International Summer School 2023, Helsinki (5–9 June 2023)
The current and future challenges facing modern societies (e.g. economic, climate and social changes and developments) are at the forefront of discussions in welfare states and in social work. Post-COVID-19 recovery requires efforts on the part of social work but also multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and interprofessional approaches, in order to tackle increasingly unpredictable life situations and to integrate transformative practices. The support needs of social and healthcare service users can be very diverse due to volatile circumstances and inequality.
The manifold challenges confronting the structures of welfare states demand social and healthcare services to be highly responsive and flexible. COVID-19 has impacted the world beyond reasonable expectations, with the pandemic strongly affecting physical, mental and economic stability. It has also surfaced and deepened social inequalities and injustices. The pandemic has weakened social cohesion and resulted in social discontent (UN 2020). However, such a crisis, and the complex situations and systems to which it gives rise, can also create new opportunities. Over the past two years, global challenges and climate change have stimulated discussions about responsibility. In 2021, the European Commission pointed out that “the COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark reminder that our well-being depends on the health of the planet, and the recovery strategies offer a once-in-a-century opportunity for a genuine paradigm shift towards a society that respects planetary boundaries” (European Commission 2021).
Resolving the new situations and questions requires communication, dialogue and collaboration not only between social workers but also between and across different disciplines. According to the WHO (2010), interprofessional work involves two or more (health) professions learning about, from, and with each other so as to foster effective collaboration and to improve outcomes and care quality. The legislation of some welfare states demands professionals to collaborate in order to achieve the best solutions and results for service users.
Therefore, working in social and healthcare services requires not only professional competences but also transversal skills. UNESCO defines transversal skills as ones that are typically considered as not specifically related to a particular job, task, academic discipline or area of knowledge but as skills that can be used in a wide variety of situations and work settings (IBE2013). These skills are increasingly in high demand for learners to successfully adapt to changes and to lead to meaningful and productive life.
Transversal skills are often also called soft skills, key skills, core skills or transferable skills and generic skills. Examples include:
The importance of the development of generic or transversal skills is recognized worldwide in politics and education.
How can conceptions of transversal skills help create new practices amid the ever-changing environment of social work?
The 2023 Summer School aims to stimulate international collaboration and exchange on several key questions:
What are transversal skills, how are they understood and how are they relevant or significant for social work and interprofessional work?
Lecturer, University Centre, FHNW School of Social Work