Service User Involvement

Brief background to the area of Special Interest:

This SIG explores the participation of service users in social work research and social work education. It will deal with a number of issues:
- Why should we involve service users? What benefits do service users bring to the research and education process?
- Forms of involvement; when is involvement meaningful?
- Barriers and enablers to involvement
- Experiential knowledge and its meaning in social work research and education
- Ethical and practical issues in involving service users in research and education

Despite the care and reframing that it demands, service user (or citizen) involvement contributes to innovations in research and education. This deserves further investment, experimentation and implementation on an international scale.

Service user involvement in research is an essential component for our fuller understanding of the difficulties, problems and opportunities faced by service users who are in receipt of the services and how these might be addressed in a more collaborative co-production methodology. Importantly, we need more studies involving service users that focus not just on the process of research, but just as importantly, if not more so, on the impact and outcomes of service user involvement for delivering more effective services.


The aim of this SIG is to exchange information about our work regarding service use involvement, to share good practices, to engage in joint projects, and to promote service user involvement in general



The SIG has around 55 members and is having an annual meeting before the ESWRA conferences. Members are participating in several networks and projects. We work together with the PowerUs Network and the CARe Network.



Jean-Pierre Wilken, HU Research Centre for Social Innovation – Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands
Hugh McLaughlin, Manchester Metropolitan University, U.K.
Kristel Driessens, Karel de Grote-Hogeschool , Antwerp, Belgium
Joe Duffy, Queen's University Belfast, UK
Sidsel Therese Natland, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences , Norway

If you want to join or want more information, please contact Kristel Driessens or Sidsel Therese Natland




Leuven, Wednesday 10th April 2019, 9.30 – 17.00 hours

This meeting will focus on two themes:

  1. Drivers and barriers for involvement of experts by experience (morning) and
  2. Ethical issues in involving service users in education and research (afternoon).

This event is organised in collaboration with Power Us and the CARe Network.



Drivers and barriers for involvement of experts by experience

Chair: Sidsel Nadland

09:30 - 10:00 hours: Welcome and short round of introduction: who is who and in which project around SUI are you currently involved?

10:00 – 11:00 hours: presentations and discussion

  1. Service user involvement in social work education: lessons from an innovative experience at University of Piemonte Orientale, Asti, Italy. Elena Allegri,. University of Piemonte Orientale, Alessandria-Asti, Italy.
  2. Participation moderators to mend the gap. Cecilia Heule, Marcus Knutagård, Arne Kristiansen, Lund University, Sweden

11.00 – 11.15 hours: short coffee break

11.15 – 12.15 hours

  1. Challenges connected to working in tandem in social work education. Driessens, K., Lyssens-Danneboom, V., Bloemen, H., Bridts, C., Belgium. Van Gijzel, S., Kowalk., H.The Netherlands.
  2. Challenges of participation when service users’ autonomy is challenged/restricted in health and welfare services (Chapar). Tor Slettebø, VID Specialized University, Norway.

12:15 – 12.30: wrap up

12.30 - 13:30 hours: Lunch time


Ethical issues in involving service users

Chair: Kristel Driessens

13.30 – 15.00 hours

  1. Enacting social justice in the classroom: an evaluation of Service user-led role plays with social work students. Eleni Skoura-Kirk, Sarah Brown, Rasa Mikelyte, Centre for Health Services Studies, University of Kent, England.
  2. Disclosure and usage of experiential knowledge by social work professionals working in mental health services. Simona Karbouniaris MSc., Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands.
  3. My way or the highway? Or: Who decides on style and pace when researchers and users aim at collaborating in production of text? Sidsel Natland, Associate professor, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway.

15.00 – 15.15 hours: short break

15.15 hours – 15.45 hours

  1. The co-researcher role – in the tension between recognition, co-opting and tokenism. Ole Petter Askheim, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway.

15.45 – 16.45 hours: Discussions in focus groups: towards ethical standards for service user involvement

16.45 – 17.00 hours: wrap up

Convenors Special Interest Group Service User Involvement: Hugh Mc Laughlin, Sidsel Therese Natland, Kristel Driessens, Cecilia Heule, Joe Duffy, Jean Pierre Wilken


download member list.