Educators around the world – The rol of the social educator internationally

Julien Boyé and Yohan Barata are the founders of the « Educ autour du monde » / « Educators around the world » association. A few years after their immersion in Qosqo Maki, they come back to their experience in the institution and more generally to the work realized by the association, highlighting testimonies of social workers from all the continents and practices of these professionals who supports the most vulnerable populations.


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What kind of work does the Educ autour du monde/Educators around le world association do?

The “Educ autour du monde”/”Educators around the world” association highlights the work done by social work professional internationally. Through an exploratory work (meetings, visit of institutions, immersions, interviews), it questions the transnational identity of this professional field.

Since its creation in 2011, we meet professionals of the area to take their testimony. Social workers, trainers, university lecturers, institution directors; about sixty actors from 28 countries have already agreed to speak about their experience and their practice while sharing their vision of social work. The prospection work gathers the voice of professionals working in different contexts and continents: France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, United-States, Canada, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Senegal, and Mauritania.

Convinced of the richness of our foreign fellows’ testimonies, the association tries to relay the information by different means. First of all, it is done through the diffusion of videos interviews on its website:
For the fourth year in a row, through a dynamic of sharing and exchange, the association also takes part in different social work schools to talk about the topic linked to this field globally.

Our book called Travail social autour du monde / Social work around the world (Chronique sociale, 2017) was the opportunity to summarize all the thoughts and testimonies collected with the professionals during the last 6 years. Apart from an analysis of the definitions, trainings and professions of the sector, this book also presents perspectives of field practices and shows an interest in the values defended by our fellows in the world. Related to this new publication, we also publish articles in specialized magazines (Lien social, Empan…) which shows our will to continue its actions in favor of a greater openness.

To finish, the association regularly feeds this reflection process through a literature monitoring and conferences dedicated to the topic but also thanks to exchanges with our networks of professionals abroad. Our participation in the 7th congress of the International Association for Training, Research and Social Intervention (AIFRIS) in Montreal last July is part of this process.


Where does this project of writing a book about social work and the educator in the world come from? What was the process?

The opening of social work at the international scale is at the center of the challenges in our field. Although there is a consensus about the interest of observing beyond the borders, there are few books in French about these questions.

How is the international definition of social work perceived? How are the different systems of training designed? What are the professions of social intervention abroad? How is the daily work of social workers organized? Which kind of vulnerable populations do they help? Which difficulties do they have to face? Can we identify different field practices according to the areas? What are the recurrences that link these social workers? What values do they defend? Many questions that our book tries to give some answers.

“We want the publication of this book to encourage other authors to express and publish theoretical and practical knowledge necessary to social workers who want to meet the requirements of the 21th century” assure Yves Hurtubise and Jean-Pierre Deslauriers, two authors from Quebec in their work “Travail social international, éléments de comparaison” / “International social work, elements of comparison”. Also, the students’ needs about this topic is increasing. Mobility prospects are growing and more and more students want to do an internship abroad. Through this exploratory and analysis work, we try at our scale to be in line with the dynamic of these few “pioneers”. Spreading the word this way, we just want to share the information. Sharing the testimonies and the values of these professionals relying our reflection on a reading, analysis and observation-based work in our collaborating organizations.

The reflexive process behind this book is based on the material accumulated within the framework of the activities of the association. Can also be added our questions linked to our professional activity as social workers, our publications in the Lien social magazine and the interactions with students during our interventions in social work schools. Fortified by these different experiences, we made the choice to throw ourselves into this literary adventure more than five years after the beginning of the project.

Five years of reading books about social work worldwide, of associative projects, of intern documents and international activity reports. Five years of interview creations, viewings and analysis. Five years of discussions and back and forth with resource persons abroad to try to understand their work and being as close as possible to their reality. Five years that can’t enable us to fully answer the questions mentioned above but that try to provide some elements likely to keep the reflection going. This book is the result of these five years of hard work.


After a long period of fieldwork and research, according to you, what is the role of the educator and social work in general? Is it the same everywhere?

