Centre for Social Work Innovation and Research

Research and knowledge exchange

CSWIR members are involved in a range of research projects that showcase and focus in on the Centre’s cross-cutting research themes:

  • strengthen the re-articulation of social work as a distinctive mode of collaborative and participatory relationship-based social action
  • support protection and development of vulnerable populations under new global conditions of austerity and inequality
  • promote social justice and rights.

Me and My World 

Over the past few months, it has been a pleasure, in my capacity as CSWIR Director, to work alongside my colleague Rebecca Watts, a CSWIR member who works part-time within the Department of Social Work and Social Care and part-time as a Lead Consultant in Brighton and Hove Children's Services.

Rebecca has been responsible for the design and implementation of a new imaginative and innovative model for recording the experiences of children who are looked after. Me and my World is a child-centred approach promoting continuity of relationships for children in care, statutory review meetings which foster relationships and support participation and, most importantly, a recording system which supports social workers and Independent Reviewing Officers to write their reports directly to the child, and foster carers to write a letter to the child in their care every six months  

Supporting Rebecca in conducting an internal evaluation of this initiative has highlighted how what are often small, but subtle, changes in practice can make significant differences to how  parents, foster carers and professionals experience and contribute to supporting looked after children and how the children, in turn, experience being looked after. The evaluation report makes for heartening reading.

Reshaping policy thinking and social work practice governance, systems and methods 

Drawing on both international comparison and local studies of practice innovation CSWIR research teams are engaged actively in evaluating and developing a number of national and local government programmes of reform to social work policy and practice. The development of more effective systems and methods of safeguarding the human rights as well as the personal well-being of vulnerable adults and children is the central focus of this research stream. Re-imagining the social work role and task at the interface with health, criminal justice and other aligned disciplines and professions is a core task here. Impact on policy thinking and on direct practice systems and methods are the dual practical aims of this work.  

See Research highlights in this theme 

Responding to social injustice in times of political crisis 

Political crises have formed the contexts locally and globally in which social work as both a theory and practice has been and continues to be imagined and implemented. These crises themselves surface where previous ways of addressing social injustice under conditions of modernity and globalisation begin to breakdown. CSWIR members are working on research projects which explore the implications for social work of diverse aspects of the lived experience of those people most threatened in their citizenship and rights and personal wellbeing under conditions of political crisis. In some cases an historical perspective is taken in making sense of the parameters of the ethical and spiritual challenge for social work. Other work is focused on the urgent attention required once again by the social dislocations and personal tragedies caused by war and natural disaster in the context of growing global inequality.  

See Research highlights in this theme 

Reimagining the psychosocial dynamics and digital mediation of the social work relationship 

The long-standing commitment by CSWIR members to theoretical elaboration of the psychosocial dynamics of the social work relationship continues. A number of research studies are underway, designed to illuminate the ways in which these dynamics routinely inhibit as well as enhance the effectiveness of social work and allied professional practice with people in various social and emotional contexts. This work continues to generate theoretical elaboration and concrete proposals for practice skill development.

In the meantime, new digital modes of mediating social relationships in the social work practice context provide significant opportunities and threats alike for the professional role and task and the nature and impact of the relationships formed in this way. CSWIR researchers now occupy lead roles in international debates about the psychosocial dynamics and social media dimensions of social work and the implications of these for practice development. 

See Research highlights in this theme 

Extending and innovating social work research methodologies 

Methodological innovation in research data collection and analysis is central to CSWIR concerns. The development and consolidation of the (inter-) disciplinary professional identity and status of social work in both the academy and the field is a pressing concern. Leadership by Centre members in the revival of psychosocial research methodology for social work and the use and development of systematic review methodology in social work curriculum development and knowledge creation in social work more generally is well known. Collaborations with the ESRC and SCIE were a core part of ground work done at Sussex to secure a more reliable evidence-base for social work. Taking a systematic approach within and between qualitative and quantitative methods of enquiry is a central objective of CSWIR practice.  

See Research highlights in this theme