Some impressions from the final conference of SES2 in Tromsø, by Jan Jaap Rothuizen
November 29th and 30th the final conference of the SES project took place in Tromsø. Participants from Estonia, Spain, Denmark, Sweden and Norway met in order to exchange what they learned about the power of stories in professional social work and in the education and training of professional social workers. The conference was opened by Ulf Christensen who expressed pride on a project that can unite people from different parts of Europe in the development of an innovative approach to the education and training of university-students.
The main responsible for the SES 2 project, Dr. Inger Helen Erstad, gave an overview of the results of the project and emphasized on the good collaboration with all the partners and participants along this process, giving thanks to everybody.
One of the returning themes on the conference was the power of cultural expression: stories inscribe themselves in cultural traditions and keep the story-teller and the listener in contact with implicit and explicit cultural understandings. Stories can also give place for minority-cultures own expressions and understanding. Stories stimulate wondering, attentiveness for the special features of the specific situation and they stimulate solidarity, recognition and reflexivity. Those and other points were underpinned in the key-note speeches by Dr. Rafael Aliena (Spain) and Dr. Finn Thorbjørn Hansen (Denmark). The third Key Note Speaker, Sirli Peterson (Estonia) told a story based on her own biography about the congruence between dancing tango and social work. The use of the metaphor enables an existential understanding and throws light on an apparent well known practice.
Practitioners and trainers in the knowledge work shop made short presentations about their experiences. Even though people from Spain may be more expressive and people from the north may be more reflective, all integrate emotions, actions and reflections in their stories. For all it was a challenge to see themselves as a central part of what happens, and to use the publicity of the story as a mirror.
So in a wonderful Nordic atmosphere, not at least at an excursion to the adventure center outside the city of Tromsø for dog sledding, the results of the “Stories enhancing skills” project were made up, both in academic terms and in the shape of practical experiences and instructions.
Most participants were intent on to continue working with the development of the approach, both theoretical and practical. The Guidance material elaborated by dr. Inger Helen Erstad will be a great help, not only for those who participated in the project and the conference, but also for colleagues who want to incorporate the knowledge work shop ins studies at universities/universities of profession and in professional training programs. Inger Helen Erstad and Finn Thorbjørn Hansen will also edit a book with articles by different authors on “stories enhancing skills”.