Turning a predicament into a positive: A story from Narrative Therapy and Community Work

Social Work staff recording a sessionIt’s only a matter of weeks since David Denborough, the Coordinator of the Master of Narrative Therapy & Community Work, met with Lou Harms to decide whether a two week intensive, with 35 people due to fly internationally in mid-March, should go ahead. They are both relieved to have decided to transform the planned face-to-face experience into an online adventure and develop a revolutionary mode of delivery, turning the Dulwich Centre into a film studio and even factoring in morale boosting online dance clips.

Here, David discusses some of the innovative ways that the Narrative Therapy & Community Work team chose to turn what was initially a “predicament” into a “positive”:

  1. Trying not to replicate what we were doing before, but coming up with entirely new pedagogies
  2. Not to have any ‘lectures’ via zoom
  3. Inviting students to view a video resource and/or read an article and come up with reflections/questions about how this could relate to their context and then attend a ‘meet the author’ zoom where they got to ask these questions to the author. Authors/narrative therapists from across the globe, all accepted our request to do this so students had the chance to ‘meet’ with practitioners from extraordinarily diverse contexts
  4. The ‘authors’ didn’t have to prepare anything - so they liked this very much
  5. The zooms were carefully hosted by key Aboriginal faculty member Tileah Drahm-Butler. Great care was taken in scaffolding to enable those who might not usually contribute in an online forum to do so.
  6. We asked all students to indicate to us ahead of the teaching block what their particular areas of interest were and we created the content to ensure resonance with this.

Social Work Staff with a green screen

There was a lot more involved including:

  • Turning Dulwich Centre into a film studio for a few days with green screen backgrounds indicating the venues of students (we asked them to send us images)
  • Tileah and her family formed an impromptu Dance Academy and sent video clips of morale lifting dance moves which then inspired students to do likewise – including corona styled hand-washing numbers!
  • Setting up conversational partners for people for skills based exercises so that people could partake with someone offline and then join a zoom to discuss these
  • Involving the Masters alumni … we put out a call to alumni for volunteers and 87 people responded!

One of the most significant innovations involved how we started the two weeks. We had already created an Aunty Barbara Wingard History Walking Journey which honours Aboriginal histories around Dulwich Centre in Adelaide where the face-to-face teaching block usually takes place. This walk was inspired by University of Melbourne’s Billibellary’s walk. We were able to transform this into a virtual experience and starting the two week block with this made all the difference.

It was an intense and exhausting few weeks but it went incredibly well. There were some profoundly moving zooms both emotionally and intellectually and we learnt so much that will transform the way we teach from now on.