Conference in Jordan

Professor opening the speech
Prof. Dr. Christine Huth-Hildebrandt

Localisation of Social Work in Arab Countries: Demands & Approaches

International Conference in the framework of the DAAD Transformation Partnership Programme “Localisation of Social Work in Arab Countries” (LOSWAC)

  • Location: German Jordanian University Amman, Jordan
  • Date: 18/19 September 2019

Prof. Dr. Ralf Roßkopf, the former head of the project, welcomed the experts and the audience to this second international two-days conference of the LOSWAC project at GJU. Prof. Dr. Christine Huth-Hildebrandt continued with introduction and explained more detailed the frame of LOSWAC and its research cluster. Afterwards, she focused on the meaning and the relevance of the "Localisation of Social Work in Arab Countries." She referred to the post-colonial impact on the profession in Arab countries, and that ideas, concepts, and approaches had to, therefore, be adapted to the region. This lead to the complex question, how such a localisation process could be accomplished. Procedures and requirements were to be identified, and this conference was supposed to support finding an answer and close this research gap.

The two-day conference was divided into four main sessions, each of them covering one topic relevant to the localisation of Social Work in Arab countries: professionalization, funding, community development, and higher education. Each of these topics were discussed by the experts.

The first session focused on the professionalization of Social Work and its challenges in the Arab context.

Ms. Maha Ghatasheh, Noor al Hussein Foundation, an experienced practitioner in the field of Social Work, began this session by pointing out characteristics of Social Work as a profession and what is necessary for graduates to become professionals. According to her, Social Work operated at the interface between people and their social, cultural, and physical environments. She drew a picture of a profession working simultaneously with multiple dimensions of our world. Those dimensions included, among other things, individuals, groups, systems, communities, and the natural environment. Foundations and organizations had to cooperate with universities to enhance a qualitative difference in the field training and human development through comprehensive programmes. Those were initiated to bridge the gap between the academic perspective and practical application in various developmental fields that served the Jordanian society. They further provided opportunities to develop competencies and Social Work skills to become professional social workers.

Mr. Mohammad Hammad, from the Ministry of Social Development in Jordan, presented a Strategic framework the ministry is working on to be deemed as a 'Guidance' for professionalizing Social Work in Arab countries for the years 2020-2025. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was commissioned by the Resolution of the 38th Session of the Council of Arab Social Affairs Ministers held in Egypt, Sharm el-Sheikh, on 2/12/2018 to chair the joint committee to prepare a strategic vision for the occupation of Arab Social Work taking into account the differences between Arab states and related legislation. To implement this decision, the Ministry has formed a working group consisting of practicing and academic experts representing the government and non-governmental sector, to prepare a proposed vision on the profession of Arab Social Work. Mr. Mohammad gave a summary of the Ministry's different strategic methodologies. He also mentioned the current challenges social workers are facing in Arab countries such as the weak capacity of some universities and scientific institutes in teaching the specialization of Social Work. Also, the absence of policies, strategies, legislation, and effective coordination mechanisms to regulate the practice of Social Work, the absence of an institutional framework for granting licenses to engage in Social Work, and the lack of an electronic register for social workers. He highlighted the Ministry's vision "towards a distinguished Arab Social Work career" and explained the main four strategic objectives, programmes, and projects the ministry is currently working on. Finally, he gave a short view of the follow-up and evaluation system and future aspirations the ministry is looking for.

Prof Dr. Hmoud Olimat, from the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies in Qatar, presented an analysis of the efforts and experiences of establishing Social Work education and profession in Jordan. The study covered more than twenty years of experience in developing Social Work programmes and directing joint programmes with several universities and funding agencies from Canada, the USA, the UK, and the EU. Particular emphasis was placed on the major obstacles that impede the academic development of Social Work programmes at universities, and the challenges in securing the legal and official recognition of Social Work as a profession. He highlighted the need for further steps that must be taken to move forward in legally recognizing Social Work as a profession and to a secure a place for Social Work in the academic arena.

