partners in designing services or action-research projects and interventions.

Teaching social work students to work effectively with digital media is of paramount importance to understand emerging forms of technology, their potentials and challenges, and the ethical use of digital tools in micro and macro practice. Moreover, generally today students are more aware of technology capabilities and skilled in using digital media; valuing their competencies is the main purpose, when education is oriented by a collaborative learning approach, within a process of constant evaluation of results achieved in practice.

Our paper will present the findings from a research project carried out to evaluate the output and the impact of a Digital Social Work Laboratory. The aim of the project was to develop knowledge, competencies and critical reflection on social advocacy interventions mediated by digital technologies, within a participatory approach. A critical pedagogy oriented the overall project, to foster critical thinking and train the participants to challenge mainstream worldviews that can lead to oppressive practice and discrimination. The Laboratory was organized at the University of Trieste and the University of Siena, with both MSW and BA students. The Laboratory involved students and academics in a process of co-construction of knowledge, aimed at developing and evaluating an educational approach to empower more oppressed and marginalized people. The aim was twofold: on the one hand, fostering awareness and critical reflection on social issues that require collective responsibility (e.g. poverty, climate change, gender discrimination); on the other hand, sharing and increasing competencies in the use of social media technologies to promote social development. The participants worked in small heterogeneous groups to conduct an analysis of a targeted issue, draft an intervention and an evaluation plan, and implement the project. Data collection and data analysis on the emerging potentials and issues were related to four areas: a) social work techniques to foster active participation and inclusion of vulnerable groups b) knowledge and skills for the use of digital technologies c) the service users experience d) the impact of the intervention. The final evaluation is based on indicators to assess the increase of competences in digital advocacy, digital communication, practice evaluation, and the participants’ level of engagement and motivation in digital social work practice. The laboratory, oriented by a project-based experimental learning approach, was considered as a space for self-learning, reflexivity and learning by doing.


Tiziana Tesauro1, Alfonso Amendola2

1Irpps-Cnr, Italy; 2Università degli Studi di Salerno

A crucial question that seems to come to the attention of scholars (but also of organizations) concerns the need to increasingly direct the interest of the training action towards the experiences of the trainees in the awareness that they themselves have a wealth of practical knowledge, gained in the field. They are also aware of their subjective autonomy and ability to find innovative solutions in professional practice which is filled not only with technical, specific knowledge, such as institutional and scientific knowledge, but above all, with an experiential knowledge linked to what concretely they do when they work. For this reason, professional training can be oriented towards the experiences of those who work in organizations. A great variety of training methods are oriented in this direction which Lipari (2008) groups in a single category briefly defined as "methods beyond the classroom" where the beyond does not only indicate the possibility of physically overcoming the walls of the classroom to imagine spaces and alternative training settings, but it indicates an approach to training that goes beyond the traditional practices of transmissive teaching to focus on the subjects and their ability to learn from their professional experience. The methods beyond the classroom are oriented towards the development of reflexivity. This attitude is the founding feature of the subject's ability to learn. Learning, in this frame of reference, is not a mental and individual process, but an experiential, emotional and cognitive process, linked to the sphere of intersubjective relationships that each subject experiences in a given situation, it is an interactive, social and situated process. (Lave and Wenger, 1990; Wenger, 1998). The methods that stimulate these forms of learning can form the reflective practitioner (Schön, 1993), a practitioner capable of reflecting in action and reflecting on his own reflections in action.

The theater workshop fits within the framework of the methods "beyond the classroom" not only because it configures its setting not as a traditional school classroom, but above all because it focuses on the subjects and their ability to learn from their professional experience, elaborating and transforming it with the help of theatrical techniques. The presentation will analyze the training experience in Naples with social workers (Tesauro 2019) showing how the theater workshop, through experiential and engaging learning, has developed reflexivity in action in social workers.


Lave J. e Wenger E., 1990, Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Lipari D., 2008, Metodi della formazione ‘oltre l’aula’: apprendere nelle ‘comunità di pratica’, in

Schön D.A., 1993, Il professionista riflessivo: per una nuova epistemologia della pratica professionale, Bari, Edizioni Dedalo.

