Institutional Practices and Interaction at the Margins of Welfare Services

MARGI reseach group

MARGI research group focuses on social and welfare work among adults, specifically mental health, substance abuse, and supported housing services. The services are located at the margins of welfare services and targeted to vulnerable people living in difficult conditions and suffering from various problems. Thus, we conduct research that is closely connected to issues of participation, inequality, and poverty. For example, our recent research projects have focused on the responsibilisation of workers and clients in mental health and substance abuse services, homelessness and the Housing First principle, pathways of homelessness and services, the meaning of home, home-based service interactions at various supported housing settings, housing social work, segregation and gentrification, and multidisciplinary and integrated work in complex client cases (see projects).

In studying services our main interest is on everyday grass-roots level practices. Therefore, we focus on institutional encounters between workers and clients or among workers, including face-to-face conversations as well as virtual or text-based interactions. As data, we use recordings from naturally occurring client-worker conversations, multi-party case conferences, workers’ team meetings, interviews with various stakeholders as well as documents and field notes. We also use some register data as additional data for specific research projects. We analyse grass-roots level practices in situ as here and now practices but with a special interest on how workers and clients orient to prevailing welfare policies and discourses.

The methodological roots of our research are based on social constructionism and ethnomethodology. Accordingly, we apply various discursive and text analysis in scrutinising everyday institutional encounters. Depending on the research design, we also use other methodologies, such as critical realism or quantitative methods. We often conduct analysis jointly with workers and clients and utilise the ideas of participatory and action research to develop service practices at the margins of welfare. The most important international network for the MARGI research group is Discourse and Narrative Approaches to Social Work and Counselling (DANASWAC), which organises yearly seminars and joint publication projects.