Prof. Dr. Khodor Awwad, from Al Jinan University, Lebanon presented the results of his study, that aimed to understand the perception of school principals in Lebanon, specifically from the Sidon school network, towards the presence of Medical Social Assistants/Social Workers (MSAs/SWs) in schools, in addition to their understanding of the impact of MSAs/SWs on students' school performance. The study also aimed to have available evidence-based research that urges on regulating the professional conduct of Social Work. Overall, most participants had a positive perception of the role of SW. However, all too often they did not have a clear picture of the profession, itself. Therefore, the academic system needs to establish related policies and legislations to ensure their presence in schools on a national level, and the development of MSA/SW awareness programmes to target educational institutions and decision-makers on the importance of the profession.

Prof. Dr. Sahar Al-Makhamreh from the Al Balqa’ Applied University, Jordan, identified the conditions that are related to the professionalization of Social Work in Jordan in order to develop an understanding about the status of Social Work, its professional role, its potentials at the national and international level as well as the related challenges. She also tackled the question, what possibilities existed for continuing the professionalization process of Social Work. The focus of her presentation in this regard was on gendered cultural sensitivity and local practice with specific reference to their impact on localising the profession of Social Work.

Dr. Hana' Al Nabulsi, from Al Balqa’ Applied University in Jordan, addressed the reality of Social Work in Jordan through the identification of the conditions of Bachelor graduates from the University of Jordan during the years of 2010-2017. She referred to the study of one of her Master students, Ms. Safa Mustafa Aboumailah, who did her Master thesis on this issue. Dr. Hana' presented the study which recognized the economic status and the challenges graduates face, whether working in the field of specialization respectively working as a non-specialist or being unemployed. She highlighted the result of the study, which found that graduates working in the area of specialization face several social problems, most notably are not able to participate in any social events, lack commitment to their family duties and neglect social networking with friends due to the pressure of work and lack of time. The primary problem graduates faced, as Dr. Hana' pointed out, was the economic situation the graduates faced when working as social workers due to the absence of having a system of rewards and financial incentives. In terms of professional status, social workers were often assigned to short-term contracts in projects. The main challenge in substance graduates faced in general is the multiplicity of tasks as a social worker working within the institution. Other challenges addressed by the study for instance were finding a job in the field of specialization due to the overlap of the Social Work title with Sociology at the time of appointment.

The second session of this conference continued in the afternoon of the first day and concentrated on the funding for Social Work for an efficient local implementation.

Her Excellency, Mrs. Nassima Al Fakhri, a former local Development Commissioner of the Aqaba exclusive economic zone authority in Jordan, gave a speech of her long experience with developmental funding projects in Jordan. She stated, that reaching an effective and efficient Social Work practice, in order to achieve sustainable social development for the society, there had to be harmony between the parties mainly in the government, who were responsible for setting policies and legislation for Social Work, but also funders, whether international or regional, local and non-governmental organizations. Ms. Nassima highlighted the most important strategies when obtaining funds to ensure that they meet the needs of their beneficiaries and influences the local community directly. She stressed the importance of conducting a study to determine the needs of the community in partnership with them. The implementing agencies should be non-governmental organizations with a strong and influential project management. Finally, she concluded her speech by pointing out the most valuable criteria in each funded project was a structured plan of the projects combined with precise monitoring and evaluation before implementation, during its course, and after the project had ended, in order to ensure the sustainability of this work. She stated that if there were partnership, empowerment, and durability, effective and efficient Social Work would be guaranteed.

