Listening to the voice of children : systemic dialogue coaching. Inviting participation and partnership in social work
Abstract: This is a study in and about systemic coaching in social work – systemic, and, as it unfolded, dialogical coaching, later named Dialogue Coaching (DC). Focus lies on what the conducted coaching brought forth, generated and created in the context of social work and for the members of the participating social welfare organisations. My specialities as coach became to inspire social workers to invite clients and especially children into partnership, making their voices heard, both in the written text and in the process of social investigations. The study was integral parts of commissions (and vice versa) of the County Administrative Board of Scania, Sweden, in my profession as systemic consultant and supervisor in Sweden. It was a study in how dialogical communication could improve how social workers, listening to the children’s invitation, could make children’s voices more heard in social investigations. In all, 55 social workers in seven municipalities participated in the dialogical participatory action research (DPAR) study, developing coaching and improving the dialogical interaction in social investigations. Focus moved from collecting data for decision-making, about what would be best for the child and other clients,tofocusing on the changing process in relation to the participating clients, including children when they wanted to and could, co-creating new orientation on how to go on. The focus on communication and dialogue in the coaching changed and developed the participants’ approach in relation to clients and one another and others. In the emerging awareness of how we reciprocally and reflexively co-create occurrences and outcomes, including who we become in relation to one another, the participating social workers’ awareness of the impact of their own contributions, and their own importance in relation to children and other clients, also improved. The expressions listening ears and listening questions were invented, capturing my, the coach’s, participation of placing myself completely at the other participants’ disposal, completely accessible in the mutual responsiveness in the moment – being here and now in the present. The systemic methods and techniques were reflexively influenced and adapted from within the relational dynamic of joint actions in the dialogical interplay, metaphorically presented as peloton cycling in a voyage tour, becoming living tools in both the social workers’ practice and the coaching researcher’s practice, facilitating learning-by-doing with methods and approach connected to Appreciative Inquiry (AI). One of the living tools was reflecting teams emerging also into so called delta-reflecting teams with open narrating included.
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