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Developing a pilot study of social services, sociopolitical discourses, and situated occupational sustainability during long-term unemployment

By OTR/L PhD Rebecca M. Aldrich and OT Reg. PhD Deborah Laliberte-Rudman


Occupational science evidences timely and growing international interest in unemployment and marginalized unemployed workers (cf. Aldrich & Callanan, 2011; Rudman & Molke, 2009; Shaw, 2011). In that vein, our pilot project aims to ground a research program and generate innovative, cross-national, and interdisciplinary knowledge. The pilot study unites two complementary lines of occupational science research: one which suggests that the need for social services reshapes occupation (Aldrich & Dickie, under review), and another which links occupation to sociopolitical discourse (Rudman & Molke, 2009). The study will examine how situated aspects of social services affect the sustainability of unemployed people’s occupations. Situated aspects of social services include sociopolitical discourses and their geographical origins, and sustainability encompasses the continuity and stability of occupational engagement. Broader research (cf. Lipsky, 2010) has not examined how situated aspects of social services influence occupational sustainability; in the wake of the Great Recession, such knowledge limitations create an opportunity to generate policy- and practice-related occupational science knowledge about the pressing social issue of unemployment. This poster details the conceptual and methodological development of a multi-sited ethnographic pilot study that will commence in early 2013. The pilot study will occur at U.S. and Canadian sites and focus on burgeoning populations of ‘discouraged’ and older unemployed workers. ‘Discouraged’ and older unemployed workers are a growing group of social service recipients; knowledge of their experiences may thus reshape service-related policies as well as approaches to economic recovery. This poster highlights findings from a review of the following information: literature on the needs of ‘discouraged’ and older unemployed workers in the U.S. and Canada; policies and services pertaining to unemployment in the U.S. and Canada at federal, state/provincial, and municipal levels; and cross-national methodologies that link daily life with macro-level contexts. Poster discussion will connect reviewed information to plans for pilot study design and implementation, such as recruitment of 4 participants in each country via social service agencies, unemployment offices, and unemployment “meetup” groups; data collection over 6 months via interviews, participant observation, and questionnaires; and data analysis. The goal of this study is to construct a foundational understanding of how broader social service systems and policies shape occupational engagement. Objectives for poster presentation: Receive feedback on study conceptualization and design Exchange ideas and disseminate research with other occupational scientists Explore how the pilot study fosters cutting-edge occupational science research with interdisciplinary potentia

Publisher: CommonKnowledge
Year: 2012
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Provided by: CommonKnowledge
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