We prefer talking about « social worker » rather than « educator », far less representative globally. The last term is not always well-known overseas where some confusions about the job functions can remain according to the territories. Also, special education only refers to a small part of the French social sector. If our identity is shared between the educator and the social worker, we’d rather refer to the social worker at the international level.

The first missions attributed to social workers in the international definition of social work, adopted in Melbourne in 2014 by the representative federations are mentioned as: “He promotes change, social development and social cohesion”. This definition puts the social worker in a process of global social change that goes over the necessary evolution expected by the individuals.
Questioned about the role of the social worker, many professionals abroad agree with the meaning of this definition. Research coordinator in Bombay Social Work School, Helen Joseph emphasizes: “Social work is a wide professional field. In India, a social worker is not a person dealing with a particular situation or someone who tries to help an individual or a family. A social worker is someone who tries to change society. In order to achieve this goal, he has to consider the society as a whole.”

In the field, despite divergences according to the public helped, the goal is the same: accepting, supporting, and helping every day the person using his own resources in order to face the challenges life imposed him. In this way, the social worker try to create a relationship based on trust and not dependence. It is a temporary or lasting support in the existence of the supported person. “We are a train moving forward” illustrates Coumba Wade, Director of the Promotion and Protection of Vulnerable Groups at the General Direction for Social Action in Senegal, “Let’s make sure that at each train station, some of them can get off while some others follow their path to autonomy.”

Besides this individual help, there is also a more global aspect where the social worker, if he encourages the development of people’s abilities, is also a real actor of social change. “He looks for stimulating negotiation and more broadly, to position himself as a social actor in his socio-economic environment. If the action of the educator is part of looking for a fairer and more tolerant society, it then turns into something more political, in the true sense of the word” explains Jehan Waquez, trainer at the Educational Center in Liège, Belgium. Even if the missions of the social worker are numerous, his professional identity is constructed especially from daily actions. “It is this daily presence next to people with difficulties to adapt that the intervention of the educator takes on its full meaning, that all the special features of this profession can be defined, explained, described. They are daily actors” explains Jean Chapleau, former educator and professor at the Department for Techniques of Specialized Education at Saint Jérôme College of further education in Quebec for some twenty years. Daily actors linked to the challenges of a disparate contemporary society who try, with their resources, to broaden the possibilities so that everyone can find his place.


What do you retain from your experience in Qosqo Maki?

Qosqo Maki was for us the first of the five immersions in our associate organizations. It seems complicated to dig a few isolated memories out but rather the strength coming from this institution in view of its institutional project.

Indeed, beyond an old ideological battle about abolishing or resolving child labor, Qosqo Maki brings an innovative and singular vision of this society issue. Here child labor is not seen as an abomination to eradicate against all odds but as a social reality that is part of the cityscape: it interrogates and questions the different local organizations. The total eradication of a reality present in this country for decades seems difficult. However, thinking about the best way to supervise it in order to avoid abuses and deviances is a priority. The balance is really delicate between, on the one hand, the necessity to take action taking into account the social and cultural reality of the country without omitting, on the other hand, the deviant practices that it causes. Here is the issue of Qosqo Maki’s work.

Supporting social inclusion of a youth who lived in the street requires a great alertness. His independence is his greatest richness and sometimes the only one he gets. Through an institutional philosophy revolved around values of co-management, informal education and education for liberation, Qosqo Maki professionals deal every day with this factor and keep on adapting their practice to the child’s attendance time.

From the street to « La Chocita » the educator accepts time. A time necessary to the creation of a link, a time that the kid is ready to give him, a frustrating time. Being educator in the dormitory, it is also that: learning how to work in the moment, how to build an educational relationship with a youth who can disappear from one day to another.

Temporary present, the educator in Qosqo Maki relies on his experience and his professional knowledge to give the youth new perspectives, trying to give a meaning to this life he sometimes considers as lost. He supports without judging, orientates without shaping, suggests without ordering. Although he guides him through different paths, it doesn’t mean he impose the direction.

Driven by this professional ethics, Qosqo Maki educators use their abilities every day to fulfill the missions of the organization. Involved and determined, they build their action to improve the life conditions of these young persons living in the street and try to bring them back together with the society that surrounds them.


Julien Boyé and Yohan Barata