A cynical glance at what is being taught

Did you know you can do a certificate course through the University of Melbourne (Melbourne Consulting and Custom Programs) and the Brotherhood of St Laurence called, Social Inclusion Policy and Practice – intensive subject specialist Certificate in Social Policy (Social Inclusion)? Well, it really does exist.

“The Specialist Certificate in Social Policy (Social Inclusion) is a direct response to an understanding in the School of Social and Political Science that there is a market for this content in government and the not- for-profit sector. MCCP agreed to assist in the development of this course and further test this assumption, and has been encouraged by the response. A number of different government agencies and community organisations have provided formal expressions of interest in committing staff to such a program. The program is also specifically supported by senior staff at the Brotherhood of St Laurence as an industry requirement.” https://handbook.unimelb.edu.au/view/2010/D33-AA

It is not surprising that the course coordinator is Professor Paul Smyth. I was however surprised to find that he is in Political Science at Melbourne University (well, it is called the ‘School of Social and Political Sciences… does that mean when they pick up anthropology and social theory they will not need to change their name?). I had it in my mind that he was part of the UNSW crowd.

My short hand way of thinking about the UNSW body of work is that we need to research social exclusion and place based responses to do them better, without much interest in looking at whose terms the outcomes are seen as good. To be fair, the UNSW research is very applied and UNSW is active in place based initiatives.

Returning to Smyth, I read the edited volume Smyth, P., T. Reddel, and A. Jones. Editors. 2005. Community and local governance in Australia when I was preparing my original proposal last year, so perhaps I was a bit selective in what I saw coming out of that text in order to make writing my proposal easier. I do remember there were some chapters that used the word ‘neo-liberalism’ and feeling like the volume indicated I was not on some crazy tangent with my topic.

As for the course, there are two subjects listed. One of them is ‘Social Inclusion Policy and Practice‘ and the subject coordinator is Dr Tim Marjoribanks, also from the School of Social and Political Science. You have to look rather closely at the titles of his publications to see why he might be teaching such a subject. I would love to see the reading list for the subject! Can anybody think of a good excuse for me to get my hands on it?

Moving away from the politics staff, one subject that came up when I was searching for more information on the social inclusion course. There is a similar sounding subject through the Melbourne Business School, ‘Social Impact: Entrepreneurs and Social Innovation’.

The subject examines the accelerating economic relationship between government, business and the third sector and the way this delivers social (including environmental) value in communities and drives social innovation.”

Trying to find more information about the course I found that UNSW offers a subject by the same name through their Australian School of Business.

I would love to be a ‘fly on the wall’ in some of these courses and it would be very interesting to compare what is being taught in graduate programs run by business schools or the ‘custom programs’ arm with what is being taught in the ‘mainstream university departments’ (can I even call them that?).

Originally this post was going to be about the National Compact with the Third Sector, but clearly I got distracted this morning. I SHOULD be reading federal and state policy statements on socail inclusion.

In some ways I am wasting time and going off on tangents, in other ways I think I am honing in on where my supervisor wants me to be. There is clearly something very contemporary about ‘social inclusion’ and working towards it is interpreted as not being particularly radical. Social innovation is bound to overlap with concerns dealt with in work on political economy, but it seems like there is some sort of silent consensus on what socially desirable outcomes are and how these can be measured and achieved. Have they developed a certain type of social inclusion that the government, business and the third sector are able to agree on? Once people start working together does agreement move past agreement on symbolic terms that are interpreted differently by different parties to collapsing multiple interpretations into something marketable and able to be audited?

It makes me think of what is happening to some community rooming houses at the moment. The government invests money in to do them up, they hand pick the residents to ensure that the tenancies are more successful, and we come up with a model that delivers better ‘outcomes’. However, the most marginalised people miss out on housing.Is just ‘better’ for nobody to really ‘see’ this?

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2 Responses to “A cynical glance at what is being taught”

  1. Tomboktu Says:

    I would say that I don’t see the link between ‘social innovation’ and ‘social inclusion’.

    Not applicable to your work in Australia, but never the less possibly of interest, is the case-law of the European Committee of Social Rights, a quasi-judicial body in the Council of Europe (the latter of which should not be confused with the EU). The Revised European Social Charter (note: the revised and not the original) contains an article (no. 31) providing that people have a right to protection against poverty and social exclusion. The ECSR is the ‘little sister’ of the more famous European Court of Human Rights. It has dealt with human rights reports from European countries on the social exclusion article three times now, and, in my opinion, has been struggling to come up with a definition of the term. The conclusions it has reached are, for the most part, quite flexible at this stage: that ‘poverty’ and ‘social exclusion’ are not the same

    (However, interestingly, the ECSR has used the term social exclusion in its legal decision on a complaint against Croatia (about state approval of school text books) to describe the status of lesbian and gay people, a group not traditionally thought of when the term is used.

    The page for the European Social Charter is at http://www.coe.int/T/DGHL/Monitoring/SocialCharter/

  2. Tracey Says:

    Thanks for directing me towards that article in the Revised European Social Charter.

    The link between social inclusion and social impact is rather weak. It’s simply that impact studies are used to look at the impact of projects on social inclusion/ exclusion.

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