Implementing Swedish Models of Social Work in a Russian Context
The economic and social changes taking place in Russia in recent decades have implied a restructuring of the Russian society. Among other things, Russian leaders have expressed a need for the reorientation of social development. In the 1990’s, cooperation was initiated on a number of social work and social welfare projects with international support, a process further speeded up during President Jeltsin’s state visit to Sweden in 1997. Discussions between the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Russian authorities dealing with welfare issues started from the assumption that Russian professional social work was weak and needed to be strengthened. In the 1990's Sida was also given a stronger general mandate to work with other former Soviet countries in Eastern Europe, for example the Baltic States.
The Russian-Swedish discussions resulted in projects aiming to raise social work competencies in public authorities, managements and among social workers in Russia. One of the areas chosen for these projects was Saint Petersburg, where several projects aiming to develop new models for social work were launched. The point of departure has been to transfer and adjust Swedish models of social work to the Russian context. The Stockholm University Department of Social Work became responsible for a number of such projects and besides using academic teachers also involved a number of practitioners, such as social workers in disablement services and reformatory staff who could meet and match Russian authorities and partners.