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Blog 8 – British Journal of Social Work lived experience issue series

11 October 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 eight is by Peter Beresford, Visiting Professor at the University of East Anglia and Co-Chair of Shaping Our Lives

A Defining Moment

One of the lessons I’ve learned in all the years that I have been involved in involvement is that you rarely know at the time when something is actually a breakthrough moment. I’d better explain what I mean. I’ve been involved in the most ambitious and well-funded, supposedly participatory initiatives that have barely managed to enable basic limited user involvement. I’ve been involved in others that have been very humbly badged as consultations by the non-service users who have made them happen, which end up feeling like real coproduction.

I feel I’m now in the middle of one of those revelatory moments. When the British Journal of Social Work, perhaps the most established mainstream of peer reviewed social work journals said it was going to have a special issue headlined Voice and Influence of people with lived experience, I thought this looks promising. To be asked to be involved in its editorial group seemed like a great opportunity. To have a strand led by people as service users focusing on ‘Reflective Papers’ concerned with lived experience seemed a great step in the right direction.

But now, when we have received 42 completed papers out of the 46 we gave the go ahead to out of a total of 80 abstracts submitted – let me repeat that 42 out of 46 –  that really feels like this is a major, major leap forward. Who could have ever expected such a massive response? How often does any academic journal get such a high ration of completed papers with such a call for just one of three themes? And also at first sight, what an incredible diversity of subject matter, contributors and experiential knowledge.  Who could have guessed there would be such a powerful reaction? What else can this tell us than that this is a critical direction for the future of social work studies and beyond that too??

I’m holding my breath, but I can only believe that there will be many pearls in this collection. Next, we come to the user-led peer review process, hard work for a number of committed reviewers, to whom much is owed. Thank you. But the biggest thanks yous must go to the brave BJSW for making this possible. I truly believe where you are leading, many more will now follow. This is I believe a truly transformative moment, building on much prior work of course, for academic publishing more generally. Way to go!

Peter Beresford is Visiting Professor at the University of East Anglia and Co-Chair of Shaping Our Lives