Experiences, encounters and engagement in social work research

The  12th Summer School of the Nordic-Baltic Doctoral Network in Social Work (NBSW), focusing on experiences, encounters and engagement in social work research, will be hosted by the Swedish School of Social Science, University of Helsinki (Finland), in cooperation with the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki and Sosnet – The Finnish National University Network for Social Work.


The NBSW is a joint network of the doctoral schools, universities and other institutions in social work in seven countries: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden.

We invite PhD students from the Nordic, Baltic and other countries to participate in the summer school.


The Summer School aims to bring together PhD candidates in social work for five days of intensive lectures and discussions on experiences, encounters and engagements in social work research. Submission of a paper (optionally short or long, see further instructions below) related to an aspect of the theme of the summer school is a prerequisite for participation.

During the Summer School 2021, special attention will be paid to the different, yet interlinked aspects of experiences, encounters and engagement(s) in social work: What is the role of the experiences of various actors in social work? How do factors like an increasing application of technological tools, new working methods, social policy reforms and new organizational models affect encounters in social work? What are the possibilities of furthering engaged social work practices? A new question, which may affect all above aspects, is the possible impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The role of experiences is vital within social work education and practice: Experiences during education and field placements have a substantial impact on students’ identities and future choices. The experiences of social workers regarding different aspects of their work are central to their views, reactions and actions. Clients’ experiences of encounters with social services are essential indicators of social work relationships and practices.

Social policy reforms and technological development(s) (automatization, digitalization etc.), partly in response to the pandemic, affect not only the working environments of social workers but also the service encounters and experiences of clients.

Thus, the Summer School will also focus on the changing faces of encounters (close encounters, distant encounters, or lack of encounters). Recent national and international studies have pointed to the various consequences of the “technological revolution” in social work. Some technical solutions have enabled closer and more meaningful encounters between social workers and clients. Other technological developments – often connected to more overarching administrative reforms – have, however, lead to more distant, shallow, or even non-existing encounters within social work. Thus, what are the future possibilities and challenges for meaningful encounters and relationship building in the changing context of social work?

The concept of engagement can be understood as the key ingredient when conducting meaningful social work in a modern society. How can social workers engage to meet future challenges, ranging from questions of digitalization, growing structural inequalities and discrimination, social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, to climate change and environmental deterioration? Engagement is also a central aspect in terms of how social work organizations can engage social workers to remain within professional social work. How does one make social work engaging when social workers experience that they have too little time and too heavy a workload?


The summer school entails a course which provides 4 ECTS credits with a short paper (1000-2000 words) submission and presentation and 7.5 ECTS credits with a longer paper (6000-7000 words) submission and presentation. Papers and presentations must connect the participant’s doctoral research project with the theme of the summer school.


  • 28 May- Application deadline
  • 11 June – Decisions about participation will be announced
  • 16 June – Literature list for reading, practical information for participants
  • 10 September – Paper submission deadline & confirmation of conference format (in person or online)


The Doctoral School will be held from Monday, the 11th of OCTOBER 2021 13:00 – through Friday, the 15th of OCTOBER 2021,  until 13:00


University of Helsinki, circumstances permitting, otherwise online


University of Helsinki, Swedish School of Social Science

Snellmansgatan 12, University of Helsinki 00014, Finland

For inquiries, please e-mail:



The 2021 Nordic-Baltic Doctoral Network Summer School is organized by the University of Helsinki in cooperation with the coordination group of the Nordic-Baltic Doctoral Network in Social Work.

Summer School program

More info on the program will be added on this website shortly.