Faculty-Student-Service User Collaboration: Community-based Action Research Regarding Service User Involvement in Mental Health and Addiction Policy

Rebecca French, Laura B. Moores, Sydney Sheppard, Christopher B. R. Smith


Growing out of a 2015 Social Work course at Memorial University (Newfoundland), this panel explores the issue of Faculty–Student–Service User Collaboration in Community-based scholarship regarding population groups typically excluded from research and policy development. This course produced two successful forms of collaboration between the professor, his students, and several community groups. First, in order to facilitate direct drug/service user engagement in research and policy-making, Dr. Smith—whose research emphasizes engaging people with lived experience in all aspects of mental health and addiction policy and practice—founded a local organization for people who use drugs. Detailing the establishment of the Drug User Group, the panel interrogates both the role that Dr. Smith’s students played in promoting the group, and how this project effectively served to inspire several students’ final projects. Encouraging his students to create activist-oriented ‘zines’/booklets as opposed to traditional essays, in the second case, several of Dr. Smith’s students actively collaborated with local grassroots organizations, producing several exceptional ‘zines,’ encompassing the issues of (1) psychiatric survivor rights, (2) the importance of directly engaging mental health and addiction service users, and (3) the legal rights of sex workers. Consisting of a reflection on the impact of politically engaged action research regarding ‘user involvement’, this panel consists of an introduction by Dr. Smith detailing the collaborative establishment of the St. John’s Drug User Group, followed by related commentary from four of his students detailing their respective policy ‘zines,’ each of which was composed in direct consultation with service users.


Praxis; Community-based research (CBR); Community service learning (CSL); Experiential learning; Harm reduction; Marginalized communities; Faculty-student-service user collaboration; Addiction and mental health policy; service user engagement

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