Education for Change: Student Placements in Campaigning Organisations and Social Movements in South Africa

Iain Ferguson, Linda Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


The past few years have seen renewed interest in the radical social work tradition both in Britain and internationally in response to the highly negative impact of neo-liberal policies on peoples lives and on the profession itself. While these perspectives are now beginning to be included within social work academic curricula, less consideration has been given within the international literature as to how they might also inform practice placements and field education. This paper outlines the findings of a small piece of qualitative research that explored the experience of one South African social work programme of placing a small group of students within campaigning organisations and social movements concerned with addressing structural issues. Based on interviews with the students, their practice teachers and agency representatives, the research addressed the extent to which students were able to draw on their teaching to make sense of these agencies and their role within them, as well as the particular challenges to which these placements gave rise. The paper concludes by suggesting that, while students undertaking such placements may require additional support and teaching in areas such as the understanding of trauma and critical political analysis, these findings suggest that this is an initiative worth repeating.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)974-994
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


  • Community work
  • international social work
  • neo-liberalism
  • practice placements
  • radical social work
  • social movements


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