In our constellation of our five closely-knit cases, three cases will focus on the dynamics of individuals in group-cooperation:

1. Peer support groups of older adults: wisdom and care in social processes (Jenni Spännäri, University of Helsinki) This case examines care and its relation to a) religion, religiosity and spirituality and b) social capital, capital of life experience and wisdom in the context of older adults’ peer support groups. Older adults have been proven to benefit extensively from informal and formal group contacts evoking social and other types of capital (Ysseldyk et al. 2013; Forsman et al. 2013) but the distinctive characteristics and mechanisms of different types of peer groups need to be juxtaposed and studied further, particularly from the perspective of mutuality and cooperation. The project draws strongly on the participatory and agency centered views on care. The project gathers and parallels qualitative data, both in depth (n=9) and focus group interviews (n=6) plus observation material, from three different groups: a religious, a wisdom-centered, and a traditional social peer support group. Both the participants and the organizers will be explored.


2. Novel peer support at a hospital (Anu Toija, University of Jyväskylä) This case examines the efficacy and experiences of peer support of breast cancer patients. With this project, together with its cooperation networks of NGOs, peer support is initiated in Finland´s largest hospital (HUS) for the first time. According to previous research, breast cancer patients strongly benefit from peer support (e.g. Lee et al. 2012). This case explores novel themes: how peer support effects experienced quality of life, the life satisfaction, and the use (i.e. the cost) of health care services. What kind of chances and conflicts are evident in such sensitive mutuality in care? This research uses both quantitative (n=260) and qualitative (n=20) data. This project collaborates with HUS´s project “The measurements of life quality in the effectiveness of care”.


3. Immigrants: civil society and volunteering (Elina Juntunen, University of Helsinki) In this case study three themes will be examined: 1) How and where immigrants are involved in voluntary activities, 2) what kind of elements of meaning systems voluntary work offers to individuals, and particularly to their experiences of care and inclusion, 3) how does voluntary work support immigrant’s experience of citizenship? The study focuses on Finnish Red Cross, offering pioneering volunteer opportunities for immigrants. Voluntary work may include various orientations and strategies that may produce and maintain the sense of care and solidarity (Pessi 2011). Voluntary work may encourage and empower immigrant to negotiate formal and legally defined citizenship (Isin & Nielsen 2008). The research data will consist of 20 interviews.

Two of our cases will then focus on individual and societal mutuality in ideal versus actual cooperation.

4. Self-help and conceptions of a ‘good life’ in Finland, Russia and the US (Anne Birgitta Pessi, University of Helsinki & Suvi Salmenniemi, University of Turku) This case studies bestselling self-help books and the ways in which readers engage with them. Self-help literature is targeted at developing our self-respect and skills of care and cooperation. The genre has become the dominant symbolic framework for making sense of selfhood in Western societies. This case examines the conceptions of the self, care, the ‘good life’, and the elements of meaning systems put forward in this context, and how they are marked by gender, class, nationality. The project engages in a comparative investigation: Finland, a Nordic welfare state; Russia, a post-socialist society integrating into the circuits of global consumer capitalism; and the United States, a neoliberal ‘charitable state’ and the cultural home of the therapeutic industry. In the US alone, self-improvement constituted a $10.5-billion-a-year industry in 2010 (The U.S. Market for Self-Improvement Products & Services 2010). In Finland the number of self-help titles has nearly tripled since the 1990s (Fennica database 2011) and in Russia the genre has gained prominence during the past decade (Salmenniemi & Vorona 2013). The project draws on three sets of data: 1) a selection of bestselling self-help literature published in Finland and Russia during the 2000s (45 books), 2) written reader stories by Finnish self-help readers (n=25) and one-to-one and focus group interviews with readers in Finland (n=30) and Russia (n=30), 3) a cross-cultural reception study of how 2nd year university students interpret Rhonda Byrne’s worldwide bestseller Secret, carried out through focus group interviews in our three countries.


5. Searching for the Religion of Care: views on division of welfare responsibility (Henrietta Grönlund, University of Helsinki) This case explores the responsibilities of care in the Finnish context today through individuals’ a) views on societal division of care and b) their own activity and experiences of mutuality. How do Finns view the roles of individuals and the public sector in care, both currently and ideally? How do they view responsibilities of care in their personal lives? Community boundaries, and the experiences of chances and conflicts, are studied in relation to both levels. The shared moral beliefs and practices of care, which maintain public and private morality and bind together moral community in a time of the subjective turn, are analyzed. The theoretical framework consists of the approaches of functional religion (Durkheim 1995/1912), subjective meaning systems (Heelas & Woodhead, 2005; Taylor, 1992), and societal contracts (Rawls, 1999).With these theoretical viewpoints ‘the religion of care’ is sought for, referring to a theoretical model of the system of moral beliefs and practices of care. The data of the research consists of a) two representative quantitative data (already collected, not thoroughly reported, HYVEKYS: n=1257, RAY: n=1350) on Finns’ views on themes of welfare and care, b) in-depth interviews (n=30), and c) round table discussions on how the media portrays welfare and care in in different actual cases.

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