5 Central Questions

Consequence research is confronted with a high degree of complexity. It proves to be a research context in which different ‘paradigms’ compete for the most meaningful and valid assessment of consequences. The Research Training Group applies this heterogeneity constructively: five central questions are used to address key issues that need to be discussed in any form of ‘consequence research’. In the Research Training Group, these questions function as a common framework for all individual projects.

1 How can consequences of social services work be conceptualized?

Consequences are complex. The involved persons and institutions oftentimes interpret the consequences of social services work differently. In addition, different follow-up periods for measuring consequences are just as important as the distinction between intended, unintended or negative consequences and secondary consequences.

2 How do consequences emerge?

Consequences of social services work point to causalities. The Research Training Group is guided by the distinction between “succession” and “generative” theories of causality according to Harré (1972): causality is interpreted as concurrence (succession) or inherent causation (generative).

3 How are users involved in the constitution of consequences?

Addressees are crucial for any social service – but their role varies according to research methods, disciplines and research interests. For the Research Training Group it is essential to always ask how addressees, through their views and forms of practice, determine or produce the consequences of social services work.

4 How can consequences be researched methodologically an methodically?

There is not one ‘best’ method. Some favour randomised experimental studies. Nevertheless, the starting point of the Research Training Group is to recognise different methodologies and methods with their respective knowledge potential.

5 How does social services work interact with the identity of users?

Social assistance shapes identities. The focus on identity corresponds to the pedagogical or psychosocial dimension of social services, which usually aim at a significant change of the addressees’ identity.This focus also allows negative and unexpected consequences to come into view.