Search Results

You are looking at 1 - 10 of 14 items for

  • Author or Editor: Christa Fouché x
Clear All Modify Search
Making a difference
Author:

Practice research partnerships in social work can make a significant difference to social work service delivery. This comprehensive, accessibly written resource, is designed to help students and practitioners to actively engage with research through their frontline work.

Through clear practice scenarios, critical questions and examples from research the text guides researchers, students, educators, practice managers, funders and practitioners to creatively explore partnerships in creating, contributing, consuming, commissioning or critiquing evidence in and for social work practice. The text encourages collaborative practice by demonstrating the transformative nature of knowledge networks to ‘make a difference’ in social work practice.

An essential text for students undertaking professional training at all levels as well as meeting the needs of qualified staff for continued professional development.

Restricted access
Author:

Have you ever felt frustrated by knowing what to do to solve a problem or deliver an effective service, but not being able to act on those insights for lack of authority or resources, or because of the challenges of professional boundaries or job security? No social activity takes place in a vacuum and there are always a number of dynamics to consider and relationships to negotiate in order to make a difference. We may even want to consider who decides that a difference is needed, and what the best alternative would be. Research is no exception; even with an understanding of and commitment to practice research, there are many dynamics to consider in the design and implementation of research. Like practice, social work research is subject to a range of influences, including: access to information and resources; highly politicised practice contexts with issues of trust and power to be managed; the funding context as a controlling factor in research agendas; and the influence of the consumer movement or multi-cultural priorities impacting on the nature of research topics and designs. The context of research itself is also a determining factor in the critical appraisal of information and in the dissemination of findings. Indeed, Shaw and Holland (2014) emphasise that research is largely bare of meaning when stripped from its context, as it occurs in time and place.

As we have pondered in the previous chapter, there is limited evidence of sustainable success in reaching the aspirational goal of combining the professional practitioner’s role (to intervene in clients’ life situations) with the researcher’s role (to produce new knowledge) in any one person at a given time.

Restricted access
Author:

To what extent do you believe in the value of relationships? It is generally accepted that relationships are core to the practice of social work and most readers will probably regard relationships as hugely important in their personal and professional lives. Payne (2005, p 20) reminds us just how significant these are by emphasising the importance of interactions in ‘making’ social work: ‘theory is constructed in an interaction between ideas and realities, mediated through the human beings involved. How clients experience their reality affects how workers think about their practice theories; agencies constrain and react to both and together they make some social work.’ Cree and Davis (2007, p 158) report on a study about perceptions of social workers in the UK, stating that, among other things, social work is about ‘being alongside people in their lives’ and about ‘building relationships’. This is true for research as well. Research as a process of knowledge generation is inescapably a value-laden activity within which the researcher plays a significant role (Powell and Ramos, 2010). But social research, by its nature, involves more than just the researcher; human participants such as vulnerable or marginalised individuals or groups and organisational resources are core to social research. In other words, social research is about people!

Social research is a dynamic and interactive process. It can take place only with the trust and cooperation of those who take part in the research. Therefore the relationship between the researcher or research team and those who are ‘researched’ is fundamental; the more collaborative the research, the more fundamental the relationships.

Restricted access
Author:

What do we want to achieve when we ‘research’? The most difficult aspect of research is not the fieldwork or even the analysis of data, but the first step of figuring out what you want to know. People new to research often find the time-consuming process of determining the focus of a research project surprising. Mostly, people think that this can be decided quickly and easily and that the bulk of the work centres on the empirical phase or fieldwork. Consequently, the important first step of framing a research focus is overlooked in favour of designing the fieldwork and getting people involved in the project. It is not uncommon for a practitioner, when asked what they want to research, to shape a practice question with ease – sometimes linked to their frustrations in practice: we want to show that the resources are inadequate; we want to get data to convince management that we need to expand this service; or we need evidence on the value we add to the service. Other times, practitioners may use language originating from funding proposals or performance indicators: we want to demonstrate that this intervention is effective; we need to evaluate the impact of the programme on clients’ lives; we want to capture the stories of clients; we want to show the effect of the current policy on the delivery of services. But eventually, the whole project will stand or fall on the way it was framed, and unless this is done well in the first instance, one will eventually have to return to a robust framing of the project; it happens without fail! It is therefore a good strategy to assign adequate importance to the framing of the project, which is the focus of this chapter.

