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Blog 4 – British Journal of Social Work lived experience issue series

13 July 2022

This is part of a series of blogs kindly contributed by the editorial group working on the lived experience edition of the British Journal of Social Work.

Blog four is by Lia Levin

Whenever I tell people (be they service-users, academics, professionals, or even people from outside the social work discipline) about the special issue of the British Journal of Social Work on ‘the voice and influence of people with lived experience’ and the process of putting it together, one consistent reaction I get refers to the stringent knowledge hierarchies that often characterize processes of academic publication.

Statements to this effect, with which I generally identify, are usually along the lines of, “It’s about time academics re-examine their contribution to the exclusion of service-users’ voices from discourse on social work theory, research, and practice”, or “Kudos to the BJSW for taking this on”. Indeed, it is gratifying to be part of the movement to reshape and reconsider some aspects of academic publication.

However, as we delve deeper into this project, it is becoming increasingly evident to me how any such renegotiation is a two-way street: It’s not just academic publication mechanisms that should lean toward being more inclusive; the story of our special issue is also about people with lived experience willing to share their thoughts, understandings, and insights within ‘traditional’ academic publication spaces.

Academia has too often lent itself to the perpetuation of institutionalized injustices, whether by choosing to remain silent where its privilege could have been useful toward voicing substantiated criticism, or by neglecting to make the knowledge that it produces accessible to wider publics. It has not always proven to be on the side of, or even care about, those oppressed into marginalized social positions. Thus, for co-production to occur, actions should now be taken to re-establish trust among all those involved.

Mutual legitimation is clearly a precondition of any attempt to generate genuine collaboration. Getting there requires engaging in dialogues that can be very challenging, are sometimes conflictual, but hopefully result in transformational partnerships. It likely also entails a great deal of trial and error. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with so many people willing to take this leap of faith together.

Dr. Lia Levin [] is a senior lecturer at Tel Aviv University’s School of Social Work, and a researcher and advocate of co-production in social policy and social services.

Read blog one in the series, by Peter Beresford

Read blog two in the series, by Mel Hughes

Read blog three in the series, by Omar Mohamed