What is Group Work Camp?

Group Work Camp is an initiative of the International Association for Social Work with Groups. This unique event offers an opportunity for professionals, educators, and students to engage in experiential group work training–while at the same time “getting away from it all” in an informal and relaxed lakefront setting. Facilitated by a skilled team of practitioners and educators, a wide array of training, workshops, and activities are available for both beginning and experienced group workers. 

Group Work Camp is a periodic IASWG event, launched in 2011 and offered in various forms and locations since then. In essence, it is an intensive immersion in group work activities/nondeliberative group work. A Group Work Camp can be held in a rural site where people live together for several days, or take place during a single day at any location.

Programming consists of participation in numerous group activities, at small group and group-as-a-whole levels. Each of these experiences is followed by reflection and discussion about what happened for participants personally during that activity, what meaning the experience had for them, and how they might use what they learned in their future practice with groups. This process is a form of experiential learning: do, then think.

Camp attendees include practitioners, educators, and students – meeting as equals in a mutual aid process. The heterogeneity of participants greatly enriches these events.

A two- to three-day Group Work Camp -- where in addition to attending workshops, participants share meals and leisure time together -- fosters a real sense of community and ongoing connection, as well as a deep understanding of the power of mutual aid.  Such events can include a campfire, as well as a “skill swap” – where participants have an opportunity to facilitate brief, ad hoc presentations. As of 2023, these residential Camps have been held in Wisconsin, Lithuania, and Quebec. Several have had international attendance. Fees include room and board, as well as registration. Scholarships may be offered for students or unemployed professionals.

One-day, in-person Camps have taken place at the chapter level, and a pilot five-hour international Camp was offered virtually in 2022. These briefer events can provide an excellent opportunity for experiential learning about group work activities/nondeliberative group work. They can also promote the creation of an IASWG chapter, or the cohesion of an existing chapter.

Chapters and members are invited to initiate the development of either type of Group Work Camp. A planning group would need to be formed. Although at this time no one is officially overseeing the Group Work Camp program, consultation is available from experienced coordinators. Articles about the process are available upon request.

For further information, contact Ann Bergart ([email protected]) or John Genke ([email protected]).