N I N O   Z G A N E C

85 Nino Zganec  85 Bonsai

I came to social work rather unprepared. In fact when I was 18, at the age when a decision about my further education had to be made, I knew only one person who was a social worker. But he was a rather strong person and I think this was an important fact. My studies passed fast, but immediately after finishing them, war began in my country, Croatia. I started to work at the faculty as a young researcher and was very actively included in work with the children victims of war, with refugees and other people who suffered from war circumstances. Afterwards I spent five years in politics as assistant minister and state secretary responsible for the social care system. This was a huge experience, professional enrichment but also a time of many frustrations. Politics is always frustrating. Nowadays I am again in the academic community and enjoy my work with the students and my fellow social work teachers. A very important part of my current career is related to international activities.


I chose Bonsai because …

… There is something magical between Bonsai and social work. The purposes of Bonsai are primarily contemplation (for the viewer) and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity (for the grower). The process of forming and growing of Bonsai needs much more than just horticultural skills. Much emphasis should be placed on the artistic preferences of the breeders. The basic principle is to breed a miniature tree that has all the characteristics and plant species in the “normal” size in nature. Once the bonsai is formed it contains all the characteristics of a big, strong, beautiful and complete plant.

My understanding of social work strongly coincides with the idea of Bonsai. Such a miniature and young science discipline contains all most important characteristics of so-called big and old sciences. But social work is also a kind of artistic practice which is formed by social work ‘breeders’. It perfectly serves for contemplation as an act of considering with attention.

In its gentle existence social work provides a strong contribution to the prevention of human suffering, the development of human capabilities and a kind of creative design for a sense of life in general.

As there are hundreds of types of Bonsai, so there are hundreds of types of social work practice. The real meaning of social work is in the “eyes of the beholder” and the true definition of social work could be that social work is just what we make of it.

I should add that Bonsai also represents a kind of “art of the possible“ that strongly depends on the ability of the grower to transfer their vision into reality. My experience in social work, especially during my time in political office, showed me that social work coincides with Bismarck’s definitions of “politics as the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.” Social work should be engaged, change-oriented, political and ambitious, having always in mind that this kind of science and art must be possible, must be able to make the “next best”.

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