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Technical assistance, neo-colonialism or mutual trade? The experience of an Anglo/Ukrainian/Russian social work practice learning project

Taylor & Francis
Publication Date
  • Anthropology
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


Since the collapse of the Soviet Union there has been a steady stream of Western consultants ready to work in Eastern Europe and Russia and share professional and academic expertise and experience. Social work, unknown as a discrete discipline or profession in the Soviet Union, has been a growth area with funding from a variety of sources to help promote East-West partnerships.Social work theory and practice emphasises critical appraisal of policy and embraces issues of power, discrimination and oppression. Social work educators should therefore be especially alert to the complex ethical questions which these kinds of collaborations raise, and adept at finding practical solutions or workable compromises. This article explores these ethical and political issues with reference to a project to develop social work practice learning in a Russian oblast' (region). The project was an ambitious partnership of British, Ukrainian and Russian educators, involving numerous Russian social work and related agencies, and four Russian universities and colleges in one oblast'. The authors use a series of vignettes to help the reader achieve insights into these East-West transactions. The article concludes with a discussion of different interpretations of these dealings, using three prisms: technical assistance, neo-colonialism and mutual trade.

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