Laboratories for professionalization? Associations and the coordination in the social welfare sector in Switzerland.

Research shows that, up until the 80s, measures characterized by coercion and violence were hardly placed under supervision in Switzerland’s confusing and unclear welfare landscape. Thereby, it is often lost from sight that at the same time, an active professional public throughout all of Switzerland criticized the resulting arbitrariness and demanded the introduction of comprehensive guidelines.

  • Project description (ongoing research project)

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    The project investigates how and in which context actors throughout Switzerland attempted to bind Switzerland’s heterogeneous social welfare system to common standards. We will address the question as to who introduced which arguments at national level and how criteria and guidelines were defined. We will follow the discussion with due regard for the interdependencies between state and non-state organizations and bodies, between international and national as well as regional structures and practices. Concretely, we will investigate the work of the nationally active umbrella organization, "Landeskonferenz für Soziale Arbeit, LAKO" (“National conference on social work”), between 1936 and 2000 and outline its interests up until today.

  • Background

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    Certain academically inspired concepts discussed nationally and internationally in the 20th century referred to the pedagogic reform movements of the 1940s or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the 1950s. At the same time, experts defined universal standards for medical diagnostics and treatment, for institutional structures and the qualification of staff. However, as current research has shown, these concepts blatantly contradicted the practice of the authorities, of homes and institutions. To which degree can the reasons for this be found in the concepts themselves? Which role does the heterogeneity of the welfare landscape play in all of this?

  • Aim

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    This study wishes to: One, make available new insights into the discourses underway throughout Switzerland on poverty relief, youth welfare, and child protection. This will, two, lead to a better understanding of the dynamics and the often to be found tensity that accompany the demands for common standards in the heterogeneous field of social welfare in Switzerland. The goal consists in, three, obtaining a deeper understanding of the related ambivalent professionalization processes in social work.

  • Relevance

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    This project contributes to the historical reappraisal of injustices in social welfare by providing new perspectives into interdependencies throughout Switzerland, thus demonstrating new possibilities for interpretation.

    Moreover, it makes available historical knowledge for a discussion on Swiss national standardization and professionalization, in particular in the field of child and youth welfare. This project was launched by civil-society actors more than 100 years ago but has not been concluded to date.

  • Original title

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    Laboratories for professionalization in social welfare. Central civic associations caught between standardization and plurality