Mr. Ra'ed Badwan, from the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation in Jordan, introduced the audience into a development programme called "Enhanced Social and Economic Productivity Program (EPP)", which was initiated by his ministry. It aimed to improve Jordanians' social and economic living standards and enhance the productivity of various local community groups, focusing on the most vulnerable groups. EPP comprised three components, 1) productivity, capacity building, and micro-finance; 2) infrastructure and services; and 3) youth programme support. He explained furthermore that the Government of Jordan usually had a yearly budget of about US$ 30 million for EPP interventions; however, it had been decreasing by 50% over the last four years. Additionally, he illustrated two success stories, one from the area Wadi Araba and one from Amman.

Dr. Said Aldhafri, from the Sultan Qaboos University in Oman, focused on techniques for writing research proposals to fund social science research. Many funding opportunities existed in our countries and worldwide, but just a few researchers succeeded in getting these funds and take the benefits of these opportunities. Even though social researchers were generally well trained in conducting their research, he pointed out that their marketing skills might not be strong enough to get access to the funding opportunities. He discussed some challenges researchers of social sciences face when applying to funds. Here, he focused specifically on the writing of those research proposals. Additionally to his speech, he wrote a paper about these circumstances to come up with some successful writing strategies that researchers may use to attract more funding for their social research.

Dr. Mahdi Al Alami, holding his Ph.D. in Political Studies and Arabic Studies from Jordan, presented on the foreign funding of Social Work for an efficient and effective implementation, taking Jordan as an example for Arab countries. He started by highlighting the problems associations in Jordan face; the most important is the non-commitment of members of public associations to pay the annual contributions required from them. Dr. Al Alami raised the question, why local associations were afraid of foreign funding? He explained that the main reasons were religious, political, and moral in character. External funding of associations could be necessary for several reasons. However, most important was that the sponsor did not impose a different agenda on the national, nationalism, religious, political, social, and cultural constants. Referring to the conflict between the scarcity of national funding for Social Work and the generosity of foreign funding, Dr. Al Alami explained that it was necessary to have social responsibility and sustainable development programmes that fund and support local associations. At the end of his speech, he addressed the conditions to accept foreign funding for Social Work. He shed light on the possible cultural and intellectual penetration by external funding of Social Work and the risk of weakening the objective scientific methodology of national organisations through foreign funding. Furthermore, the extent to which the international financier had trust in local projects of the national agencies had to be considered. Finally, he tackled the mechanism Social Work associations use to approach international financiers in order to obtain external funding for various projects.

Prof. Dr. Hanine Hout, from Haigazian University, Lebanon, first gave an overview of Social Work education at Haigazian University. She then summarized the history of Social Work funding in Lebanon, which started with the creation of the Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA) in 1993, providing assistance and social services through its Social Development Centres in all areas in Lebanon. Also, local NGOs played a significant role after the end of the civil war and in the absence of a stable government. Most of the social services and support were provided by civil society organizations. However, after the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon, a new form of funding emerged, which was the external funds, which could be considered as interventions in times of crises. Yet many challenges had emerged from the presence of foreign funds in Lebanon that needed to be taken into account for effective and efficient implementation. Projects needed to be sustainable, and the budget had to be spent on the actual needs of the beneficiaries. Also the foreign funds required a lot of bureaucracy that sometimes took the time from the practical implementation in the field. Finally, she concluded with few recommendations, i.e. needs-based assessments to localise the international projects so that they meet the needs on the ground; the adaption of the projects to the local culture; and flexibility on the donors side. Last but not least, local NGOs had to ensure the sustainability of the projects.

Dr. Gabriele von Fricks, from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), presented mission and vision of DAAD. She emphasized three strategic areas of activities: granting scholarships; creating structures that promote internationalization; and offering expertise for academic collaboration. She also stressed the funding opportunities that were available for individuals and institutions in Jordan.

