Hybrid Professionalism and the Use of Knowledge, Intuitions and Personal Relations in Preventive Welfare Work

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:00
Location: Hörsaal 17 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Gitte Sommer HARRITS, Aarhus University, Department of Political Science, Denmark
Marie Ostergaard MOLLER, KORA, The Danish Institute for Local and Regional Government Research, Denmark
Oftentimes literature on professionalism emphasise the use of knowledge in professional work. However, the character and use of this knowledge is not necessarily the same across professions or work settings, nor is it very well studied. Some scholars point to professional knowledge as being both theoretical and practical or tacit, and others point to the fact that the use of professionalism as well as professional knowledge may be conditioned on organizational and institutional structures.

This paper seeks a deeper and more systematic understanding of the use and character of professionalism and professional knowledge among public welfare professionals. Focusing on discretions with regard to preventive efforts in the Danish welfare state, the paper explores and compares how health nurses, child care workers and primary school teachers decide which children are in risk and thus eligible for extra support. In particular, the papers focuses on the ways in which these professionals make and reason about their discretions. Further, the paper analyses how the professionals themselves understand their discretion making. The paper demonstrates, how oftentimes the use of an explicit professionalism, theoretical and practical knowledge is weaved into the use of intuitions, common sense knowledge, personal experiences and what the professionals themselves call their relationships to the families.

The paper builds on 58 in depth, semi structured interviews with health nurses, child care workers and primary school teachers from four municipalities in Denmark. The interviews covers questions on professional practices, self-conceptions of professionalism and work, and descriptions of lifestyles and personal background. Also, the interviews use a vignette technique, presenting two realistic case stories and asking the interviewees to interpret the stories and suggest a solution, i.e. mirroring a real life situation with discretion making on preventive support. The data is analysed systematically, comparing both across and within cases.