Tesauro 2019, Trame Il teatro sociale e la formazione degli operatori socio-sanitari, Milano, Franco Angeli.

Wenger E., 1998, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity, Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press.


Chiara Morteo1, Vincenza Pellegrino2, Irene Valota3

1University of Bologna \ Centro Interculturale Parma; 2University of Parma \ Centro Interculturale Parma; 3Centro Interculturale Parma

This abstract analyses a research and at the same time didactic experience that insists on a knowledge process that starts from a "collective self-analysis", that is, from the reflection on what is daily and (auto)biographical in order to turn it into a social theory, to better understand the system of power in which we ourselves are immersed. Specifically, a group of women from different cultural and social backgrounds - the Sguardi Incrociati group born in Parma in 2013 from a collaboration between the Intercultural Centre and the University - conduct an autobiographical writing workshop with students as part of a course on the sociology of globalisation. This allows them to learn about complex notions such as 'culture', 'identity', 'migration', by putting them into the mechanisms of everyday life, without oversimplifications, abstractions, 'culturalisation' of immigrants and so on.

The group, made up of around 15 women, proposes a method of self-analysis of social relations which involves taking turns to speak in public, to become a "chorus": at the beginning, each woman writes about herself, then associates herself by similarity or dissonance with the story of another, so as to link the stories in a particular order, which allows us to reason about what we have in common and thus to draw general considerations together. "It is the choral narrative that creates a space to save", says one participant, "safe and reassuring at the same time, which acts as a sounding board for analyses of society". The exchange of images, stories, biographies, cultures and different traditions, their mixing without losing their uniqueness, gives life to a "de facto cross-fertilisation", to quote one of the participants, in which individual subjectivities are placed beyond any easy labelling.

By proposing the same working method to students, they can place their own story within a generational and cultural history through their narratives read out in the classroom. The exchange of autobiographical fragments creates a very special space of mutual attention, which changes learning processes about history and society. In this sense, we are convinced that this case of university research and teaching is emblematic of a different way of developing social reflexivity: the aim of the university here is not to make everyone repeat notions, but to make everyone a researcher starting from the collective self-analysis of what is happening in the world today.

Bringing one's own individual experience to the public and connecting it to that of others serves to place the individual story within the collective one, and in this way the university space is regenerated, making it a space for the 'production' of contemporary knowledge rather than the 'consumption' of notions.




This contribution focuses on two themes: the role of the ethnographer as a mediator between academic world and social world; the educational function of the research expressed in the interactions between social workers, homeless people, and researcher. The paper refers to a doctoral research project (2018-2019) that has as main objective the exploration of the relationship between homeless people and social workers in a city in Southern Italy. This relationship can be defined as structural, in terms of a persistent pattern between social positions, because it represents an asymmetrical power relationship aimed at promoting change. The relative-relational approach to the study of poverty considers its symbolic- relational element as a determining dimension: the definition of the poor depends on the social and cultural context of reference and, consequently, changes with the frames that policies and social workers have. According to the theory of gift, inequality of position is a necessary condition for achieving the exchange that makes relations between people burn and grow. However, what constitutes inequality is the absence of reciprocity. The main questions guiding the research are: how policies are influencing the context and the organisation of services at a street level; how actors perceive and describe themselves and their relationship; whether there is reciprocity and how this affects their lives and the construction of knowledge around the issue of social work and homelessness. Thus, the research looks at the organisation of the network and the places where this relationship takes shape, the stories of the actors involved, their experiences of the relationship and the meaning they attribute to it. A mixed-methods approach is adopted to combine urban and organisational ethnography and the study of networks. The subjects involved are voluntary and professional street social workers, homeless people, and city dwellers. The ethnography (February 2019 - February 2020) integrates four types of tools: participant observations, ethnographic conversation, in-depth interviews, and oral histories. The main findings we found concern: the stratification among homeless people that the tiered model of the service system tends to create; the tension between role and self that social workers and homeless people deal with differently; the presence of reciprocity at a micro level of interaction and the absence of reciprocity at a macro level of interaction.