Before starting in the subjects of the second day, Ms. Da’ad Nazzal, summarized the main outcomes of the first day and followed up on the topic of funding. She then introduced to the third session which concentrated on community engagement

Ms. Da'ad Nazzal, Ph.D. research assistance and part of the LOSWAC research cluster from German Jordanian University, started this day and presented her Ph.D. research idea about the importance of considering the national values of locals when obtaining funds from foreign financiers. She identified the needs for localisation and adaption of services by Social Work providers and practitioners when receiving international funds in order to avoid conflicts with the locals' identity, traditions, religions and morals, in order to guarantee an efficient local implementation. She started with an overview of the post-colonial impact on the Arab world in general and then on practicing Social Work projects in specific. Besides, she analyzed the funding systems in Jordan by pointing to the financing of local individuals and associations by Western countries and/or local/national funds. She concluded by addressing the need for sustainability and accountability in funding projects.

Dr. Khalil Al Halalat, from the University of Jordan, gave a summary of a study that was conducted to identify the social participation and its role in the localisation of the Social Work profession presenting its most relevant findings. This study made some recommendations that would contribute to activating community participation in order to settle the Social Work profession in the Arab world. The study tackled research to find models and theories that keep pace with the development and change of an accelerated era, especially with the technological and information revolution, which created problems. Furthermore, he highlighted that community participation could improve decisions where to allocate money to, which was the right place to intervene, and what possibilities there were. Additionally, some ethical values and standards should be respected. Arab societies had values, ethics, and principles that differed from those of the exporting countries of the Social Work profession. Dr. Khalil highlighted the role of professional praxis institutions, which contributed by providing material, social or moral support, and enacting legislation. Dr. Khalil concluded his speech by addressing the main challenge many social workers face in Jordan, which was the recognition of the status of Social Work. This could be solved due to increasing interest in the establishment of more colleges and institutes of Social Work, the use of social workers in various areas of care, the emergence of formal organizations that include social workers, and the holding of conferences and seminars on the profession.

Dr. Mohamad Tabishat, from the American University of Madaba, presented the results and findings of a study aiming to explore and assess the motivation of volunteers in Jordan through a sociological approach. Dr. Mohamad started his speech by introducing voluntarism and focusing mainly on Arab countries. There, he explained that this topic needs further exploration and critical studies of both the local concepts and those associated with the mainstream originating in various discourses of power. Therefore, the findings of his research in the conference were around assessing how voluntarism functions in connection to selected demographic variables. Some of the main conclusions of his study concluded that participants living in Amman had a significantly higher mean score of values and enhancement compared to those living in other places. Also, the participants who were living alone had a significantly higher total mean score related to protective, career, and enhancement compared to those living with others.

Dr. Ferdoos Al-Issa, from Bethlehem University in Palestine, started her presentation by providing a general overview of the community engagement process and definition. After that, she continued by defining the community engagement under occupation such as the case of Palestine that focuses on defending the national rights (promote rights-based solutions for the refugees, etc.) as well as the civil rights (gender equality, social justice, etc.). Also, Dr. Al-Issa stated that Bethlehem University had adopted community engagement models in teaching and education to make a change to the better, to improve the quality of life of the community through developing knowledge, skills, values, and motivation of the new generation, to give back to their community and share social responsibility. Partnership with the community, coalitions, inclusiveness, and acceptance of the full range of values and perspectives, participatory of a full range of community members are the principals and methods. However, Dr. Ferdoos identified the unstable political situation to be the main challenge affecting sustainable community development.

Dr. Wajdi Fakhouri, from the University of San Francisco, USA, presented his analysis concerning the integral role community engagement plays in catalysing our understanding of what constitutes appropriately contextualized localisation of psycho-social related practice in Jordan. Dr. Fakhoury provided a brief background of the hyper-diversity which exists across various subgroups living in Jordan – specifically, hyper-diversity related to the local conditions and contexts framing the lives of those living in the country. Dr. Fakhoury framed such dialogue concerning the hyper-diversity of local situations and settings in Jordan to justify attempts to invite/engage diverse communities in participatory-centric efforts aimed at delineating appropriately localised psycho-social related practice across and within subgroups living in Jordan. Dr. Fakhoury emphasized that although such community engagement (i.e., participatory work) with Jordan's diverse subgroups form the core of equitable psycho-social intervention design, he insisted that such participation did not come without risk. He ended his presentation by declaring that any risks associated with engaging in such scholarly efforts to localise psycho-social practice – that is, risks posed to participant(s), researcher(s), and/or practitioner(s) – had to be mitigated via an insistence on following guidelines forming the foundation of responsible scholarly (participatory-centric) inquiry.

