Evelyn Forget, University of Manitoba, "Experiments in Society: Framing Social Experiments at the Boundary between Social Work and Sociology"

Event Type: 
Friday, September 27, 2019
3:30 PM
327 Social Sciences

In 2017, the province of Ontario Canada began to conduct a negative income tax experiment. Almost immediately, a group of participants self-organized and called themselves Living Proof. They made themselves available to the press, took on an advocacy role and declared themselves the ultimate arbiters of the success or failure of the experiment. I searched for similar events in the negative income tax experiments of the 1970s and found that Community Action Program (CAP) workers hired during the War on Poverty also questioned the hierarchy that privileges “book learning” over “lived experience” and blurred the boundaries between those who received services from the welfare state, those who delivered and evaluated programs and political advocacy. If social interventions are frequently characterized by participants who challenge the assumptions on which the clear protocol of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) is based, one might expect that social experiments have been alternatively framed in the past. I discovered one example at the dawn of the welfare state – in the writings of Jane Addams (Hull House) and the Chicago School of Sociology. This paper delineates an alternative notion of social experiment quite distinct from the randomized controlled trials that dominate current social experimentation.