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Health care and education: How users can organize to meet their needs

healthcare network of people

Disruptions caused by COVID-19 have made it harder for systems offering services like health care and education to adapt to users’ needs.

To address this longstanding problem, user participation in design, delivery and governance of professional services is increasingly promoted as a solution. Indeed, this May, Telfer’s Mathieu Bouchard received a two-year SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship to study patterns of collective action among service users.

Working within the system vs. peer organizing

“My doctoral thesis compared peer support workers, who seek to gain recognition as health-care professionals, with members of mutual aid groups for voice hearers, who seek to de-professionalize the response to their needs through peer-to-peer organizing,” says Bouchard.

“My postdoctoral research will extend these findings by studying other groups of health-care users and exploring similar dynamics in primary education within groups of parents who seek to either improve the education system from within or organize community-based alternatives outside of it.”

Some service users organize to promote incremental service improvements by collaborating with professionals in the field, while others chose to move away from professional services and address their needs through mutual peer support. Bouchard, working with Telfer professor Samia Chreim, will compare patterns of collective action among service users in health care and primary education.

Creating empowerment and understanding

This research will help empower users and overcome the barriers they face in participating in the Mathieu Bouchardprofessional services they receive. Additionally, it will help service providers understand how to channel patterns of user participation to produce systemic improvements, making professional systems more responsive and better aligned with users’ needs and aspirations.

Bouchard completed his PhD in 2019 at HEC Montréal. His research focuses on professions, social movements, and the social role of emotions. Prior to beginning his academic career, Bouchard worked in institutional investment management for eight years.

Congratulations, Mathieu, on receiving a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship! Your contribution to Telfer is greatly appreciated.