Mr. John Black, from Northern Ireland Cooperation Overseas, started his presentation by providing information on Social Work community integration in his context. Mr. Black described how the role of Social Work has evolved over the years in Northern Ireland to have a much greater emphasis on a more holistic, community approach to wellbeing, care, and protection. This would include recognition of the critical role Social Work can play in community integration through an individual casework approach. Also one should note the increasing need for the engagement of Social Worker in comprehensive community planning. He emphasized the importance of multidisciplinary teamwork, which allowed a more active engagement with communities. Concluding, he pointed to the significance of the re-establishment of community development as a core feature of Social Work practice, supported by new post-qualifying training modules that are now in place. This would facilitate an extra dimension to the achievement of high-level government objectives, particularly for disadvantaged communities. He highlighted the importance for Jordan to benefit from the Northern Ireland experience, and to assess its relevance to the Jordanian context, where family and community ties were so strong and so evident.  

Prof. Dr. Gabriele Franger, from Hochschule Coburg, Germany, illustrated how the pioneers of Social Work in Europe and the United States of America, who were associated with emancipatory movements like the antislavery movement and the civic women's movement, aimed not just to alleviate individual suffering, but to reshape society. Prof. Dr. Franger explained in her presentation the roots of community work as practiced by Jane Addams and Hull House Settlement women in the beginning of the 20th century. Starting from there, she discussed the actual community engagement, action research practice and approaches of "crafting social change" where the classical Social Work approach to the triad "case, group, community" is viewed from the different perspectives of social intervention to overcome exclusion and poverty as well as to construct citizenship.

Ms. Aimee Ghanem, Research Assistant on the LOSWAC project from the Lebanese University, presented her Ph.D. research idea, which centered around the engagement of foreign women in the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria. Starting with a general overview of the issue, she explained the importance of this phenomenon and its diversity, which could not be neglected by Western countries. Also, she concluded by proposing her research aim that could go from prevention to rehabilitation of these women in the future, drawing on potential Social Work roles in this context.

Mr. Mustafa Abu Serdaneh, Research Assistant on the LOSWAC project from Yarmouk University presented his Ph.D. research idea, which focused on the role of social media as a tool of advocacy raising voices and awareness around critical issues in nowadays society.

In the afternoon of this second day, the fourth and last session of the conference started. Here, the participants focused on higher education of Social Work on and the relevance of localising the Social Work curricula and the didactical approaches.

Prof. Dr. Michelle Kelly, from the Lebanese American University in Lebanon, presented a topic around the localisation of Social Work in higher education with special regard to the case of Lebanon. Dr. Kelly started by highlighting the debate in Social Work around the universality of Social Work practice. She took notice of the profession's history and the continuing presence of elements of colonization. Dr. Kelly considered it critical that Social Work faculty in higher education should be familiar with and sensitive to the local context and teach accordingly, thus, promoting the universals of Social Work that were locally and culturally relevant without being colonialist. Dr. Kelly shared a historical background of the social welfare in Lebanon, shedding light on the numerous challenges Social Work faces in Lebanon including misunderstanding of Social Work, lack of recognition by the government, and historical neglect of social welfare. She also mentioned the Lebanese Civil War, which halted any progress on the development of the profession and Social Work education. Finally, Dr. Kelly made several recommendations useful for the process of professionalization and localisation of Social Work in Lebanon. One suggestion was to consider the practice of cultural humility, encouraging faculty to accept their power, privilege, prejudices and values introspectively and co-learning with students.

