The organization delivering social work services, as viewed from the vantage point of staff, is very different to the organization as experienced by its customers, clients or users. This is crucial when it comes to empowering them. I was working on a research project with a voluntary childcare organization, aiming to discover how parents and children using a drop-in centre on a large housing estate found out about it. Was it through the information campaigns and publicity from the drop-in centre? The findings of the research were surprising to staff in the organization. Practically every newcomer heard about the centre ‘on the grapevine’ of ‘gossip’ between parents on the housing estate. Views about the centre, the quality of services and the staff were passed on from person to person, rather than extracted from any material supplied by the organization. On the other hand, the parents had no direct involvement in running the childcare organization, which stayed ‘outside’ the centre and made most of its decisions about the future running of the centre from this position, independent of staff running the centre, at two steps removed from the face-to-face practice with parents and children.
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