Ad Hoc. Decolonizing social work (2022)

Ad Hoc. Decolonizing social work (2022)


We welcome abstract submissions and presentations on any topic on decolonizing social work done by Nordic-Baltic researchers or in the Nordic context, while we encourage contributions related to the special theme: Decolonizing the welfare society. Explorations of this theme can include structural, societal, experiential, practice-oriented, and posthuman ponderings of the topic from diverse perspectives. 

Submit abstracts (max 500 words) via email to Dr. Kris Clarke

Co-coordinator Dr. Helena Oikarinen-Jabai

About this study circle:

This study circle on decolonizing social work is an opportunity to participate in a caring, critical discussion of social justice issues and professional practice with students, community members, service users, academics, knowledge keepers, and practitioners in a safe environment of guided self-care and trust. Decolonization has become a buzzword in social science in recent years but as Tuck & Yang (2012) note, decolonization is not a metaphor: it is an act. As an applied profession grounded in science, public policy and community activism, social workers and community members are uniquely placed to examine how coloniality shapes the perspectives, practices, and policies of the field. 

According to the International Federation of Social Work (2021), social work is “a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work.” At the same time, a growing global movement imbued with abolitionist perspectives are critiquing the historical complicity of social work with colonial systems of oppression that have contributed to disproportionality in care, collaboration with policing and carceral systems, and social work education that socializes students into serving state structures.

We invite academics, practitioners, community members, knowledge keepers, students, and other interested people to join us at in this study circle to collaboratively practice community-centered, trusting and transparent conversations on what decolonizing social work could mean. This short circle aims to extend a conversation that has already been initiated by Dr. Henglien Lisa Chen (see collaborators) on decolonizing social work education and extend the work surrounding a forthcoming edited book (Clarke, Lee-Oliver, and Ranta-Tyrkkö) on decolonizing Nordic social work practice.

Short description of coordinator

Kris Clarke, PhD, Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Helsinki, Finland, will be the main coordinator and take responsibility for organizing all activities. She has published a book, Decolonizing Pathways towards Integrative Healing in Social Work (Routledge, 2020). Clarke has also co-edited a forthcoming book, Decolonizing Nordic Social Work Futurities (University of Helsinki Press), with Dr. Lee-Oliver and Dr. Ranta-Tyrkkö. Clarke has also long experience in organizing “Decolonizing Retreats” in California together with Dr. Michael Yellow Bird.

Nordic Circle Retreat – Decolonizing Social Work 

9-10 May 2022

University of Helsinki, Finland

Who should participate?

We invite academics, practitioners, community members, knowledge keepers, students, and other interested people to join us at in this study circle. English will be the main language used to best include international participants, however if a discussion circle decides another language is more suitable for dialogue, then they can continue with it. For the scholarly dialogues, we aim at approximately 30% of papers from emerging scholars. We hope to include knowledge keepers from the field or community in dialogues as well. As the circle is focused on an emerging practice, we expect that the final outcomes will include both scholarly and multimedia products.

Contact details:

For questions about the circle, contact Dr Kris Clarke


Nordic Circle – Decolonizing Social Work 

9-10 May 2022

University of Helsinki, Finland

Kris Clarke, PhD, Associate Professor, organizer (

9 May 2022

8.15 Arrival to the space

8.30-9.15 Indigenous opening streamed in from Flinders University, Australia Livestream to Kaurna Elder, Uncle Mickey O’Brien at Inparilla on Kaurna Yarta

Welcome to Country

What is a Welcome to Country? Why is it important?

SWIRLS members seated around firepit.

9.15-9.45 Luke Cantley introduces himself and talks about ‘What is an acknowledgment of country? Why do we do an acknowledgment of country? 

Luke to talk about Australia’s historical context and colonial legacies and continuing impacts. SWIRLS members to talk about the enduring impacts

Luke to finish by reflecting on survival and the importance of cultural strengths

9.45-10.15 Coffee break 

10.15-10.30 Opening meditation led by performance artist Janet Park

10.30-11.30 Opening the discussion: exercises to move around in small groups brainstorming thoughts and feelings about how colonization has played a role in our lives. (Facilitators: Ann and Kris)

11.30-11.45 Debrief – talking circle (Facilitators: Lisa & Michael)

11.45-12.45 Lunch

12.45-13.00 Settling down and coming back into the space meditation led by Einav Segev

13.00-14.30 Afternoon session on colonialization’s barriers and the power of decolonization the example of “connecting bridge” program (facilitated by Nuzha Allassad Alhuzail & Einav Segev)

14.30-14.45 Coffee break

14.45-15.30 Activity led by Helsinki PhD students

15.30-15.45 Debrief – talking circle (Facilitators: Lisa and Michael)

15.45-16.00 Closing meditation led by Janet Park

10 May 2022

9.00-9.15 Opening meditation (Einav Segev)

9.15-11.00 Session on remedying historical wrongs and the significance of social justice in our lives and work: Bedouin perspectives facilitated by Nuzha Allassad Alhuzail)

11.00-11.30 Break

11.30-13.00 Discussion of text “Confronting professional imperialism and moving towards integrative healing” (by Clarke & Yellow Bird) in groups led by Lisa, Michael, Ann, & Kris

13.00-14.00 Lunch

14.00-14.30 Activity led by performance artist Janet Park

14.30-14.45 Break

14.45-15.45 Guided discussion on decolonizing social work: what could it mean and what directions should be future steps? Introduction of the three-year application. Led by Michael Wallengren Lynch & Kris Clarke

15.45-16.15 Final reflections – talking circle


University of Malmö, Sweden
Michael Wallengren Lynch, Ph.D, Lecturer, Social Work

University of East Anglia, UK
Ann Anka, Associate Professor in Social Work, 

University of Sussex, UK
Henglien Lisa Chen, Ph.D, Senior Lecturer, Social Work

Sapir College, Israel
Einav Segev, Ph.D, Senior Lecturer, School of Social Work 
Nuzha Allassad Alhuzail, Ph.D, Senior Lecturer, School of Social Work, 

Flinders University, Australia
Luke Cantley (key contact), College Education, Psychology and Social Work, Flinders University
Dr Michelle Jones, College Education, Psychology and Social Work, Flinders University
Dr Carmela Bastian, College Education, Psychology and Social Work, Flinders University

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