Restricted access
Author:

How best to do it? This is the question that follows any good idea. Yet, so many people, so many opinions on the best way forward! This chapter introduces possible ways of designing collaborative practice research projects aimed at a beneficial outcome for practice. The design phase always follows clear framing of the project that takes into account the various factors impacting on the project and, potentially, the design. As clarified earlier, the research process is made up of certain moments: phases, stages or steps, as proposed by different authors. The five main elements were listed in Chapter Four as: (1) framing; (2) designing; (3) collecting; (4) analysing; and (5) reporting. The second of these moments requires a series of logical arrangements to be developed so to meet the specified research goals, and this is often referred to as designing, research design or research strategy. There are a number of designs that align well with developing and utilising networks in practice research. The aim of this chapter is not to develop a detailed understanding of each of these designs (a single chapter on a number of complex designs can certainly not do any one of them justice) but is, rather, to present design options for collaborative research and to encourage creative exploration of research designs appropriate to your practice context and to the selected topic. As with the framing of the project, designing collaborative research is impacted on by the context and a number of political, ethical and cultural drivers.

There are many ways to investigate the multiplicity of issues in social work practice.

Restricted access
Author:

Would you expect your doctor to keep up with developments in their profession? How about your pharmacist, dentist or physiotherapist? And is this important for your personal trainer, hairdresser or plumber? Clients receiving a service may expect to be dealing with a well-informed social work practitioner. This may include: new interventions for mental well-being among older adults or for managing problem gambling; effective assessments for intimate-partner violence or cyber bullying; innovations in child protection or for preventing human trafficking. The question is: can you confidently say that you are keeping up with developments in your field? A full response to this question has two parts. On the one hand, social workers are encouraged to be research minded and consider their professional and ethical obligation to be consumers of research; generators of research questions; and collaborators in the design or implementation phases of research as active practitioner-researchers conducting relatively small-scale projects in the workplace or as contributors to research-related activities. Mostly, as we have seen in previous chapters, this has to be balanced with front-line demands and often comes a fair way down the list of priorities. On the other hand, though, researchers need to be practice minded so as to ensure that the findings of research have practice relevance and can be easily accessed by practitioners. This is not to suggest that practitioners are reluctant to fulfil their evidence-informed and research-minded obligations. Doing this just has to be possible within the demands of practice. If this is not the case, the blame cannot solely be placed on the social work practitioner.

Restricted access
Author:

Have you ever considered why you do what you do? It is widely accepted that social work, by its very nature, has to deal with people’s experiences of abuse, violence, neglect, hardship, and suffering. Social workers find ways to help people manage this by working within and across systems, agencies and policies ‘at the points where people interact with their environments’ (International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), 2005, p 2). Very often this is done with limited resources, under huge public scrutiny and at relatively low rates of remuneration. It is quite sensible, then, to raise a question about why: why would you? Yet, research indicates that social workers generally have high levels of job satisfaction and often have long careers in their chosen field of practice (Collins, 2008; Fouché et al, 2013). You will have your own reasons for being in social work. But generally, answers to this question lead to the potential for making a difference; people engaged in social work are passionate about social justice, human rights and equality and will go to great lengths to promote ‘social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being’ (IASSW, 2005, p 2). It flows naturally, then, that social workers wanting to make a difference will want to do no harm and, in fact, be able to convincingly state that they have effected competent change. Isn’t the very core of professional practice a commitment to competence? So the next question is: how do we know that? How do we know that what we do is, at the very least, doing no harm, but indeed making a difference? And what gives social workers the authority or right to act as if they will enable a positive difference? Is it good intentions, core values, statutory power, professional registration, accredited qualifications, certain competencies or knowledge bases? These are on-going questions and debates which will not be solved here, but it is important to at least acknowledge that the effectiveness of social work practice is a principal concern to the profession and cannot be ignored.

