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Keywords:

  • co-operative research;
  • content analysis;
  • experiential knowledge;
  • focus groups;
  • mental health nursing;
  • social integration;
  • social network

Abstract

Title. Knowledge about social networks and integration: a co-operative research project

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study investigating how knowledge of social network and integration influenced mental health professionals’ understanding and practice.

Background.  Community mental health work focuses on people suffering from mental health problems as well as the consequences for the person involved and their family or network. There is a need to expand community mental health workers’ knowledge about social networks and their functions.

Method.  A qualitative study using a co-operative research approach was used to develop participants’ knowledge of social network and social integration theory. Action research has the potential to facilitate changes in the field. Data were collected using focus groups. Qualitative content analysis was employed to develop the theme and categories. The data were collected in 2004–2005.

Findings.  The main theme identified was the potential of experiential knowledge-based competence, which was characterized by the following categories: (1) increased knowledge, (2) awareness of social interactions, (3) cross-disciplinary professionalism and (4) potential for changes in practice. Participants’ knowledge and awareness of the potential of social integration as a tool for social network interventions were considerably strengthened. However, this knowledge needs to be implemented in practice.

Conclusion.  Co-operative research is an approach that can be beneficial in the public sector. To achieve the best possible results, the whole team must be involved and play an active part in all areas of the research project. If the groups involved are too large, participants’ level of engagement may suffer.