Dr. Kareem Hammam, from Halwan University in Egypt, started his presentation by stating that the Social Work profession is influenced by political, economic, social, and technological variables prevailing in a particular place and time. Dr. Hammam continued his presentation by explaining the current status of the Social Work faculties and institutes in Egypt. Doing so, he laid out that there were currently many faculties of Social Work and higher institutes of Social Work scattered throughout Upper and Lower Egypt, playing an active role in addressing societal problems and needs. Dr. Hammam highlighted as well the importance that Social Work was gaining in Egypt since thousands of individuals were benefiting from its services. The provision of Social Work in Egypt was arranged within fields of practice that revolved around social needs or problems and that reflected a range of intervention strategies. All this had pushed the profession to become more localised and developed under the prevailing social conditions and the Arab-Egyptian culture. Therefore, curricula and teaching methods had been updated according to actual needs.

Dr. Ahmad Thabet Helal, from Assiut University in Egypt, flagged in his presentation the importance and urgency of adopting and reshaping the Social Work field to meet the needs of Arab people, since the methods of Social Work vary from one place to another depending on the type of people and their culture. Dr. Helal presented a paper that aimed to study the factors that prevented the localisation of Social Work education in the Egyptian environment by understanding the difference between the Islamic culture of Social Work and the historical stages of the concept of localisation of Social Work. Dr. Helal’s paper also identified difficulties that prevented the effectiveness of localisation of education from practicing Social Work in Egypt and mechanisms to address them. Dr. Helal also shed light on the barriers to the process of localisation of Social Work in developing countries, such as resistance to change; inadequate professional preparation; lack of qualified social workers; lack of planning for the localisation process; the idea of the routine; and the traditional rivalry between Social Work and sociology and lack of cooperation. He concluded with several recommendations to ensure a better future for localisation in Social Work in Arab societies as the following: Accelerating the incorporation of localisation, creating concepts in our curriculums, and establishing advanced training courses for newly graduated students and workers in various Social Work settings. Furthermore, social workers should record their practice experience in a scientific and planned way through their professional involvement and through conducting Social Work journals that publish studies and research on localisation in the Egyptian community. A national committee needed to be formed focusing on the localisation of Social Work in Arab societies, and a collaboration for this had to be established for scientific exchanges and networking in various areas of localisation among different Arab countries.

Mr. Magnus Frampton, from the University of Vechta in Germany, presented a topic around developing an authentic (localised) Social Work education on the background of the German experience. In his presentation, Mr. Frampton stated the ongoing discussion on creating a trustworthy (or localised) Social Work profession in the Arab countries that raised critical questions for local Social Work education. In this talk, Mr. Magnus used the German perspective to question assumptions about Social Work education, its educators, and the work (teaching and research) as well as to draw conclusions for the case of Arab countries.

Ms. Stefanie Witter, Ph.D. research assistance and part of the LOSWAC research cluster from FHWS, presented a way of researching on how Social Work education could be localised in Arab countries. For this, she started by reasoning the relevance of localising Social Work education with the postcolonial impact on the study programmes. She identified a goal for Social Work study programmes being localised. The next step was to show, how to determine the current localisation status of the educational programmes, meaning to clarify in what extend the programmes' content and the didactical methodologies were localised. According to her, the final step would be to identify the discrepancy between the first set goal and the analysed current status. This discrepancy could then give a conclusion on what exactly needed to be done to reach the aim of a localised Social Work study programme.

Prof. Dr. Rania Mansour, from the Lebanese University, closed the conference by inviting participants to the third International LOSWAC conference that will be held in Lebanon in 2020, dates to be announced and invitation to be sent to all participants at a later stage. The third international conference will mainly aim to present and discuss the results of the LOSWAC project.

If you have any comments or questions regarding this conference please contact Daad.Nazzal@gju.edu.jo and social-work@gju.edu.jo.