Restricted access
Author:

Would you expect your doctor to keep up with developments in their profession? How about your pharmacist, dentist or physiotherapist? And is this important for your personal trainer, hairdresser or plumber? Clients receiving a service may expect to be dealing with a well-informed social work practitioner. This may include: new interventions for mental well-being among older adults or for managing problem gambling; effective assessments for intimate-partner violence or cyber bullying; innovations in child protection or for preventing human trafficking. The question is: can you confidently say that you are keeping up with developments in your field? A full response to this question has two parts. On the one hand, social workers are encouraged to be research minded and consider their professional and ethical obligation to be consumers of research; generators of research questions; and collaborators in the design or implementation phases of research as active practitioner-researchers conducting relatively small-scale projects in the workplace or as contributors to research-related activities. Mostly, as we have seen in previous chapters, this has to be balanced with front-line demands and often comes a fair way down the list of priorities. On the other hand, though, researchers need to be practice minded so as to ensure that the findings of research have practice relevance and can be easily accessed by practitioners. This is not to suggest that practitioners are reluctant to fulfil their evidence-informed and research-minded obligations. Doing this just has to be possible within the demands of practice. If this is not the case, the blame cannot solely be placed on the social work practitioner.

Restricted access
Author:

Who are the people that supported you in developing practice competence in your field of expertise? I assume that you will be able to name a few! It is extremely rare for anyone, on receiving an award or accolade for an achievement, not to acknowledge others who have made the achievement possible. Mostly, the acknowledgement will be extended to support networks, but there may also frequently be mention of a mentor or coach. In fact, career development initiatives are based on the notion that coaching and mentoring will enable a person to achieve greater heights (Connor and Pokora, 2012). Research is traditionally viewed as a solo exercise, mostly undertaken towards a higher qualification or by academic researchers. This is sometimes true, but certainly not in the case of applied, practice research. In Chapter Three we considered the nature of relationships in research and concluded that social research is about people. A Maori proverb, very well known to most social workers and widely used in New Zealand, seems particularly relevant in this context: He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata! What is the most important thing in the world? It is people! It is people! It is people! This is true also of the aspirations for collaborative research shared in this book.

It is easy to envisage the permutations of capabilities and complexities that collaboration brings. Think about all the collaborative relationships we have explored so far, and then consider the possibilities that some individuals in these networks are in need of mentoring on any particular aspects of practice research, and others are in a position to provide that advice.

Restricted access
Author:

Can you remember where this journey started? In Chapter One we considered the question of why you do what you do. We discovered that the effectiveness of social work practice is a principal concern of the profession and cannot be ignored. In Chapter Two we contemplated the frustrations of knowing what to do to deliver an effective service but not being able to act on our insights for lack of authority or resources, or because of the challenges of professional boundaries, or for reasons of job security. We discussed the dynamics that we have to consider and the relationships to negotiate in order to make a difference in practice. Chapter Three challenged our beliefs in the value of relationships and our commitment to developing those for the purposes of social research, which often involves a focus on vulnerable or marginalised individuals or groups, and scarce organisational resources. Turning to Chapter Four, we explored what it is that we want to achieve when we ‘research’ and came to understand that a project will stand or fall by the way it is framed. We also considered the benefits of developing partnerships at this stage. Chapter Five queried the best ways to implement such a project, once properly framed. We focused on the many ways to investigate the multiplicity of issues in social work practice and the importance of recognising how these different paths and the choices we make at every stage of the research process may impact on ways of knowing. We carefully considered two popular designs for collaborative practice research.

Restricted access